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A man in a cage (a question of free will).

  1. Jul 15, 2004 #1
    If a man is in a cage, but wants to be there, is he then "free", since he is doing what he wants to do? If a man is in a cage but doesn't know it, is he "free" since he is not conscious of any limiting factor?

    What makes a person free? Is it the ability to do anything, and choosing one course over the rest, or is it just the ability to do what you want to do? Are all the options ever really open to us in the first place, or do we commonly determine our level of "freedom" by how much we like the cage we're in?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 15, 2004 #2


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    If a human is within a cage through choice, then that person should also have the power to leave. If any other individual has the ability to prevent that person from leaving then he may not be free.
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2004
  4. Jul 15, 2004 #3
    So the other individual's ability to prevent him from leaving makes him not free? Even if he doesn't want to leave?
  5. Jul 15, 2004 #4
    You know, JD also opened up another issue: Does it matter whether the person originally wanted to be in the cage, even if he doesn't any more? Do we call him a free moral agent simply because he chose to get locked up in this cage?
  6. Jul 15, 2004 #5


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    If the human in the cage was not aware that another human had the ability to prevent him/her from leaving then there would be freedom.
    If the human in the cage was aware of the ability of another human to prevent him/her leaving then there would not be freedom, despite the end result appearing the same.

    On a slightly different key, if the person in the cage freely requested that another person kept hold of the key, is there freedom mentally at the expense of freedom physically?
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2004
  7. Jul 15, 2004 #6


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    At that particular point, freedom was exercised. One consequence of freedom might be imprisonment, especially when we speak about freedom (I am going to do what I want) and the potential impact it has on others.
  8. Jul 15, 2004 #7
    Interesting. So the person was free when he walked in the cage, provided that was what he wanted to do, right? Doesn't that mean that, regardless of whether he is capable of escaping or not, provided he wants to stay there, he is still "free"?
  9. Jul 15, 2004 #8
    I think common sense and simplistic judgement would probably spring to mind that being 'trapped' in a cage wouldn't be excercising freedom, even though this person obliged to be stuck in a cage; willfully. I'm pretty sure the person would realize that being in a cage wouldn't be physicall free, maybe mentally, but that's pushing it for me.
  10. Jul 15, 2004 #9


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    Staff: Mentor

    The POW's in Vietnam all came to pretty much the same conclusion about free will: what goes on in your mind is the only thing that is completely under your control. So the answer to your questions is this: if you think you are free, you are.
  11. Jul 15, 2004 #10
    Crafty kid, there are two levels, the relative and the absolute. The absolute I will let you figure out yourself, the relative is whatever you want it to be. If you answer the absolute, god help you.
  12. Jul 16, 2004 #11


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    If the Universe is finite, then is freedom relative rather than absolute?
    If the Universe is expanding within an infinite space (if that makes any sense whatsoever!) does this change the concept of freedom?
    If the state of freedom is delusional, is it freedom up until the point at which it can be unwound (when the individual recognises that they were not actually free)?
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2004
  13. Jul 16, 2004 #12
    Merely for the purpose of argument: What does it mean to be physically free? Does it mean "if I wanted to, I could get out of here"? Isn't that purely mental? Is it the actual case of being physically capable of escape? Is the lack thereof a lack of "freedom", or just a lack of ability to do something he doesn't even want to do?
  14. Jul 16, 2004 #13
    Therefore it is not morally wrong to rob someone of their freedom, completely, provided they believe themselves to be free?
  15. Jul 16, 2004 #14
    Where are these levels, in relation to each other? What I mean is, which takes precedence? Of course, such a question begs an answer of absolute form, but the fact that there are two levels in the first place is absolute statement as well, is it not?
  16. Jul 16, 2004 #15
    It's funny how much more has been said about whether the man wants to be in the cage, and how little about whether he even knows he's in a cage.

    I've just seen a thread on predestination, and I think the man-in-the-cage is a perfectly good analogy to predestination, provided we focus on whether the man knows he's in the cage or not.

    You see, people often put predestination and free will at opposite sides of the spectrum, but is the person not truly "free" so long as he doesn't know he's in a "cage" (a set "path" of life) and thus doesn't desire to do anything other than that which he's already going to do?
  17. Jul 16, 2004 #16


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    It is the case that you cannot be in more than one place at once (at least as far as I am aware you can't)
    So no matter what you do, you can only move along one line. That line may take you all over the place.
    Is it necessarily the case, though, that this line has been drawn for you?
    Whether it has or hasn't, or whether you are conscious of it or not, the result will be the same, will it not?
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2004
  18. Jul 16, 2004 #17
    No, it doesn't mean that. It means that being physically free would give you the ability to roam, go places, being in a cage willfully or not. Being physically free would hinder the ability of the man because he will remain there.

    This depends on the parameters of his being there. If he put himself in there, unable to get himself out again, he is a prisoner. If he is able to get out of there; but never exercises that power, then his freedom is based upon his act of being.

    He would be a prisoner. He would never know what freedom he had, he wouldn't know the meaning. He couldn't be even conscious of it. It also depends on what put him there. If he knew that, that would be exactly animalistic behavior he would act out.

    No doubt about it. But even if we are in 'our' cage, we have the ability to get out of it, because we would put ourselves in it the first place. Nonetheless, you also have to know how big your cage is and how far does it go, in our case—our cage is almost limitless. Our cage is the earth and it is also our solar system, once we are able to figure out how far our cage can go, then that cage never really exists. We will expand it by technology.

    But as for the man in his cage, he has to figure out how far his cage goes. That's when he'll know if is he truly free or not.
  19. Jul 16, 2004 #18
    If you mean that we can get out of a cage as long as we like it, then:
    Not neccesarily. It's perfectly possible to be put in a luxurious (i.e. a room that is fit for a person of royalty) room as a means of persuasion by your oppressor.

    Why is space a crucial component of freedom? I'm guessing it has a psyhcological basis. What ideas of freedom are based on social/cultural influences and what are based on natural, autonomic ideas of freedom? Is it possible to make such a distinction?
  20. Jul 20, 2004 #19
    No, that's not what I meant. What I said was if we put ourselves in the cage without any other interference, then I am responsible for getting myself out.

    Because in essence freedom is limitless and independent choices come without a limiting, external force.

    Everything is influenced by something, Imparticle. Depending on the obvious definition of influence.
  21. Jul 20, 2004 #20
    In order to escape the cage, you must first realize you are in a cage and then suddenly have no choice to be in the cage which means you acknowlege the very thing which then frees you from the cage even though you are bound by the laws you suddenly function sometimes in accordance with them expanding beyond what humans deem as possible from cage mode. The relative mode is the cage, the absolute is the realization of the reality which is all things. It is this that expands us into that which can be closely called freedom.
  22. Aug 7, 2004 #21
    2 missunderstandings here. I think its a mistake to seperate the man and the cage.
    We aren't "men", we are particles just like the cage, and as such we ARE the cage.

    That we observe doesn't really matter, because we can never perceive anything but what the universe allows us to. We're MADE for this cage.
    And also we have a choice to leave the cage.. Death.

    In other words we don't have to be here, so we can willfully stay or leave. That gives us freedom.
    Free will.. Well, our brain was made to make its own decisions, it was made to give an illusion to the user that "you have choices, you have a life you can live how you want". And as such free will exists on our level.

    If you're looking for some sort of absolute or universal free will.. Sorry, doesn't exist, not even for god. If he were to exist.
    Everything is bound by a system, nothing can exist between systems.
    Right now we are in a system ran by strings or particles or whatever.
    We can never transcend into another state, that is, we can never stay conscious and at the same time become something NOT made up of particles.

    But we can die.
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