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Fate vs. free will thread?

  1. Sep 4, 2003 #1


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    Is it just me, or did the 'fate vs. free will' thread vanish? I know that approximately 7 hours ago I made my last post to that thread, and got a weird error saying that the page couldn't be displayed. After that, I got the same error when I tried entering any specific forum on PF. Now the forums are working fine for me, but I don't see the 'fate vs. free will' thread anywhere. What gives?
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 4, 2003 #2
    See this topic:
    https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?threadid=5431 [Broken]

    Lets please continue the discussion.
    Last edited: May 1, 2017
  4. Sep 4, 2003 #3
    Where did we leave off on that one? I remember having explained why it is illogical to mix free will and predestination (remember the "Time Machine"'s thief) as another member had attempted, and I remember that member's having acknowledged and raised some other questions, but I don't remember what they were...
  5. Sep 4, 2003 #4
    Right, and I had argued that whether existence is fated or we have free will appears to be a matter of relative perspective. When studied scientifically existence appears deterministic and when viewed with the heart we like to believe we have free will. Neither perspective disproves fate or free will, and each has compelling evidence for support. Similar to the nature vrs nurture debates, the resolution seems to be to accept it can be seen as fate AND free will rather than fate vrs free will.

    The issue then seems to be not so much fate vrs free will, but how useful it is in any given circumstances to adopt one view or the other. A hundred years ago people with Turretts syndrome were locked up as insane, while nowadays we know it is a physical disease and treatable with medications. Conversely, what used to be considered physical diseases are now known to have psychological causes. Thus it appears that which view we might adopt for any given situation is either based on our personal feelings or pragmatic reasoning. To sacrafice either point of view is to throw the baby out with the bathwater for the sake of consistency.
  6. Sep 4, 2003 #5
    To throw a little bit of God into the works which, you can substitute for "fate" if you will, here's what I posted on the Comparative-Religion thread, http://www.comparative-religion.com/forum/showthread.php?t=337 [Broken] ...

    Also, on my last post I had mentioned "apathy," saying that this was all we could "hope" to cultivate through determinism. And yet, if apathy was all we had, how could we possibly differentiate between that and anything else? Which is to say, it's not possible.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 1, 2017
  7. Sep 4, 2003 #6
    I agree with this, except for where you said that science points toward determinism. This is quite the opposite of the truth, since such theories as Relativity and Quantum Mechanics are completely opposed to a determined/set reality.
  8. Sep 4, 2003 #7
    Relativity is not opposed to fatalism and determinism, but you are correct. I will modify my statement. Pragmatically speaking, science implies a deterministic existence in which we do not have free will. For all practical purposes, science implies we do not possess free will.
  9. Sep 4, 2003 #8
    How so?
  10. Sep 4, 2003 #9
    And why would anybody wish to argue against the scientific materialistic view? Of course according to science we shouldn't even be endowed with such an ability as arguing. :wink:

    Like I already said, we wouldn't be able to learn and grow without the "freedom" to learn from our mistakes.
  11. Sep 4, 2003 #10


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    You might mean me, but I'm not sure. In any case, I'll restate my position:

    The decisions you make are based on your character. Your character is the sum total of your experiences and heredity. With good knowledge of one's character, you can predict to a very high degree of accuracy what decisions they will make.


    Fate means not having any decisions to make and is different from being able to predict how you will decide. You still have the choice and your choices DO affect your future.

    For the religious, the struggle with freewill is often tougher, but its exactly the same: Being omniscient, God knows you so well he knows EXACTLY what decisions you will make in the course of your life. That does NOT mean he has made the decisions for you.

    From the Matrix: "There is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path."
  12. Sep 4, 2003 #11


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    Having said that, I'm now going to go back on it slightly. "This" is what I would simply call prediction. But so many people call it fate that its almost to the point the definitions have merged. Anyway, with predictions, if you know someone, you can predict what they will do. Similarly, if you know yourself ("Know thyself" - anyone know where that's from?) you can figure out the decisions YOU will make or have made (backwards from knowing someone else - you make the decisions, then you figure them out). Oedipus and The Matrix provide both sides of this coin.

    In Oedipus, Oedipus believes in fate, learns of his fate (his parents do), and attempts to change it, thereby triggering a series of events that causes him to fulfil his fate.

    The Matrix provides the other side of the coin: Neo does NOT believe in fate, learns of his fate - but incorrectly, thereby triggering a series of events that causes him to fulfill his fate.

    The message of both: YOU make your own fate. You have freewill. All you have to do is understand yourself. And "an Oracle cannot tell you who you are."

    But what about the vase? Thats just humor. Literally, its Fate (personified) screwing with you. Fate isn't a person and it isn't an Oracle. So it can't really get inside your decision making process like that. But it can be funny to think about it hypothetically.
  13. Sep 4, 2003 #12
    Is that how crystals do it? I've always wondered...
  14. Sep 4, 2003 #13
    Neo learns of his supposid fate, does not believe in fate, and defies his supposid fate in every way. Supposidly if one dies in the matrix, one dies in reality but he defies this expectation as well. Thus his actions do not contradict the possible existence of fate, but merely the idea of fate. In addition, the oracle herself implies this is precisely the case, that she cannot tell him outright what his fate is because his nature is contentious.

    Is it fate or free will? Does it matter either way? The movie never resolves the issue but allows the viewer to decide for themselves as all great art does.
  15. Sep 5, 2003 #14
    The only problem with this is that people can become resigned to their fate, and then "choose" (hmm ...) not do anything about it (as apathy sets in), like when the doctor tells them they have cancer and they only have a few months to live. When, in all actually they may have had a choice in the matter.

    So perhaps we should look at fate in terms of a by-product of free will. Or, at least behave as such, and then we can all feel we are "free to choose."
  16. Sep 5, 2003 #15


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    Actually, thats not what I was referring to: The Oracle told him he was not The One but he was (or at least he would be).
    It ain't over yet. I can't wait.
    I believe this is the real message behind Oedipus and The Matrix. Live your life as if you have freewill - because you do.
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2003
  17. Sep 5, 2003 #16
    No, there are two sides to every coin. There are fatalists and free will bigots. Between the two extremes lies enlightenment, the real message behind the Matrix.
  18. Sep 5, 2003 #17
    Life is all about choices and we reap the benifits of our good choices and suffer the results of our bad choices. Not choosing is of course a choice too. As Rus says the choices we make are influenced by by our past, personallity, character and genes.

    If it is a deterministic universe governed by fate then we are not responsible for what happens or what we do or choose. Thus ther is no guilt or accountability. I don't believe this is true and even if it were neither society, civilization or ourselves would stand much of a chance.

    I do tend to be fatalistic as in "our days are numbered" and when it is our time to go, we go wherever in combat or sleeping in bed. Until then we may walk away unharmed from horrible accidents or recover from fatal diseases.

    Whatever is the truth of this, I have to agree with all of you that it is best to live our lives as if we have free will.
  19. Sep 5, 2003 #18
    I for one argue that it is not best to live our lives as if we have free will. Free will verses determinism is nothing less than a Faustian choice, a sucker's bet. The house always wins.

    Rather than throw the dice or pretend they don't exist, best to just live in the moment. Ignorance is not the end of life, but what demonstrably makes it both possible and meaningful.
  20. Sep 5, 2003 #19
    But, isn't that too a choice, to live in the moment? But, there are always choices and decisions to be made even in that moment.
  21. Sep 5, 2003 #20
    If it is a choice, then we have no choice but to choose. Either way, whether free will or determinism, we are left to live with the reality of the situation. Obviously we do not have complete and unfetered freedom. By not assuming a biased position to begin with, we allow ourselves to move according to the needs of the situation. One minute we might assume we have free will, the next we might assume we don't, and the next that it doesn't matter. Each position has its distinctive advantages and disadvantages. The practical thing to do is just go with the flow.
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