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Free, freedom and free will

  1. May 23, 2005 #1
    Freedom and Free Will

    From Merriam Webster’s Collegiate dictionary, 10th edition, 1997

    Free: not determined by anything beyond its own nature or being.

    Freedom: The absence of necessity, coercion or constraint in choice or action.

    Free will: 1 : Voluntary choice or decision 2 : freedom of humans to make choices that
    are not determined by prior causes or by divine intervention.


    freedom {Lat. libertas Ger. Freiheit}}
    The human capacity to act (or not to act) as we choose or prefer, without any external compulsion or restraint. Freedom in this sense is usually regarded as a presupposition of moral responsibility: the actions for which I may be praised or blamed, rewarded or punished, are just those which I perform freely.
    The further question of whether choice—the volition or will to act—is itself free or subject to ordinary causality raises the issue of determinism in human conduct. But most modern philosophers have held that (internal) determination of the will by desire or impulse does not diminish the relevant sense of moral responsibility.

    adj 1: able to act at will; not hampered; not under compulsion or restraint;

    Main Entry: free•dom
    Function: noun
    1 : the quality or state of being free: as a : the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action b : liberation from slavery or restraint or from the power of another c : the quality or state of being exempt or released from something onerous

    free will
    1. The ability or discretion to choose; free choice: chose to remain behind of my own free will.
    2. The power of making free choices that are unconstrained by external circumstances or by an agency such as fate or divine will.

    Free Will
    “Free Will” is a philosophical term of art for a particular sort of capacity of rational agents to choose a course of action from among various alternatives. Which sort is the free will sort is what all the fuss is about. (And what a fuss it has been: philosophers have debated this question for over two millenia, and just about every major philosopher has had something to say about it.) Most philosophers suppose that the concept of free will is very closely connected to the concept of moral responsibility. Acting with free will, on such views, is just to satisfy the metaphysical requirement on being responsible for one's action. (Clearly, there will also be epistemic conditions on responsibility as well, such as being aware—or failing that, being culpably unaware—of relevant alternatives to one's action and of the alternatives' moral significance.) But the significance of free will is not exhausted by its connection to moral responsibility. Free will also appears to be a condition on desert for one's accomplishments (why sustained effort and creative work are praiseworthy); on the autonomy and dignity of persons; and on the value we accord to love and friendship. (See Kane 1996, 81ff. and Clarke 2003, Ch.1.)

    Okay we now have an abundance of definitions and resources. Digging out the gist of all of this and from other sources I have come up with the following definitions:

    Free: without constraint, force, limit, cost or prior determination.

    Freedom: the natural intrinsic state of being of an object or person without constraint,
    necessity, force, coercion or prior external cause.

    Free will: The inherent ability to choose or act out of one own volition and/or desire
    without force, necessity, coercion or prior cause outside of oneself.

    Every object and person in the universe is intrinsically and inherently free until and unless it is subjected to some outside force or coercion that compels it to act in a certain way outside of its own volition or state. That is a fundamental physics and philosophical statement. Notice that all of the definitions and statements above do not define “free” but state that it without some force, necessity or cause outside of itself. It is a, possibly the only, natural state.
    We are not given freedom or free will. We are not granted freedom or free will. It is ours intrinsically, inherently by the fact that we exist. Freedom and free will can only be taken from us by applying a force, a compulsion, a necessity or by coercion whether we are particles in space or sentient beings. Prior causes originating outside of our selves do not compel us to act or decide a certain way. This can only happen in a deterministic universe or society.
    I may have prior experiences or may have genes the impel me to choose a certain way most of the time; but, those forces are internal to me and are impulsions not compulsions.
    Logic, circumstances or other reasons or considerations may determine my choices but again this is all internal and therefore still products of my own free will. My choices are not predetermined by prior outside forces nor by divine intervention.
    Of our on volition we enter into contracts with our society and other people. Of our own volition we decide to continue to honor those contracts or not. We give up some of our freedom in exchange for goods or services that others or our society provides of equal value. We pay taxes and obey the laws in exchange for the security and benefits of living in that society just as we pay money or trade goods for other goods or services. If it is a free exchange then both parties benefit and profit. If it is not a free exchange it is then robbery. If I give over my money to someone with a gun in exchange of my life it is the same as being force by law to pay taxes to a government which gives nothing in return but my freedom and my life, that which is already mine to begin with.
    All governments thus govern with the consents of the governed regardless of which form it may take, democracy, republic or dictatorship. All governments have only the power which the people that they govern give them. Like Socrates, I may choose to die rather than live in the society which takes by force my freedom. I thus dissolve the contract with that society and remove my support and take bake my power and freedom. If enough people dissolve the contract the society will fail. That is called a revolution.
    If a society fails to provide goods and services of equal value to the freedom and power granted it by its members it is doomed to fail in time just as every society in history to date has failed either by revolution, economic collapse or conquest. No matter how big their gun nor how many guns they have any and all who attempt to rule by force are doomed to eventual failure because the people will and can give only so much and with out freedom they give nothing. It is taken from them. Without receiving something of equal value in return the people soon run out of things to take.
  2. jcsd
  3. May 25, 2005 #2
    You apply alot of extraneous examples and analogies that don't really have much to do with the central question of whether human beings (or other beings) have free will. In another thread (and I think maybe this one, I can't remember that far back in your above post for this thread!), you use the question of whether the universe is deterministic or indeterministic to decide upon the possibility of free will. If the universe is deterministic (will always create the same future results with the same initial conditions), then free will cannot exist. If it is indeterministic (different results may occur with the same initial conditions) then it MAY allow free will to exist. My point is, in an indeterministic universe (basic components of the universe at the microscale are random, per quantum theory), free will does not have to necessarily exist. Our actions could be based solely on how our brains were prewired at birth, the experiences we've chanced upon in life, and our analysis and decisions based upon those. The force behind our ultimate decision could be internally driven, but that internal drive is the result of all the natural interactions of matter and energy within us, according to strict laws of the universe, even if those laws are based on probability curves per quantum theory. Now, in my mind, there is only one factor that could allow "true" free will to exist, and that is whether the "stuff" that makes our minds, in creating something that is greater than the sum of it's parts (the mind, the self, the consciousness, whatever), can *itself* have an influence on the outcome of these quantum events at the microlevel. That would mean that telekinesis is indeed possible. That would mean that telekinesis is not only possible, but practiced by humans (and possibly some lower beings) all the time. Maybe some are so much better at it they can bend a fork (not likely). Maybe some are so good they can influence the random outcome of an atomic event that is measurable. Seems like there have been some experiments that suggest this is possible. Maybe, just maybe, at a certain level of intelligence and conciousness of the physical world, the events at the random quantum level can be influenced by the mind, and free will thus exercised. In my mind, that is the only way free will could actually occur, and my mind is open enough to believe that just *might* be the case.
    Last edited: May 25, 2005
  4. May 25, 2005 #3
    This is the main point of this thread. Free in scientific and philosophic terms means not controlled by outside forces or prior causes. It is the inherent state of both particles and people. If no outside force or cause compels action or behavior then it/we are said to be free in an indeterministic universe.

    It is known that our brains do not come "prewired" at birth. Many of the connections are made during development and learning after birth. I believe this is why there are windows of opportunity for us to learn language skills etc. If a baby walks before it learns to crawl it causes developmental problems. If a child does not learn language skill by a certain age that window closes forever and the child will have extreme difficultly communicating with other humans the rest of its life as shown with feral children. Quantum laws work at the molecular level in our brains too.
    I maintain that if the force is internal, it is of our own free will. Even addiction does not compel us to use the drug our drug of choice. People can and do decide of their own free will to stop using the drug. People successfully stop smoking, stop drinking, stop shooting up etc. Even obsessive compulsive personalities can stop their compulsive behavior with help.

    I just performed an experiment sitting here at my desk. You can do it where you are right now to verify that free will does exist and that the mind can and does effect physical matter, that at least one form of telekinesis exists and is voluntarily controllable.

    Out of the blue for no reason other than experiment, I raised my right
    foot off of the floor and shook it wildly about for just a moment of time
    determined again out of the blue by my own mental powers of free will.
    I then set it back on the floor where it was. This daring innovative, and dare
    I say, ingenious experiment was completely successful and completely
    duplicative. If I choose I could have measured the distance that
    my foot moved, its velocity and weight and determined how much force
    was expended during this experiment. This experiment proves beyond any doubt that free will does exist. That is is uncaused and uncontrolled by external forces and that the mind is fully capable of effecting, influencing
    and causing to move physical objects by its will

    Forgive my tongue in cheekiness; but it is really as simple and obvious as that.

    There was no external cause. There was no prewired, genetic nor environmental cause or influence external or internal. I was not compelled to do it by some personality disorder or drug. Not even the popcorn that I had last night effected the experiment in any way. I rarely raise my foot and shake it so it is not habitual. It was a pure spontaneous act of free will and
    it also showed that the mind can of its own volition and will cause physical objects to move and expend energy.

    Why do so many people over look or ignore this so simple and obvious proof?
    It not only proves that the universe is indeterministic but that physicalism is not complete nor completely correct in that mental, the mind, power exists and can and does effect physical objects and processes

    May the force be with you!
    Last edited: May 25, 2005
  5. May 25, 2005 #4


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    "To act freely, is to act according to one's own nature"--Baruch de Spinoza.
    Is this in accordance with your freedom concept, Royce.
  6. May 25, 2005 #5
    Yes it is and thank you for the quote. I am not saying anything new or original albeit to some what I am saying is out dated and naive. God, I hate that that term both Moving finger and Hypnogue used it as in "naive libertarian" and "naive realist." Thats probably why I got so antagonistic in my replies. It is so supercilious and sanctimonious. Typical of the arrogance of physicalist. As if to say; "We are modern and right and are the only ones that are." Reminds me of something I saw years ago and never forgot. "People who think that they know everything are a constant annoyance to those of us who do."

    Thanks again and may the force be with you. I saw Episode III, Revenge of the Sith last week end. Best Star Wars yet.
  7. May 25, 2005 #6


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    Likewise in all respects.
  8. May 25, 2005 #7
    Sorry, we do come prewired to an great extent, otherwise we might feel pleasure when we should feel pain or hear sounds instead of seeing color. I have a niece who had paternal twins 8 months ago. Their personalities are night and day, even with nearly identical nurturing by the parents. We have a predisposition due to hard wiring of our brains at birth. What we become is due to how our internal assets assimilate external input.

    Correct, the mind begins with initial attributes, then develops further due to the influence of external stimuli on the internal connections, forming and reusing molecular memories.

    Internal vs external does not prove it is of free will. Remember, I believe free will exists. But I don't think your argument of internal vs external forces proves it. A machine can make decisions based on internal programs, even fuzzy logic, which simulates the brain's neural networking, but simple computers do not have free will. I believe future computers will develop to the point they too may have free will. Their network may cover the planet. What is internal vs external? All you're talking about there is location. Quantum laws work all over the place... our brains are just part of the workings of the universe. Even if those workings are quantum based (indeterministic).

    No external cause? Would you have had the notion to perform the experiment were it not for my questioning your ability to prove the existence of free will?

    I can use your "proof" to prove anything that makes a decision has free will. A worm can make decisions. Dig up or down. Free will? A butterfly can choose that flower or this one. Free will? A computer program can make choices based on what it receives as input just like these insects. Free will? At what level of complexity does free will become a reality? Or are we just a much greater level of complexity, period?

    You could think up something truly out of the blue, based on nothing prompted by me or anyone or anything else. Maybe you stick your tongue out and draw a box in the air with it. But was it truly out of the blue? At some early age your mommy stuck her tongue out at you and you learned to stick your tongue out. Learning speech you learned greater control over the tongue. Boxes were in your head from when you played with blocks or from geometry class. Those memories and thoughts came together at just the right time as a response to trying to come up with a spontaneous action to prove free will. So maybe we need to remove all possible external influences in this experiment. Maybe a truly random event would prove free will. A quantum event influences a molecule in your brain to divert an impulse at just the right moment to invent a new shape with your tongue. Was that free will or was it "caused" by the quantum event? I can make a computer unpredictable in its decision making by inserting a random number variable within the program. Does that make it have free will? All I'm saying is, with your experiment, you aren't offering "proof beyond any doubt" as you say, that free will exists.

    Now are you trying to say there is something more than just the physical universe? Something supernatural? Here's what I think the basic question is: We have a sufficiently complex mind that gives us the ability to choose from a nearly infinite set of possible futures, but we can choose only one. We make a choice. Is that choice driven by something other than the natural workings of the universe (which includes, the natural workings of our mind)? Or is there something supernatural about us that gives us power over the natural? In effect, is there a supernatural force? Or is the force itself created by simple dynamics of matter & energy? The universe is full of things that are created by simpler parts. With 4 simple physical forces (in the process of becoming completely unified), we get atoms and stars and galaxies and black holes and planets and electromagnetic waves and sound waves... and speaking of sound waves: With simple modulation of air pressure we get a spectrum of waves that combined in harmonic ways becomes beautiful music, with such variety there are an infinite number of possible hit songs, all with their unique "sound". So, with simple rules you can get complex outcomes. The simple laws of the universe yield self-replicating molecular machines, evolutionary forces are born and ultimately yield a totally complex you or me.
    Are we something more than just a complex molecular machine? At what point in the evolutionary process from bacteria to human did we actually acquire "free will"? Are we mistaking self-awareness of the results of our actions as evidence of "free will"? I don't have answers. Only questions. And the belief that I do have this "free will". But no, I don't have proof. :surprised
  9. May 26, 2005 #8
    I respect both opinions let me add little of my ignorance into it:

    "No external cause? Would you have had the notion to perform the experiment were it not for my questioning your ability to prove the existence of free will?"

    He still could choose to do it or not. Even thought he did it to prove you something he might as well do nothing and not to reply at all. Would not that be free will.

    It reminds me of those books which give you option to go to certain pages. The choice is yours in the story but which ever you choose the outcome is determinded on that next page. To explode this into reality of ours (whatever that is) the decision of me wrting this post has already set outcome but i still could have chosen not to write this and that had set outcome as well.

    Therfore i think free will is "real"

  10. May 26, 2005 #9
    Reply to sneez:
    I could have chosen to ignore your post but I chose to reply. I would not be typing these words at this moment if it weren't for your comments. You had influence over what action I took. The choice is mine, but who can say, if I chose to not reply, that that decision was or was not influenced by many many factors caused by my life experience to date? (And by life experience I include my internal responses to that experience). The question is of cause and effect. I believe cause and effect work within our mental processes just as they work in any other part of the universe. Just because you cannot predict my response with certainty does not prove I exercised free will, just as a knowledgeable weatherman cannot predict next weekend's weather with certainty. The Earth's weather system does not exercise free will, but it is hard to predict because of its complexity. The human mind is hard to predict, although one can place probabilities on actions/reactions, but is it hard to predict because of complexity (just about the most complex thing you'll find anywhere in the universe), or because of something called "free will"? None of what anyone has posted thus far in this thread comes even close to demonstrating "free will" over "cause & effect". Even the case that the universe is in fact indeterministic does not prove free will, as that may just insert an element of randomness into ordinary cause & effect. I think free will is just as difficult to prove as the existence of a soul. All I can say is I think I have both. I can't prove either. I don't think my soul is immortal, but I think it is only part of the whole, which will exist as long as there is a universe. I think if we truly have free will, then it is possible for a conscious observer to alter the framework of the universe.
  11. May 26, 2005 #10
    No. it doesn't prove it. I can not and do not attempt to prove anything (except for my little experiment). Internal vs external was and is part of my definition of free will. Our genes, our moods or our life experiences and preferences my determine to a large degree our choices. This is what I mean by internal. They may or may not influence, impel or choices but they do not compel, force, one choice over the next. In that sense we exercise free will.


    Did you have a gun to my head? Did you make or force or compel me to do it? Did you even suggest it or even think of it before I posted it? I didn't notice it if you did. I did it of my own free will and suggested that you too could do it. Did? you do it? Probably not. Whether you did it or not was the effect of you exercising your own free will. Yea or nay, I accomplished my goal of having you exercisers your free will and being aware that you were doing so. Thus proving to you and everyone else reading this thread that you and I at least have free will. You no longer have to just "believe" but now you and I know that we have free will.

    Not being a worm or have experience being a worm, I don't know but think that worms simple respond instinctively (read deterministically) to stimuli.
    I don't think that they actually ponder the situation and make a decision using the information at hand.
    Computer do not make decisions. The output of any and all computer to date is completely determined by its input, programing and circuitry. That is one of the main ways we have of check a computer operation and diagnosing any problems. We know what the output should be given the inputs and logic state of the computer, run the program and compare the actual output with the expected output. Computer have no will free or not, they simply process information.

    This is where you are wrong. A truly random event is not and cannot be free will. A random event is not an act of will. Will implies, contains, volition, intent and purpose. Free will is the ability of my own volition, intent, purpose and desire to choose from among real alternatives with in myself without coercion, force, prior cause or divine intervention, external or internal.

    First, of all an unprofitable computer is malfunctioning.

    Second, again computers do not make decisions.

    Third, computer have no will free or otherwise of there own.

    Forth, neither I, nor anyone, else can prove beyond any doubt, or any other way, anything to anybody else. Proof has to be accepted or rejected within ourselves. We make up our own minds whether something is satisfactorily proven or not to us. This too is an intellectual act of will, of free will. We and only we decide if something is proven true or false to us.

    I am not trying to say it. I AM say it. However, I object to the use of the word "supernatural" as has a connotation of that which is above, beyond, outside of nature. I firmly believe to the point of conviction that if it happens and if it is real, regardless of what "it" may be, "it" then is natural. The "unnatural" cannot and does not exist and is not real.
    I am convinced by my personal experience and observation that there is One Reality and that reality includes all that is physical, mental and what we call spiritual (for want of a better term) and all that is, is natural.
    The word "supernatural" should be used in the same way that "superstructure" is used as in part of a ship that is above the main deck or as in that part of a bridge that is above the main roadway. It is all part of the one stricter and the structure would not be complete without it.

    Do we have power over ourselves? If yes, then that power is called self will and/or free will.

    No, not surprised at all. I highly distrust anyone who claims to have all of the answers and no questions. Myself, I have only questions. I post my opinions here and see how they fly. I often find that my opinions are just that, opinions and not very good ones at that. As my signature below states, I KNOW very little and the more I learn, read, understand and observe the more questions I have, the more I realize how little I know.
  12. May 26, 2005 #11
    Royce's quotes:
    You're mistaking the lack of one singular cause with no external cause. There are always multiple causes. My prompt was only one of many variables that came together to "cause" you to make a certain decision. My prompt was not a gun held to your head, it was a suggestion of a need that needed filling. Many other chain of events contributed to your decision, multiple impulses influenced by past experience and thought. The root question is whether natural variables and natural electrical, molecular, atomic, &/or quantum level interactions are the source of your decision, or is there a "supernatural" force that you are exercising that equals free will. The bottom line is, are you driving the interactions at the subatomic level, or are they driving you?

    Well, I was trying to get you to think about "degrees" of free will. There are all levels of conscious life on this planet. Where in the chain of complexity does free will begin to exist? Is there "almost free will", and "sort of free will", do cats and dogs have free will? or does it belong only to humans and not even chimps? Some day a computer will have the processing power of the human mind. Will that computer then have self awareness and think it has a soul that will live after it is unplugged and believe that it has free will? Wait before you say "no it's all input and output and predetermined programming". Computers are being built that have massive parallel processors and neural networks just like a brain does. Ever hear of fuzzy logic? Neural networks learn just like young minds do, trial and error. Eventually there will be a machine mind that learns to think in the way that we do, and can make decisions based on information and "free will?" just like we do. If you say that a sufficiently complex machine cannot achieve free will, then you might as well say that humans don't have free will, because we are just molecular machines.

    You miss my point. If there are no random events then the universe is deterministic. Everything could be predicted given sufficient processing power. Starting with the same initial condition will always yield the same future event. In a deterministic universe there is no possibility of free will. Our decisions and actions would be based only on cause and effect at the sublevel. To have free will, the universe must be indeterministic. But just because it IS indeterministic, does not mean free will must certainly exist... for the very reason you give, that random events do not equal free will.

    So what I was trying to say in my previous post was, pretend we change a deterministic universe into an indeterministic universe by inserting a few random variables at the subatomic level. (Just so happens that's what we have in this universe, randomness at the quantum level). Well, that very quality of randomness does not change the higher level human mind into a "free will".

    Imagine if it were discovered that quantum physics is all wrong and physicists found the holy grail of physics and came up with the key formula to the universe, and found that the universe is based on truly deterministic principles that when set in motion, they just simulated random quantum events, but at the basic quantum level they found everything was determined strictly by cause and effect.... would we feel any different? We could not have free will. The universe would have only one past and only one future and it would be completely governed by cause and effect. I'll bet you and I would still "feel" like we had free will. Would we? Our concept of "self" would be the result of intricate interactions of various impulses and thoughts, but they would be the result of natural physical cause and effect. We can't change physics, and the basic physical interactions of matter and energy within our bodies and minds are what manifest themselves as our person, our selves. You can't read this paragraph lightly and see what I'm getting at. You have to think hard about it. When I say "insert a random event", I'm saying "make this previously deterministic universe, indeterministic". There! now the universe is indeterministic, and as you said, randomness does not make free will. So here we are, in a indeterministic universe, made indeterministic by random events at the quantum level, but indeterminism does not separate our thought processes from the results of cause and effect. Indeterminism only inserts indeterminism, in that some other possible effects could be the result of the same cause. So what I am saying in a long about way, indeterminism cannot be used to support the concept of free will, but I do agree that free will would definitely require indeterminism. All kettles are black, but if I find a black utensil, it is not necessarily a kettle.

    You kind of contradict yourself. You say you are trying to say there is a supernatural force that is free will, but you don't believe anything is above being natural. But I'll overlook that, I understand what you were trying to say... To use an extreme example, if someone discovered and had concrete proof they discovered the existence of a ghost (supernatural), well, then it's not supernatural, it's natural, and there must be a physical explanation for it.
    Ok, here we are debating free will. If there does exist free will, then it's natural, not supernatural, and there must be a physical explanation for it. I haven't heard that physical explanation yet. So far I know that the physical universe is governed by cause and effect, but per quantum physics, a cause does not always result in the same effect, and an effect could have multiple possible causes. I read that somewhere once... It means there are multiple histories that could create the current here and now, and multiple futures as a result of the current state of things. I could choose this future, but simultaneously in a parallel reality, I chose that future. I don't know if that gets me closer to free will, but I do think to say you truly have free will, you have to eliminate the chain of cause and effect, and by eliminating that chain, you are really free. I don't know enough about physics, but somewhere within that concept lies the key to why there even is a universe.

    Right on. I love thinking about these things. And I think about them with an open mind. I recently discovered this forum and I love it. Now rather than debating or thinking to myself, I can bounce this stuff off other thinkers and receive new ways of looking at things. I do not like accepting an idea just because if feels good or feels right or you gotta have faith, etc etc. I have to explore it and dissect it to the max. Until I'm completely convinced, I'm still open. I'm not debating with you because I think you're wrong. I debate because I want to try to bring out that idea or hidden concept that I may have not considered before. So if I hear what I think is a weak argument, I'll press for a better argument or line of reasoning. Maybe the argument was weak only because you didn't convey the thought well the first time around. If someone forces me to think harder about something I "feel" I've explained, I may end up going places in thought that I haven't gone before. That's what is fun. As much fun as exploring new places on this Earth.
    Last edited: May 26, 2005
  13. May 27, 2005 #12


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    That was the key statement, that human choices can be made without being determined by prior causes. This assumes that whatever we call a "human," it was never created, because whatever created it had "prior causes." But this is an enormous, moreover unjustifiable assumption. This is one of the many problems with free will.
    I wanted to note that the last statement is quite true. I don't think free will is a tenable belief, or concept, but moral responsibility is really independent of metaphysics, and so determination of the will (which seems the only option) does not change the relevant sense of moral responsibility, just the irrelevant sense of it.
    I think there's a difference between benig able to choose rationally, and having a free will undetermined by prior causes. But I won't go into that.

    As for what you said, that free will is free because it is based on internal causes, is off the mark, I believe. You may have a car that performs poorly. The problem is with the car, so it's "internal" to the car. But this doesn't mean that the cause of the problem is internal. The cause of the problem is either in the manufacturing:

    - an external cause, analogous to whatever created you physically, i.e. your genes, and mentally, so even if you place free will in something non-physical like the soul, you're still contingent on the God that created you

    or in the way you were driving your car:

    - also really an external cause, since it's not about the car itself - nothing is in this example, that's the point - it's about how you drive and how the roads are, and this is analogous to the socialization and nurturing you get in your life and the experiences you have.

    The same would be true of free will. Yes, free will is about something that happens internally, but the point is that the causes are still external.
  14. May 27, 2005 #13
    It doesn't say that. It says that some of the internal events that result
    in human actions had no prior causes. That is an assumption -- as is the

    It is your assumption that eveything the driver does has an ultimately
    external explanation. No-one can give detailed predictions of humna behaviour, so that is not a fact.

    So you assume.
  15. May 27, 2005 #14
    If I, my mind, is driving the interactions then I am exercising free will. If they are driving me then I am not exercising free will. I think that it is me doing the driving. It feels like me and my experience of consciously making the decision leads me to be convinced that it was my free will. I think that I am free and using free will so to me at least I am free and using free will.

    I don't think that we have absolute free will. We are influenced by many things and so are our decisions. The fact that I like chocolate ice cream better than vanilla influence my decision to have chocolate more often than vanilla but it does not compel me to have chocolate nor does it always exclude the choice of having vanilla or some other flavor. I would say that free will is a continuum from no free will to absolute free will. Of course the higher the animal in development the less limited, the more free is its free will. Do insects have free will? I doubt it. Fish? Probably not but if they do it would be very limited. They would be more driven by instinct and reflex. Do Mammals have free will? I'd say yes but again the free will of a mouse would be more limited than that of a chimp. A chimp's free will is limited by its group and instincts where as humans have very few if any instincts and our free will is limited by our societies and personal predilections and biases as well as the circumstances.

    There have been so many science fiction stories about computers becoming advanced, large and complex enough to become aware and develop consciousness that we seem to think it inevitable. It may be but I don't think so. They may be able to simulate awareness and consciousness but I don't think that they will ever be anything more than machines and I don't believe we are machines, bio-molecular or otherwise.

    I don't think that I missed your point. I just don't accept it as valid. See my thread "A Case For an Indeterministic Universe. As these topics are so closely interdependent I posted them all at the same time and all three have the over riding theme that Mankind has something more than animals, a mind; and, that the universe is not deterministic that there is room for freedom and free will;and, we are not machines that simply respond to inputs, conditions and prior causes.

    No it doesn't it, just allows the possibility of free will to exist. It allows room for free will to make un-predetermined choices.

    This is one of the main reasons why I am not a physicalist and believe that the universe is not deterministic. I don't think that we would even exist, life itself would probably not exist unless it was somehow built into the system at the beginning. The First Cause, and there would have to be a First Cause, would have to include the inevitable, determined cause for life, evolution and conscious self aware sentient beings, Humans. Either that or there would have to be a ghost in the machine that guided it toward that effect. However, this ghost would be a contradiction to a purely cause and effect deterministic universe. So logically, since life exists and we exist then there is either a deterministic God/Creator that build the clock like machine of the Universe, Started it running and then left it alone to run its course and finally run down. Why? What would be the point? Or, the universe is not deterministic, chance does play a part and eventual life develops consciousness and free will whether there is a God/Creator or not.

    Indeterminism is a necessary prerequisite for free will to exist. Read the definitions again. Without force, coercion and/or prior cause a particle and we are free. It is an inherent, intrinsic property that is not created, granted or given. To change the state of being free some force or prior cause has to be applied. This statement is implied in Newton's First Law or Motion (I think that it is the first) A body at rest will tend to remain at rest unless a force is applied or if in motion will tend to maintain that motion unless a force is applied (or something like that) The point being is that it requires the application of force to change the motion of a body just as it requires the application of force to remove or restrict freedom, free will.

    No, I am not saying that at all. I am saying just the opposite. When there is no force or prior cause applied freedom and free will exist naturally and an intrinsic state or properly. It is the application of force that restrict or overrides that property. To do away with freedom, free will requires the application of force and/or in case of cause and effect an external prior cause.

    I got hung up on word, semantics. I is a digression and distraction. This has little or nothing to do with the topic of free will. For this, I apologize. I am doing what I accuse others of doing.

    See the above post. There is no physical or supernatural explanation or cause for free will. It is the inherent state in that absence of an applied force or cause.

    Again read the opening post of the thread A Case For a Nondeterministic Universe (or whatever it is). Chance is the determining and required factor for freedom and free will to exist. It operates at the quantum level. If it operated at a much higher level the Universe could not exist or maintain its existence.
    Chance also plays a large part on life and in our lives but compared to the Universe, life and us are little more than Planck particles. We are relatively insignificant to the operation and maintenance of the entire universe.

    [QUOTERight on. I love thinking about these things. And I think about them with an open mind. I recently discovered this forum and I love it. Now rather than debating or thinking to myself, I can bounce this stuff off other thinkers and receive new ways of looking at things.[/QUOTE]

    In that case welcome to the Physics Forums - Philosophy Forum. I've been here for a little over three years so obviously I too love it and for much the same reasons.
  16. May 27, 2005 #15
    How do you know that your mind is different from the sum total of your neural interactions ? Why do you reject the possiblity that, especially in
    an indeterministic universe, the material brain could excercise FW ?

    Indeterminism is not, as you say, a sufficient condition for FW.
    Lack of extrnal coercion hardly is either. If I shut a rock in a cupboard for a week and then open a dorr , do I "free" it ?
    Last edited: May 27, 2005
  17. May 27, 2005 #16
    I don't know nor do I reject the material brain. I am not a physicalist and hold that there is more to life and consciousness than material cause and effect even with chance operating in the universe and my brain.

    No, lack of coercion or force is not a condition for free will. Freedom, free will is inherent, an intrinsic property of man. Man must be conscious to exercise free will. Even at gun point I could choose to exersize my free will possibly at the cost of my life. Again there is nothing that make, creates, grants or gives free will. It is ours by the fact that we exist and are sentient. Those less sentient would have less free will.
  18. May 27, 2005 #17


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    "Those less sentient would have less free will."

    I would rather say that the concept of "will" becomes meaningless in taking the limit of the sentience level down to that of a stone.

    It isn't particularly relevant that no one can force the stone to do things it doesn't want to do, and thus, that it might be regarded as free.
  19. May 27, 2005 #18
    Here's something I just came up with on the "indeterministic universe" thread. It is relevant to this thread because without an interderministic universe, free will is impossible:

    If the universe is completely deterministic, there could be no beginning of the universe, because, before the universe existed, there was no matter, no energy, no space, no time. No time.... Cause and effect is based on the arrow of time. If there were no time to support cause & effect, then there could be no effect of the universe coming into existence, because there could never be a cause to support that effect. Therefore, the very beginning of the universe was at least ONE example of an effect without a cause, and so since there has been at least one effect without cause in this universe, the universe MUST be indeterministic !!!

    Therefore, the conditions of the universe may support free will. (Still does not prove free will exists, but the conditions could support it).

    Royce said:
    Your "free will is a continuum from no free will to absolute free will" is a very good statement. What would "absolute free will" look like? Unbound by anything, could do anything, could create anything. Hmmm... a God? If you had absolute free will, you could change anything you wanted about the universe. You could create your own universe. You could be the God of your own universe.

    I would say that humans are probably at .001 on a "free will scale" of 1 to 100. Why do I say that? We are vastly influenced by external causes, from the DNA we're given at conception, to the environment we're raised in, to which language we acquire, to what opportunities are available to us, and on and on. At some point after birth we begin to realize we can make choices, and thereafter begin to have a hand in who we ultimately become. Those choices are influenced of course, by prior causes. Black and white choices are straight forward. But there are a number of grey/gray choices where we can go either way. So in the grand scheme of things, we have .001 influence compared to the total of 100 potential influence on this universe. We can't overcome our own mortality. We can't punish all the criminals in one fell swoop. But we can choose how much of an active role we take in where we go in our life and how our lives impact others.

    I picked this quote out from your post because it supports where I arbitrarily placed the "human free will" along the "free will scale of 0 to 100". Now, The God of the universe would be placed at 100, having ultimate free will. I'm glad there is no God running loose, as His will would be pretty overpowering. Rather, I believe God is just another name for "everything", or the "universe". And it acts according to natural law. Which is indeterministic due to "events without cause" at the quantum level.
  20. May 28, 2005 #19


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    An event either has a prior cause or does not. An event that had no prior cause is essentially random. It's not free will, since it is not the result of a choice of our own. If the events are ultimately uncaused, they they are ultimately not a result of our choice, and hence not a result of our free choice. Some random event occured "internal" to us, caused something like a chain reaction and resulted in a choice being made. On the other hand, if the event did have a prior cause, then it would have to be external unless you make the assumption I mentioned.
    This has nothing to do with the driver really. In this case, the car was analogous to the human, not the driver. The driver was analogous to things like family and other people who socialize us. If we look at the car like a human, then it's defects are either a result of their creation (same for a human, and our own creation is out of our hands), or the environment that the car faced and the way it was driven (like the environment we face, including social environment, and our experiences). If you want to say that there is something else that can explain the car's defects that are entirely internal to the car, that have nothing to do with those other factors, but is not caused by any prior thing (note that this means that it has to take place some time after its creation then), then it would have to be some random thing, that is no more the car's choice than it is anyones. The same is for humans. A random event can't also be a chosen event. So if there is anything that is part of "free will" that has no prior cause, then it is essentially random, and not chosen, and it may as well be forced. Free will, then, would be something that may as well have been forced.
    Well causes, if they exist, are either internal or external. Either humans have lived for all time, in some sense, or either the internal causes ultimately had an external cause at creation or some other point during human development, or the internal cause had no external cause, which means it must have appeared spontaneously some time after the human came into existence. These are really the only options. They come in the form X or (Y or ~Y). All three lead to free will being contradictory, which it is. Our choices are just the end causal result in a chain of cause and effect that is either ultimately external to us ultimately spontaneous, and in both cases, our will is entirely contingent on something entirely outside of our control, so there's little sense in calling it free will.

    This is a rather natural result. Even though we can't predict human behaviour, that doesn't mean that it isn't theoretically predictable. It means it's very complicated. But do you know why you like vanilla better than grass-flavoured ice cream? Did you make the chocie to like one over the other? Can you even make such a choice? The ability to make choices does not mean that the causes behind those choices aren't ultimately out of our control. How far back can our choices go? Think about something you chose. Think about the reasons for choosing it. Now think about how you chose those reasons. Think about the reasons for choosing the reasons. At some point, you'll naturally have to find a reason that you didn't choose.
  21. Jun 3, 2005 #20
    You are confusing levels of explanation here: there is the the human action
    in question, the macro-event, and there are thousands of neural and physiological
    micro-events that constitute and cause it. A random micor-event is not the result of our will, but neither is a deterministic macro-event; they both
    are constituents of a willed action.

    If you assume that a single random neural micro-event gets translated into
    a macroscopic action without any possiblity of prevention or intervention
    from all the many other processes going on inside your CNS, then your
    action as a whole could indeed be said to be random (like an intenalised vesion of the Dice Man). My response is that I am not making that assumption! Your choices are your choices because you -- your "Sensible Idea Selector" -- doesn't filter them out. In fact, we may even be aware of this subjectively when we think "no, that would be crazy".

    Nope humans are not cars, and randomness is not a sufficient condition for FW. It is the total system, including the sleection and comparison of random impulses that make up human volition.

    micor-event or macro event ?

    Internal random events are under our control, because we do not have to act on them.

    Which doesn't mean that it was determined externally !
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