Free Will vs. Determinism

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Determinism is the belief that every event is caused by a preceding event, the universe is governed by fixed physical laws, that there is no such thing as chance, and that there is one determinable future. Essentially, it is like a domino effect; the future of the universe has been determined by its physical laws ever since the big bang.

As a natural consequence, Hard Determinists believe that free will (the ability of humans to make choices), as a logical consequence, cannot exist in a deterministic universe.

A Libertarian (not the political party) believes that humans have free will and therefore determinism is wrong. A way to try to prove free will exists is answering the question:"could we have done otherwise"?

A Compatibilist believes that the free will can exist in a deterministic universe.

This is a topic to take seriously if we understand the implications. If we don't have free will, then this means that we cannot choose. And if we cannot make choices, and everything is decided by fate, how can we hold criminals accountable for their actions, or anyone accountable for bad actions?

What is your opinion on this?
 

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  • #2
Pythagorean
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many cognitive experiments don't look good for short-term free will. Many genetic experiments don't look good for long-term free will.

I'm not a determinist. I use deterministic methods in the sciences but I have no clue whether "reality" is deterministic or not. From what I've observed, reality is never one thing or the other because reality is a complex jumble of chaos from which I selectively order things that are significant to me. I'd be a highly stressed organism if I didn't project determinism onto my everyday experiences. I'm not so worried about whether I have free-will or not. I have the same plan for my future in my mind either way.
 
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I personally believe in Hard Determinism.

What changes when you become a determinist? Nothing.

If you're incapable of choosing, why not just just sit idle and do no nothing?

Because that would just be a self-fulfilling prophecy? It is preferable to act well (rather than to act bad), though humans may not have choice over their actions.

Does that mean everyone should be let out of jail?

It is unfortunate that individuals have to be punished, but imprisoning criminals benefits society as a whole.
 
  • #4
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I personally believe in Hard Determinism.

I guess I just happen to be a compatibilist.

What changes when you become a determinist? Nothing.

Unless the libertarians are right...

If you're incapable of choosing, why not just just sit idle and do no nothing?

Because that would just be a self-fulfilling prophecy?

Unless the determinists are right.

It is preferable to act well (rather than to act bad), though humans may not have choice over their actions.

Does that mean everyone should be let out of jail?

It is unfortunate that individuals have to be punished, but imprisoning criminals benefits society as a whole.

I agree. But imprisoning innocent people can stunt society's growth (see Fang Lizhi).
 
  • #5
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Determinism is the belief that every event is caused by a preceding event, the universe is governed by fixed physical laws, that there is no such thing as chance, and that there is one determinable future. Essentially, it is like a domino effect; the future of the universe has been determined by its physical laws ever since the big bang.

As a natural consequence, Hard Determinists believe that free will (the ability of humans to make choices), as a logical consequence, cannot exist in a deterministic universe.

A Libertarian (not the political party) believes that humans have free will and therefore determinism is wrong. A way to try to prove free will exists is answering the question:"could we have done otherwise"?

A Compatibilist believes that the free will can exist in a deterministic universe.

This is a topic to take seriously if we understand the implications. If we don't have free will, then this means that we cannot choose. And if we cannot make choices, and everything is decided by fate, how can we hold criminals accountable for their actions, or anyone accountable for bad actions?

What is your opinion on this?



The macro scale where everything that's important to you takes place is pretty much 100% superdeterministic from everything we've seen so far(gloomy yes, but it's got 100% experimental support). It's only when you keep pursuing this deterministic "tendency" to the fullest possible extent that you realize that the ultimate source of this apparent determinism is hidden behind an unexplainable smeared out range of possibilities. It's up to you to decide what this all means, since no human being knows at this time. Reality is much more than is readily observable and measureable and causality very likely is not a fundamental feature(potential for new important insights) .
 
  • #6
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Hmmm...... At last a discussion on the topic i pondered from my childhood. After all the years of contemplation on the issue i was led to a conclusion that the disposition of a particular person is dictated by determinism. Now the question is whether to yield to one's instincts or not. And i think this is where the free will has a role to play.
 
  • #7
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Determinism is the belief that every event is caused by a preceding event, the universe is governed by fixed physical laws, that there is no such thing as chance, and that there is one determinable future. Essentially, it is like a domino effect; the future of the universe has been determined by its physical laws ever since the big bang.
Determinism is a word that refers to the words cause and effect. By definition causes refer to events that precede, in time, events that are referred to as effects. Our observations cannot, by definition, disagree with this. The universe is, by defintion, evolving deterministically.

As a natural consequence, Hard Determinists believe that free will (the ability of humans to make choices), as a logical consequence, cannot exist in a deterministic universe.
What we call human choice, as everything else, is compatible with determinism.

A Libertarian (not the political party) believes that humans have free will and therefore determinism is wrong. A way to try to prove free will exists is answering the question:"could we have done otherwise"?
A meaningless question. We can discuss this.

A Compatibilist believes that the free will can exist in a deterministic universe.
The compatibilist is correct. It's just a matter of semantics. What we choose to call 'free will' is not, presumably, given the assumption of determinism, 'free' will. It refers to either our ignorance of the preceding events that determined our actions, or the fact that we acted according certain prior internalized considerations. Either way, determinism isn't contradicted.

This is a topic to take seriously if we understand the implications. If we don't have free will, then this means that we cannot choose.
No, it doesn't mean that. It's the other way around. The fact that we have choice due to emotional recollection and reason doesn't imply that the universe isn't deterministic.

And if we cannot make choices, and everything is decided by fate, how can we hold criminals accountable for their actions, or anyone accountable for bad actions?
We hold people accountable for their actions because of the notion of free will or freedom of choice -- which is not incompatible with the assumption of determinism.

More precisely, we hold people accountable for their actions in order to control their behavior -- which is in keeping with the assumption that our universe is evolving lawfully, deterministically.
 
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  • #8
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Hmmm...... At last a discussion on the topic i pondered from my childhood. After all the years of contemplation on the issue i was led to a conclusion that the disposition of a particular person is dictated by determinism. Now the question is whether to yield to one's instincts or not. And i think this is where the free will has a role to play.
Here's the thing, it isn't that you don't have choices, reasoned or emotional. We internalize our emotional, reasonable, and sensory histories. Our choices are based on syntheses of these histories. As such, our choices, while appearing freely arrived at by us, are not incompatible with the assumption that the universe is evolving deterministically.
 
  • #9
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More precisely, we hold people accountable for their actions in order to control their behavior -- which is in keeping with the assumption that our universe is evolving lawfully, deterministically.

This is not the only reason. And not the most important. We must hold ppl accountable to punish them. Why he did it is of secondary importance. Deterrence is also of secondary importance. An aggrieved party has the right to retribution. A punishment fit for the crime must always be inflicted, swiftly and merciless, if for no other reason than restitution to the victim or it's heirs and the society in general.
 
  • #10
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This is not the only reason. And not the most important. We must hold ppl accountable to punish them. Why he did it is of secondary importance. Deterrence is also of secondary importance. An aggrieved party has the right to retribution. A punishment fit for the crime must always be inflicted, swiftly and merciless, if for no other reason than restitution to the victim or it's heirs and the society in general.
All of which is compatible with the assumptions of determinism and free will (the thread topic). Hi Dan.
 
  • #11
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All of which is compatible with the assumptions of determinism and free will (the thread topic). Hi Dan.

Hi Thomas ! sure it is.
 
  • #12
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Here's the thing, it isn't that you don't have choices, reasoned or emotional. We internalize our emotional, reasonable, and sensory histories. Our choices are based on syntheses of these histories. As such, our choices, while appearing freely arrived at by us, are not incompatible with the assumption that the universe is evolving deterministically.

Are those choices arrived at deterministically or not?

The discussion of freewill or determinism closely parallels the discussion of creationism and evolution. Just as with the creationist argument that the universe is too organized to have happened by chance, the strongest argument the freewill advocate has is that human affairs are too organized to have happened by chance.

Think for a moment the choices you make driving down the street. Your actions are governed by other cars on the road, traffic signs, white and yellow lines and both physical and traffic laws. To suppose that all that was encoded into the primordial turmoil 13 billion years ago and only now is resulting in vast numbers of cars able to navigate from on place to another with very little difficulty, boggles the mind. Unlike the creationist argument which has been largely negated by the discovery of organizing forces such as natural selection, no organizing forces have yet been found to explain the abundance of highly improbable phenomenon as described above, leaving only freewill as the explanation. The freewill advocate's challenge is to explain how freewill is generated without relying on previous (chaotic) causes and how that will is able to cause effects.

The hard determinist's challenge is to explain the generally organized and purposeful human existence without resorting to freewill as an organizing force.
 
  • #13
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The discussion of freewill or determinism closely parallels the discussion of creationism and evolution. Just as with the creationist argument that the universe is too organized to have happened by chance, the strongest argument the freewill advocate has is that human affairs are too organized to have happened by chance.

Wrong. Evolutionism explains perfectly why humans have a lot of genetic propensities , while they are extremely poorly determinate.

Absolute determinism is an excuse born of weakness. And so is the belief in absolute "free will". Behavior is modulated. By genetics, by society, by other environmental influences. It is neither "free will", neither "determinated" .
 
  • #14
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A Compatibilist believes that the free will can exist in a deterministic universe.

Close. A compatibalist believes that a determinist universe is necessary for freewill.

Without cause and effect, you can't choose anything.
So without determinism, freewill is meaningless.

The compatibalist notion of freewill is more in line with the idea of local autonomy. Freedom from outside influence; the ability to do, what one is disposed to do.

Any other idea of freewill is self-contradicting or magical, because it relies on counterfactuals.
 
  • #15
Evo
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Determinism is the belief that every event is caused by a preceding event, the universe is governed by fixed physical laws, that there is no such thing as chance, and that there is one determinable future. Essentially, it is like a domino effect; the future of the universe has been determined by its physical laws ever since the big bang.

As a natural consequence, Hard Determinists believe that free will (the ability of humans to make choices), as a logical consequence, cannot exist in a deterministic universe.

A Libertarian (not the political party) believes that humans have free will and therefore determinism is wrong. A way to try to prove free will exists is answering the question:"could we have done otherwise"?

A Compatibilist believes that the free will can exist in a deterministic universe.

This is a topic to take seriously if we understand the implications. If we don't have free will, then this means that we cannot choose. And if we cannot make choices, and everything is decided by fate, how can we hold criminals accountable for their actions, or anyone accountable for bad actions?

What is your opinion on this?
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https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=459350

https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=47294
 

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