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Freewill is an Illusion

  1. Oct 1, 2004 #1
    Some may think we have freewill, and to some extent we do.

    Even though there are societal laws stating we cannot do certain things (i.e. murder, rape) that does not prevent us from doing those things. So in that sense we have freewill.

    But to me, we do not have true freewill because we are limited by physical reality. For example if I wanted to jump out the window and fly, I cannot because I have to obey the law of gravity.

    What is true freewill then?

    True freewill is freedom from everything. The laws of society, the laws of physics, even yourself. Think of a dream. In the dreamworld if you want something, and you're dreaming lucidly, you can simply will it to be there. But even the dreamworld is limited because you are bound by what you know, that is if you didn't know something existed you wouldn't be able to use it.

    Perhaps God did give us freewill, but its a limited version. Sort of like a trail version. We have freewill within the bounds of physical, mental and spiritual reality. Perhaps this is a hint to something greater, a form of spiritual evolution. Perhaps we are only here to learn about freedom, and what it can bring. Perhaps God wants us to become so free that we separate ourselves from physical, mental and even spiritual reality, in effect creating our own Universe, where the inidividual will become God, and thus create his/her own Universe.

    I think that's one of the paths God has provided. And in my mind its one of the highest paths, because it means the ultimate sacriface. The sacriface of literally everything, everyone and everywhere to create a new world in which the soul can flourish.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 1, 2004 #2


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    The Matrix has you...

    Seriously, I have no problem with the fact that my freewill is constrained by the laws of physics/chemistry/etc. I don't think the term really implies anything more. But it is fun to speculate "what if...?"
  4. Oct 1, 2004 #3
    yes the matrix does have me, except this time when I leave it, I won't be coming back, I will be making my own :)
  5. Oct 2, 2004 #4
    Some people believe in consensual reality, that is, that the laws of physics, life, the universe, and everything are what they are because deep down inside everyone agrees that is what they want.
  6. Oct 2, 2004 #5
    I agree with wuliheron.

    in the omniverse, there is true freewill since it is an open system. in the physical universe, a closed system, we have limited freewill. we agree to the laws of physics to participate in the physical universe. ground rules, as it were.

    olde drunk
  7. Oct 2, 2004 #6

    Any quantity of freewill violates the law of conservation of energy. Study physics more, and you'll expire the rest of your belief in freewill as well as the imposed God psychology. It takes rigorous honesty, something some do not have, because of biologically or enviromentally induced mental disorder that separates them from this honest sanity their whole lives.

    Simply though, Freewill states an action may occur without a history (or cause), which implies energy is added to the system. If energy is added, it must have a direction and velocity and possibley some sort of mass.

    If this is God who added the energy, he didn't give you choice, because he's setting the magnitude and direction of the energy to the system and the system will react because of it's circumstancial position and postitional make-up.

    If it's you who added the energy, then how did you determine the energy's magnitude and direction upon yourself, when you didn't have the energy prior? Once you recieve the energy, it must have magnitude and direction. If you say no, then only your present state will determine it's direction of the energy, meaning you didn't make a free choice, the choice was determined by the state you were in when this out of no-where, non-velocity energy made it's way mysteriously to you. But, you would have to prove by accounting that your choices added energy to your decision making system. No way! Energy has never been proven to be created or destroyed.

    One other thing I found that helps. Many people think they can make a free choice, but what happened is they forgot what influenced them. If they didn't forget, then physical laws dictated what they did choose, even if they claim they knew they were being stupid. We just call that being stupid. Try that logic on the next person claiming stupidity proves free-will. They'll love ya for it.
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2004
  8. Oct 2, 2004 #7
    I think that we already have "true free will". It's "absolute free will" that we don't have. I LOVE that idea of becoming a god of my own universe. That idea is pleasent to think about, and it makes sense too. I hope it's for real!

    I wouldn't agree that "freewill is an Illusion" because we know that freewill in the limited sense, bound by the laws of nature, does in fact exist.
  9. Oct 5, 2004 #8

    I don't think your definition of freewill is the same as mine. Mine is the ability to make any choice. That is free will to me.

    False Prophet

    "I wouldn't agree that "freewill is an Illusion" because we know that freewill in the limited sense, bound by the laws of nature, does in fact exist."

    And it is that limitation that makes it an illusion. The very nature of free will is to be free to make ANY decision, thus true free will is an illusion, at least here in this reality ;P
  10. Oct 5, 2004 #9
    I was going to reply to this post, but I lack the free will to do so.
  11. Oct 5, 2004 #10
    Free will is not random will
    Yes, I am very interested in this question. By heart I believe that I have a free will, but intellectually I find the case of a will only formed by nature and nurture much stronger.

    Randomness, indeterminism - I think you are right in that omin, that's why I did quote you - doesn't solve the problem, because in that case you would have random will, not (directed) free will. I am still searching for (theoretic) "building blocks" of which the function is in some way independent of how the block became constructed as such. Next to that it has to be able to adapt itself, but that is pretty common in technical systems. If people - that believe in some kind of free will - know about some attempts to it, I'm eager to hear about it.

    In the violet book of Einstein meets Magritte, about The evolution of complexity some background information is given. For example Jixuan Hu formulates different kinds of eigen-mechanisms on a complexity scale:
    • simple causality
    • simple feedback
    • Ashby's self organisation (loop within environment)
    • Von Foerster's self organisation (loop including environment; the system and its environment are considered as an interactive whole)
    • Prigogine's self organistation (dissipative structures but conserving 'information', that contain multiple eigen-loops, mostly observed in chemical processes)
    • hypercycles (self organisation in Eigen's sense)
    • autopoiesis (the black box isn't defined anymore by it's behaviour but equally by it's being; the eigen-results and eigen-loops become identical; the whole set of complex processes produces itself; a biological approximation of a recursive function)
    What do I like in this? IMHO a recursive function is independent. It's a very dynamical form of iindependence course, but that doesn't matter to me.
  12. Oct 5, 2004 #11
    Freewill pertains only to the mind. You have the will to jump out the window and fly, but you lack the ability. We were given free will to will anything we want. But we were placed in a world of limited abilities and confined to the laws of this world. From this we get the popular phrase "The mind is willing, but the body is weak". What freewill means, at least to me, is that we can think anything we want. There is no force in this world shaping or directing the path of my thoughts. Though it can be argued that outside effects often do shape that, it is only because I allow them. Insane people are a great example of freewill. Some of them think they are birds. Their mind is completely convinced of this. Does that change their physical form into that of a bird? Of course not. Free will is that which we have over animals. When an animal, such as a dog, makes a dicition, its instinct tells it what to do. I am theatened...run away. I am hungy...go eat. I am horny...go have sex. It is because of our free will that we can choose logic over instinct. We have total and complete freedom to think whatever we want.
  13. Oct 5, 2004 #12
    >>It is because of our free will that we can choose logic over instinct.

    I think the fact that we use more logic and rely less on basic instints are just effects of having more intelligence, but I am not sure if our free will is that much different than free wills possessed by dogs and animals. Say my dog is sleepy and is yawning, and I offer him to play with him or to feed him. I think the free will to either go to sleep or to take up on my offer should be very similar to the choice I make on whether if I want to go out tonight or stay home. The decision the dog makes is based on how tired he is, how hungry he is and so forth, just like if I am really really feeling like to go out. There are definitely variables there, but a final decision is sort of a toss-up, meaning, to a certain extent, is unpredictable. Is it, then, just a random event that we percieve as free will? Is this really our own, or is it just an experience, similar to our sensation of vision, hearing, etc.? An experience of true randomness???

    If you still want to call it your own, I would like to ask another question, can we really think the stuff we want to think about? Say you got fired from your job and you are sitting at home, not wanting to think about it. There is no benefit in thinking about it during the night for nothing can be changed. If we were a program, we would set up a scheduler to think about it starting the next day so we can look for a job to correct the situation. But we know that some how, unwillingly, neurons are randomly firing in our brains, until one of those neurons starts firing in the parts of your brain containing the memories of you getting fired. The next time you are out for a long drive, try to see how long you can keep a subject (that you usually think about) out of your attention.
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2004
  14. Oct 5, 2004 #13


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    I like your question, and it raises another one in my mind. Do our actions follow from our immediately prior conscious thoughts? Always? How about "I don't know what I'm going to say until I say it"?
  15. Oct 5, 2004 #14
    >>Do our actions follow from our immediately prior conscious thoughts?

    From a biological standpoint I would probably say yes, but it seems like I'm going to get myself in trouble for saying it. Never the less physically speaking our motor reflexes have to first be motivated by neurons triggering in the brain. This applies to what most of us consider actions, ie - eating, going to the store, etc.

    Do you have something that's on your mind on this?? What if we consider "observing" to be an action, say for quantum experiments?? Does our mind see what our eyes tells us or does our mind put stuff (collapse wave functions) for our eyes to see??
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2004
  16. Oct 5, 2004 #15


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    It's just that people who want to talk about consciousness, free will, the outside world, and all often seem to assume a relationship that is oversimplified. I think it's a common experience to do something (drive a car is often mentioned) without much or any CONSCIOUS intervention at all. And I think that cases like that, along with dreaming and the experience of blind and deaf people from birth, such as Helen keller, ought to be carefully considered before you reach any hard and fast conclusions about these topics.
  17. Oct 6, 2004 #16
    >>ought to be carefully considered before you reach any hard and fast conclusions about these topics.

    You're right. I was throwing evidence to support that we don't have free will but there's so many things to consider before really reaching to a conclusion. To be honest I don't really know, and am always listening intently what everyone thinks, and with the same token, just threw in what I thought (at the time I may add!). There's a neurological, biological, psychological, and even a quantum mechanical sides to this question!

    >>along with dreaming and the experience of blind and deaf people from birth, such as Helen keller

    Please, I am interested to what you may add... My psychology classes took all had different prespective on dreams... and the last one I took said that dreams are "just result of neurons randomly firing".... I was very unsatisfied by this explanation, but ends up today that I am saying, isn't that where all our thoughts come from?
  18. Oct 6, 2004 #17


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    There has been a lot of research on dreams. They certainly are not just random - gee, your own experience tells you that!

    One thing I remember from an old SciAm article was that human dreams have a different basis from animal dreams. There was a theory that dreaming was the brain's way of integrating the previous day's experience into long-term memory. And research tended to confirm that was what was happening in animals. But it also showed that something more complex than that was going on with humans.

    Research has shown that the brain and its mind ( ;) ) are much more complex and contingent than used to be thought. A good all around reference is in Dennet's Consciousness Explained. If you don't like Dennet's theory you can ignore it. But along the way he provides a valuable survey of modern sensory and brain research.
  19. Oct 6, 2004 #18
    Got Cause?

    All those fancy shmancy concepts still wouldn't make any sense without the most basic fundamental of all: causality. Get it? Not without out causality. Any thing in this world continues on a path without changing one iota, or stays at rest, unless a forces acts upon it. Freewill implies, something changes course without a cause.

    Randomness is ignorance of cause. Randomness is part of the freewill philosophy, so is chaos. There is nothing wrong with ignorance, it's just a human limitation we all are stonewalled by in one way or another. The key thing isn't that we are stonewalled, it's that we don't know we are when we are: Ignorance!

    Keep on looking!
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2004
  20. Oct 7, 2004 #19
    IMHO - like I already said - free will is a matter of independence of our environment.* I don't know yet how this independence came to be. The complex systems I mentioned can play a big role (and maybe randomness will play a role too).

    Randomness as a result
    Randomness is at least important in regard to independent systems. If we - human - are partly independent then our environment will observe partly random choices.

    Besides, what are causes exactly? In the case of pointing a video camera to a TV monitor complex patterns will appear on the screen. Is the 'cause' for this behaviour the person that arranges this system? IMHO even if you're able to formulate the 'causes' that resulted in a kind of system, you still don't have to have a causal relationship between the components and their integrated behaviour.
    A slightly different point: Is circular causality causal?

    *If you look it at this way, physicalist are the ones that have a holistic view of 'us' and 'our environment': "'we' and 'our environment' are totally dependent of each other, there is nothing in us that is independent of it."
  21. Oct 7, 2004 #20
    say hello to a charter member of the unwashed-ignorant club.

    you are taking the laws of physics (rules for the physical world) and applying them to the entire universe that includes the non-physical.

    today, we can list all the elements, chemicals, etc of any simple organism. we suspect that IF you pass the correct elctra-magnetic charge through this mixture life would result. Why can't we do it?

    To me, the life force, much like an idea has no causation because it is non-physical. we probably are a form of that electro-magnetic energy. but we can not understand the nature of the universe and our existence by using laws that apply to the physical world.

    IMHO, we are here in this physical world learning to use our freewill on a limited basis, before being let loose with complete freewill in other dimensions.

    olde drunk
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