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How does one increase their free will?

  1. Jan 7, 2006 #1
    Assuming free will is the ability to choose and does exist.

    I had a dream that I was a machine, that everthing I did was a response to a stimuli...kinda like that movie Awakenings where the patient aren't capable of initiating an action on their own but can only respond to external stimuli and have 1 set response, such as someone throws a ball at them and they catch it. It was a scary dream, but offers a view of what free will may be. Imagine that everything we do is some complex response gradually developed over time to respond to simple or complex stimuli in our environment and you start to see what I mean. On the other hand close your eyes for a few seconds and shut out all those external stimuli and you'll start to daydream, the mind can't just stop, it's got to have something to respond to, but where do those daydreams come from? How is it the mind knows just what to conjure up to distract us, get us to think, or get us to respond to? Try to think of nothing for more than 5 min, I'll bet you can't. Where does it come from, I suppose it could be the orgin of free will a kind of mechanism that keeps the gears turning, but should one always respond to stimuli without first observing them and becoming aware wouldn't that make them an animal? Isn't that one of the things that really seperates humans from animals is our ability to be aware or self-aware of cause effect patterns and choose what we do? So if possible how would increase their ability to choose? Assuming it is a good thing.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 7, 2006 #2


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    Hi janmieg:
    Yes, I accept free will as an assumption, however one that is fundamentally unprovable. Conversely, I don t believe one can also prove that we are determined. Morality would be meaningless without the assumption of free will IMO.
    As far as being bombarded with thoughts or stimuli, that's necessary to some degree however we do have the capacity to select out what we deem is most advantageous. However, it's not always that simple. If we're bombarded with addictive thoughts, then these 'inclinations' displace our ability to respond in a more rational manner. In that way, I agree with Kant to some degree anyway, that freedom (and hence rationality) means to behave in such a way that one is free from 'passions' or inclinations. That being said, such a scenario is virtually impossible for needy, empirical beings such as ourselves. In that way, I believe it s more realistic to say that it's not so much that we should behave as being free from desirous inclinations but behave in such a way that our inclinations are bounded by rational limits.

    As far as your question of increasing our ability to choose, I would say that we should reduce our irrational desires, ones that displace our capacity to reason and hence our capacity to 'have reasons.' We increase our capacity for choice by increasing or at least maintaining our capacity to react to the broadest range of strategies. If we're subject to obsessive thoughts or compulsive actions then out capacity to react is diminished.
    Cheers, mrj
  4. Jan 8, 2006 #3
    So you are saying that if we were less emotional we would most likely be more reasonable and it's our reasonability that gives us freedom to choose or "free will", and it's our passions and emotions that bind us perhaps enslave us to not choose but be subject to set patterns of behavior just like animals.? Ideally to be a more advanced self-controlled species we should be like the vulcans on startrek, do they get startrek in china?
    If not, basically the vulcans are these people with a fierce determinations to control and supress expression of their emotions, in so doing they've found a great deal of peace from them and clarity of thought allowing them to become a spacefaring species that seeks mainly knowledge. Most people would probably find them boring, I would find them boring, I like intellectual pursuits but to neglect all emotions in order to advance as a species seems like a very bad trade off... like you can have your cake and eat too, but it wouldn't make any aesthetic difference to you wether it was cake or your own feces, except for some differences in nutritional values.
  5. Feb 16, 2006 #4
    I don't think we have to suppress emotions and become more rational to improve our free will. I'd say that emotions have a logic of their own, sometimes they serve us badly but usually they tell us things that serve our own best interests (eg. what to do or what to avoid). Supressing emotions could be quite unhealthy but having said that, I wouldn't want them to run my life either.

    The best way to strengthen your individuality might be to learn some decision making techniques and use them to get the best options, taking into account the rational side but also choosing what ultimately gives you maximum enjoyment and emotional gratification as well. Will seems to strengthen with use.

    "Free will" whatever it is, is almost certainly influenced by our chemistry. There are some states of mind where you simply shouldn't be trying to make important decisions. After more than a few drinks etc. Free will doesn't have any obvious mystical properties, but in the case of humans I'd also like to think we have a bit extra of something.
  6. Feb 16, 2006 #5
    I think the more conscious/aware we are, the more freedom our will shall have. For instance if u can choose between 3 cars, u only have those 3 options. But when u are aware that there are 100 other cars around the corner, then u have more options and more freedom.
  7. Feb 16, 2006 #6
    Yeah, I'd agree. I'm not sure how to maximize consciousness, it seems like consciousness actually gets tired in the sense that after about 15 hours or so of staying awake, most of us feel the need to shut it down for a while and get some sleep. Focusing our attention on the things that are important at the times we are most alert seems like the best bet.
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2006
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