# Proof that free will exists

So... Can anyone show proof that free will exists? That we are not merely directed by past events?

I believe I have asked before, but did not receive proof. And no, this is not for university. I just have trouble finding absolute proof of free will.

I always agreed that free-will is an illusion. I think it is a good illusion though. I envy the people who are blessed with it.

Njorl

So... Can anyone show proof that free will exists? That we are not merely directed by past events?

I believe I have asked before, but did not receive proof. And no, this is not for university. I just have trouble finding absolute proof of free will.

I don't know how familiar you are with previous threads on this matter, but I have always responded with the same answer, and I will respond here: It is impossible to prove free will over predestination, or vice versa.

I'll explain why:

If I wished to prove free will, then I would take steps in that direction. However, every step I take in that direction could be what I was predestined to do, and therefore every attempt I make to prove free will just further validates predestination.

The same is true of predestination...if I took steps to prove predestination, each of those steps could be a freely chosen step out of the other possibilities, and thus every attempt I make at proving predestination further validates free will.

I agree with Mendat - and therefore CHOOSE to act according to free will.

You guys ever read Oedipus? At first glance it appears to be saying that you can't escape your fate. It isn't. Its saying make your own choices and your fate becomes whatever you want it to be.

I tend to look at "free will" like this. If i have this will, the decision to will this will was brought upon another will that caused the initial will that I first had to happen. Therefore, the choice I make based upon this will I have was determined in advance by another will that willed upon it. So how can this will, which i think is free, be free if the cause of this will was the effect of a past or another will?

Originally posted by mikehuntsloose
I tend to look at "free will" like this. If i have this will, the decision to will this will was brought upon another will that caused the initial will that I first had to happen. Therefore, the choice I make based upon this will I have was determined in advance by another will that willed upon it. So how can this will, which i think is free, be free if the cause of this will was the effect of a past or another will?

Your view is commonly referred to as "determinism" (which is different from predestination). Determinism basically says that we do choose between other possible choices, but these choices are predetermined by choices that we've made before...ergo, if I could know every factor involved in your past then I could determine with 100% accuracy which you choice you will make in this new situation.

I don't like this view, personally, since it's basically free will (re-stated) and predestination (also re-stated), in my opinion. You see, if there is no probability of my choosing anything other than that which past experience has determined that I will choose, then I am predestined. However, at the same time, the very fact that I can make a choice (however limited) seems to indicate free will with the addition of overwhelming limiting factors. So, I say that determinism is a slightly "grey area", but fits in better with predestination, and cannot be proven for the same reasons.

btw, Welcome to the PFs, mikehuntsloose.

I think I'm predestined to have free-will. But I'm also willing to do anything but not sure if it's possible. I'm lost...

hey, neato... i made my quote before i read this thread lol... i figured i didn't have free-will way back in grade seven(18 years old now), same time i became atheist...

basically i think of it in the sense of not free will and predestination, but more as an order Vs. chaos/randomness argument.

the laws of physics are laws based on what we see, they aren't really substantial as far as an atom is concerned, the atom will do whatever it is supposed to do, regardless of what the human "laws of physics" say. we, however, are pretty good at predicting such things... so it makes me wonder, if every event is based on past events, then whatever will happen is "ordered". ie every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

now if things are random, then there is nothing that governs how an event will react to another event, no rules.. no laws of physics, no predictability of ANYTHING, and it all falls apart... ie chaos.

it like a computer, in order there are 1 and 0... simply yes and no. and rules can be built on such certanties. in chaos the number can be anything.. in fact, you can't even limit it to a number! it could be an atom, matter, energy, nothing at all... or something i don't know of and maybe never will. as soon as you put a limit on it, then it is no longer random, but contained within something and therefore predictable because to be limited, is to follow a rule and to follow a rule is to be based on something. once based on something you lose all randomness.

so, maybe the universe was only random once... at the moment it all came to be... the universe calculated one randomness and then we all spawned from that. so until the universe ends, then nothing in it will be random again.

so, my proof of no free-will is the fact that i exist in a world that is predictable with little error, based on whatever scraps of information i can obtain with my 5 senses to make those predictions.

i think this also is the major reason about the big fuss between qantum mechanics and string theory (or M-theory)... one has an uncertainty principle, which is there to balance randomness. the other is a "theory of everything"... so one of them will prove it, however i doubt anyone will pay attention anyways no matter the outcome... that is human nature, what we can't accept we ignore.

personally i can accept either way, but current evidence points me towards no free-will... but that doesn't mean I'm going to lay down and die... it means I'm going to make the best of whatever this universe has to offere me

Last edited by a moderator:
If you look at the history of ideas, you will find that the less meaningful a question, the longer its answer remains elusive. Then someone comes along and clearly shows that the question lacks meaning, and all of a sudden a centuries-old philosophical dilemma suddenly vanishes into thin air.

For instance, take the famous chicken-and-egg imbroglio. It does sound puzzling at first, but how much does one have to think until one realizes that both chicken and egg must necessarily have come from something that is neither a chicken nor an egg? This answer was knowable centuries before biology came about, yet people assumed there was some unsolvable mystery behind the issue.

And so it is with this free-will imbroglio. Can you honestly believe that given a choice between, say, coffee and tea, there is some absolute law of the universe which forces you to choose one and decline the other? Can anyone really believe that nonsense? I very much doubt it, so why the debate? Ah, but there is a reason!

The moment you choose to drink coffee you immediately lose your freedom to drink tea. Your free-will regarding that choice is gone forever. But that doesn't mean you didn't have free-will then, it only means you don't have it now. You give up your freedom to choose so you can actually choose! What use would it be to stare at two cups of beverage for an eternity, only to be sure you have freedom of choice?

Strange as it is for me, to understand the above seems beyond the ability of some people. Which is why we need someone to come up with a formal proof, preferably a mathematical one, that the concept of free-will is mutually exclusive with the concept of action. The two can't possibly co-exist. It's like the photon, it can be a wave or a particle, and it may be hard to understand why, but it's easy enough to understand why a photon can never be both at the same time.

Last edited by a moderator:
It certainly SEEMS to us that we have free will. Your whole argument is based on that appearance, AKA common sense.

But on reflection, do we find that appearance really so? That is the question people have asked over the ages, and which your post misses the point of. Given that we seem to have free will, do we really?

The scientific interpretation in which all our actions and decisions arise from prior neurochemical interactions, which are presumed to be deterministic, undermines our casual cofidence. So do things like Libet's experiment (see thread on biology board), which seem to say our bodies begin going about tea drinking a second or so before we make the conscious decision to reject coffee. So it's not the open and shut case you suppose.

It certainly SEEMS to us that we have free will. Your whole argument is based on that appearance, AKA common sense.

It’s not, it’s based on logic. It’s most people’s notion of free-will that is based on appearances and commonsense. What I’m trying to say is that the definition of free-will implies a paradox. As understood by most people’s “commonsense”, neither free-will nor determinism can possibly exist.

But on reflection, do we find that appearance really so? That is the question people have asked over the ages, and which your post misses the point of.

But my point is that they are asking the wrong question. Our actions are neither free nor deterministic, the two concepts don’t apply to the mental act of thinking over our actions. It’s the act of thinking that determines our actions, and thought can’t be free of itself.

The scientific interpretation in which all our actions and decisions arise from prior neurochemical interactions, which are presumed to be deterministic, undermines our casual cofidence.

This is an entirely issue altogether. What you are saying is that it’s possible that “we” are controlled by neurochemical interactions. I wonder exactly what you think “we” are other than “neurochemical interactions”. Are you picturing a ghost inside your body whose actions are totally determined by the body? If you are your body and your actions are determined by your body, where exactly is the problem?

So do things like Libet's experiment (see thread on biology board), which seem to say our bodies begin going about tea drinking a second or so before we make the conscious decision to reject coffee. So it's not the open and shut case you suppose.

The “ghost in the body” thing again. So Libet’s experiment proves that when “we” think we are moving our arm, we are fooling ourselves, the arm has a mind of his own and we have no power over it. Exactly where does “we” end and “arm” begin? Does anyone really think like that? I know Libet himself never said such a thing, it makes no sense.

No I don't believe in a ghost or a homunculus inside my body or my brain. The farthest I would go is to describe my brain and body as analogous to hardware and my mind and consciousness as analogous to software, implemented on that hardware. In other words as a pattern the neural interactions make.

Yea, our perceptions of the past are always evolving and changing which, build up over time and are orchestrated through the "present moment" (just as the events of the past were orchestrated as such). So how could we say the past is static and preordained, when our perception of it doesn't even remain constant? Unless of course, the whole thing is predicated upon "free will."

Last edited:
Freewill is a big problem. If we have freewill the current scientific model is wrong, for the universe is not causally closed as science assumes. Also it would mean that consciousness is causal which, unless you believe that consciousness is material, is in direct conflict with science.

Yet if we do not have freewill we have to scrap our legal system, and will have a hard time explaining feelings of guilt. One might also ask how come we are never taken by surprise by what we do?

If consciousness is not causal then we must assume that we can tell the future. Otherwise there would be no explanation for how we can know that we've decided to do something tomorrow and actually do it when the time comes.

It's a logical minefield.

freedom is different then free will. if there's a will there is a purpose. True freedom has no purpose since there's no will for the purpose. It's free!

I'd like a little feedback on an analogy for this topic.

There is a couple long married and happy. The husband loves peanut butter sandwiches. The wife cares for her husband.

One night she knows he will be home late, and he's always hungry when he gets home so she makes a peanut butter sandwich for him and leaves it on the table, knowing he will eat it.

The husband walks in, sees the snack and eats it.

Did the wife preordain this, or did he choose freely - I wonder if both can't exist together.

Originally posted by Bernardo
I'd like a little feedback on an analogy for this topic.

There is a couple long married and happy. The husband loves peanut butter sandwiches. The wife cares for her husband.

One night she knows he will be home late, and he's always hungry when he gets home so she makes a peanut butter sandwich for him and leaves it on the table, knowing he will eat it.

The husband walks in, sees the snack and eats it.

Did the wife preordain this, or did he choose freely - I wonder if both can't exist together.

This is where my "limiting factors" come into play. In an old thread on free will vs. determinism, I set up a whole analogy about being on a path, and then coming to a fork in the road. If we are predestined, then there really are not forks in the road, even if a mirage tells us that there are. If we have free will, then there are forks in road, but there are often boulders or cacti or animals, which serve as limiting factors in our decisions.

In your case, the limiting factor on his free will to follow any path he wants at this particular fork in the road, is the presence of a way to satisfy his hunger (his hunger being a boulder in the path toward avoiding the sandwhich).

In the end, you still can't tell whether he was predestined, since the other possible roads (and limiting factors therein) could have been part of a mirage, and he could be following the only path that really exists.

In an old thread on free will vs. determinism, I set up a whole analogy about being on a path, and then coming to a fork in the road. If we are predestined, then there really are not forks in the road, even if a mirage tells us that there are.

The whole idea of predestiny implies a supreme being. (Does it to you?)

It does to me but I'm sure you know that about me by now

anyway

This being having established our lives for us & predestined them, would also know us incredibly well. This being would need to be eternal, outside the restraints of time, in order to know everything about time.

Even though our lives are set -we exsist at a level far below Him and must truge through time one second after the other. Because we don't know what's coming our free will guides us.

I do agree with you, my limiting factors would have to be our own inferiority or lack of knowlegde. We have no way of knowing what has been determined - everything seems like our own choice.

I'm rambling, but this is a hard one to grasp the more you think on it.

Originally posted by Bernardo
The whole idea of predestiny implies a supreme being. (Does it to you?)

It does to me but I'm sure you know that about me by now

No, I didn't know this, and I can't say that I completely agree. Sure, most (maybe even all) models of predestination have to do with a Supreme being; however, to look at it scientifically, the question of what predestines us can become irrelevant, and we can just say that it is another part of nature (like gravity or electromagnetism - which, btw, also imply a Supreme Being to some people).

anyway

This being having established our lives for us & predestined them, would also know us incredibly well. This being would need to be eternal, outside the restraints of time, in order to know everything about time.

Time is not a restraint, time is a fact of life. If the being is outside of time, then He can't do anything, because it takes time to do something .

Even though our lives are set -we exsist at a level far below Him and must truge through time one second after the other. Because we don't know what's coming our free will guides us.

Wait a minute, this paragraph looks somewhat contradictory. Are we "set" (by this Supreme Being) or do we have free will to "guide us"?

I'm rambling, but this is a hard one to grasp the more you think on it.

Indeed. Which is why it was not an unwelcome surprise for me when I discovered that it was unanswerable.

Originally posted by Bernardo
This being having established our lives for us & predestined them, would also know us incredibly well. This being would need to be eternal, outside the restraints of time, in order to know everything about time.
What is time, but a mere shadow that follows us around to remind us of our mortality? Indeed, we can't live in the past, nor can we live in the future. In fact all we have is the Eternal Now which, is Ever-Present and Ever-Lasting!

Hence it would seem that the same criteria which is needed to establish the existence of a Creator, is also necessary for us to govern our own affairs. Hmm ...

So what is time, compared against the backdrop of Eternity?

Could "free will" operate like a CD rom. There are many possible outcomes. We just get to choose one combination of events.

John.

but after i drink the cup of coffee can't i still drink the cup of tea?
wont i still have free will?
n with that free will i am fooled into thinking i actually have free will when the truth is it is predestined. so itz like a chicken and egg ...it goes on in a circle...
so i agree that the best ans to this question is no ans at all

so itz like a chicken and egg

To me the question what came first the chicken or the egg - I like to say, "the chicken in the egg". I believe that somehow both exsist together even though this fries my mind when examined.

I think that of the two though, only free will can be observed and predestination needs to be believed.

free will is only predestined if your fooled into predestination. just like if your always looking ahead to see what to do next your will is predestined, or if your always looking at the past at what you didn't do your will is predestined. Free will is the space in between where there is no reason for the reason. Predestination doesn't even enter the picture.

Originally posted by Evil
but after i drink the cup of coffee can't i still drink the cup of tea?
wont i still have free will?
n with that free will i am fooled into thinking i actually have free will when the truth is it is predestined. so itz like a chicken and egg ...it goes on in a circle...
so i agree that the best ans to this question is no ans at all
And yet if there was nothing to chose there would be no change, and there would be no past, because there would be nothing to record. So, at what point do things initiate and have their beginning? In the moment!

Which is to say, everything begins in the moment, and begins with a choice (i.e., to change from the static past).

nah, the egg came first. the egg has to exist before the chicken. The chicken starts off as egg yolk and egg white. until it reaches the time it becomes the chicken. Can't call humans sprem can we? if so then many die by us. Murders!

The movie 'Matrix Reloaded' has a scene with Neo & the Oracle. She offers him a candy

neo. "You already know if I'm going to take it don't you. So what's the point?" (Not a direct quote a paraphrase)

Oracle. "The choice has already been made, you just need to understand why."

I just wanted to throw this out there and see if there are any comments on it.

Originally posted by Bernardo
The movie 'Matrix Reloaded' has a scene with Neo & the Oracle. She offers him a candy

neo. "You already know if I'm going to take it don't you. So what's the point?" (Not a direct quote a paraphrase)

Oracle. "The choice has already been made, you just need to understand why."

I just wanted to throw this out there and see if there are any comments on it.

I believe the oracle ultimately make a case for determinism. She's saying that you were going to make a choice regardless, and the choice is based on definable things. There is a definable set of events that led to him making the choice he did, and this is what he must understand and accept: that free will is only an illusion.

This leads right into my discussion. How can there be free will? and how can there be a God, if there is yet another one of these dead end threads that lead to nowhere?

Oh well.. Anyhow, I tend to side with Mentat that there is no winning this argument. In the last thread, I made what I thought was an excellent arugment for determinism based on my ice cream story, and I stole some from Mentat's idea, in the train analogy. Ultimately it leads to an infinite series of balance and counterbalance. for a quick summary"

A man goes to to a Baskin Robins to get some ice cream. He can either get chocolate or vanilla. My point was that he chooses chocolate, but solely based on the events through his life, back to the first time he ever had ice cream, and all other variables taken into account, led to on inevitable choice. When there are only 2 possible solutions to a problem, there is only one way to solve it, and it is that equation which is determinism.

I'm going to see about digging the old thread up so I don't get carpal tunnel retyping all this.

Last edited:
but Iacchus32
u miss my point...what i mean is that everything u do is of free will.just like u can have cooffee then tea or vice versa.so this is where free will comes in. but tis free will is seemingly under the pretext of predestination cos whichever choice u make i can say it is predestined to do so...hence u can say everything is predestined ( this is sort of becoming like mentat's arguement)

So at what point does the present not become the present? When it's no longer present and becomes the past. At which point you can't change that which has already happened but, you can change that which is happening currently, and that does involve free will.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that the past is based upon the present, and not the other way around ... albeit I will admit that things are predisposed to happen in certain matter, and that these tendencies which, are indicative to determinism, interact with free will as well. Indeed, we can't have things exactly the way we want them which, would be ideal, but that doesn't preclude us from trying!

We also need to consider that we probably don't have the wisdom to know what we really want anyway, in which case it's probably better that we don't always get our way all the time either!

but i dun beileve in a exisitent present... look at the thread there is no present...there is only the past and the future
prove me wrong by proving there is a present:p

I exist in the present. And I know that I exist in the present. At no other point do I know that I exist. So it's from this standpoint that I have my being, and from this standpoint that I choose -- and it does involve the act of choosing -- what "seems" fitting for me to do.

If I cease to exist in the present then I cease to exist. Which indeed, is what my consciousness tells me.

free or not to be free that is the question?

to be free in this world requires money because you can choose what you do day to day, but for the poor man who dreams of riches he has to work every day or get lucky, but if he did'nt what to be rich he is free to do what he want even though he can only be free in his mind, is that where we are trully free?

I can walk around in my mind but to travel the world cost's money,

my idea get rid of MONEY,

rambling's from a man who has seen to much , knows to much, and yearns to be a care free child again