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Same subject, different angle (free will)

  1. Mar 1, 2007 #1
    I stole the idea from this thread, but I want to ask the question differently.

    If the man is wise enough to predict major* consequences of his actions in respect to the goal he pursues, is he really free to make choises? He would seem to be forced to act in the one and only optimal** way.

    * "major consequences" means that all other consequences together can not outweight these;

    ** "optimal way" in mathematical sense, the one with the major consequences that would make goal achievement the most probable.
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 1, 2007 #2
    Yes, he is still free to make a choice, any choice. We call it gambling. The possible but unlikely outcomes advantage may out weight the negative more likely results. Such as pot odds.

    If a player has a 1 in 3 chance of winning the pot but could make 5 to 1 on the money invested he is willing to take the chance. This also applies to real life and all other situations. We all gamble one way or another all of our lives.
    Free will simply means that we are not compelled or forced to make one choice rather than another. We may choose to do the wise thing or gamble and take a chance.
  4. Mar 1, 2007 #3
    Once again, where does a choise come into this? You have there an implicit math equation saying under which chance_of_winning/profit you must, or must not, take the chance, you solve it in your head, and - voila - you do as prescripted (you can argue that some people are too stupid to make accurate solution, so they just guess, but I think that's quite irrelevant; that's why I limited a question to "wise people").

    edit: I see, however, that "optimal" is defined incorrectly in my 1st post to accomodate this situation. I'm sure in mathematical games theory they have the definition that would be more appropriate, so you might look it up there.
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2007
  5. Mar 1, 2007 #4
    Very simply, one chooses to bet or to fold. There is always a choice and our decisions are always influenced but not compelled.

    Here, in my example, the player has a choice which is influenced by his odds of winning and the pot odds. Whichever choice is the wisest would influence the decision that a wise person may make but doesn't compel him or her.
  6. Mar 2, 2007 #5
    so what are you saying is that, no matter how strong the evidence is that it would be better for you to do A in order to meet your goal, you still have a choise to do something different; that is, our freedom is a freedom to do stupid things?
  7. Mar 2, 2007 #6
    I think the existence of a "choice" is reliant on everything that led you to it, and the existence of a decision rests on everything you experienced from birth up until the fateful moment you "choose" to go left or right.

    Experiences (good, bad or indifferent), upbringing, genetics, brain chemistry, hormones, addictions, unavoidable outside forces etc. etc. all play an integral part in our moods, opinions and decision making process.

    Just as the cards have been determined, so too is everything else.

    Imagine we're just scripted actors in the biggest production ever :wink:

    My vote: free will is just an illusion.
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2007
  8. Mar 2, 2007 #7
    Yes, that's exactly what I'm saying. I have often done stupid or unwise things in my life usually because I'd wanted to gamble or the wisest choice was unacceptable to me for whatever reason. Freewill as used in religion as the ability to choose between good and evil. Why, when facing eternal damnation in Hell, (their ideas, not mine) would anyone choose to do evil. Yet people do and evil does exist in the world.

    Freewill does not mean absolutely free of any and all outside and internal influences. It simply means that we do have a real choice between alternatives and our choice is not compelled by predestination nor by determinism.
  9. Mar 2, 2007 #8
    Well, thats true but when a specific decision can be influenced by a number of factors and events which have took place, why should we call the decision as free... Simply why can't the decision for chosing a wise or stupid outcome of your choice be an influence of the environmental stimulies, past events etc.

    What I am trying to say is that, there is just no room for a free decision...

    I'll be delighted to know your further comments on this :smile:
  10. Mar 2, 2007 #9
    I repeat:
    Freewill does not mean absolutely free of any and all outside and internal influences. It simply means that we do have a real choice between alternatives and our choice is not compelled by predestination nor by determinism.

    To expound: My doctor tells me to lose weight. I know that I should and really want to. My wife tell me to leave the cookies alone, they are for Ian, our grandson, when he come to visit. She get really angry at me for eating his cookies and I catch hell for doing it.

    Yet, late at night, after shes gone to bed, and I want a nice snack of cookies and milk. Even though I know that it is not wise and that I shouldn't, and that I will have to pay the price later, I sometimes do have cookies and milk. Was that a Freewill decision? I made the choice under a number of influences and will pay the consequences later. No, it wasn't free but it was Freewill. Nothing compelled me to eat or not to eat the cookies. I happen to love cookies and milk, and nothing make a better late night snack. That is the positive influences that far out weighted the negative influences in my mind. I exercised my Freewill and was willing to pay the price of a not so free decision.
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2007
  11. Mar 2, 2007 #10
    Hi Royce, “why” do you love them? Perhaps the late night cookie monster act has physiological explanations.

    E.g. do you have a sugar addiction? Are you eating enough during the day for your energy needs?

    I can say, “I know cigarettes are bad for me, everyone begs me to stop, but I just love them.”

    Does that mean I have used free will, or am I addicted to nicotine?

    Conversely, if I “choose” to quit, could it be because I've just seen a compelling advertisement from the Lung Foundation, showing tar being scraped out of someone’s chest cavity, and it scared the hell outa me? Was I led to this decision, or did I just wake up one day and say "Hey, I won't ever smoke another cigarette again" without a reason not to?

    Perhaps I was “effected” to choose to quit smoking due to the combination of positive causes being stronger than the negative ones.

    Another interesting discussion would be why you ‘want’ the milk. i.e. why an adult human being would ‘want’ to drink the infant milk of a different species (after already having undergone the weaning process as a toddler)?

    Milk is a readily available product in western societies that offers an appealing balance of fat, carbohydrates and protein. Our brains have been hardwired to ‘want’ this combination and ratio of nutrients.

    Nothing is what it seams.

    I think we’re just not always consciously aware of why we do and don't want to have something, giving the illusion of free will.

    Got another example?
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2007
  12. Mar 2, 2007 #11
    Energy has stated everything very well, so lets see what your comments are...
  13. Mar 3, 2007 #12

    Here's an example:

    It's 2:30 a.m. here in Oz. 20 minutes ago I was sleeping soundly, dreaming of philosophical and scientific epiphanies (if only I remembered the finer details!), when my two Labradors woke me up and wouldn’t let me go back to sleep until I let them out for a pee. Subsequently, I got up, dutifully obliged, and decided to have my answer to milk and cookies (vegemite on dry toast with soy milk tea :), gave the dogs a biscuit each (maybe that's why they woke me!), then came in to check out the forum.

    The dogs waking me was the beginning cause of all the following events (effects). Had they not panted loudly, nudged, drooled, and generally made the act of sleeping an impossibility, I would still be in bed dreaming about why c^2, in Einstein’s famous equation, is so relevant to EVERYTHING (that was a nice dream!).

    Now, if I were capable of writing something profound this morning, which obviously I’m not, someone else on the other side of the world might be caused to do any number of variables. All because my dogs had the urge to go tinkle at an ungodly hour.

    So, cause and effect isn’t just about the last thing that happened, or the immediate illusion of free will, it has a snowball effect… starts as one tiny thing and sets off cumulative type branches that grow at an exponential rate.

    I’m predicting that, because of my dogs, Homer Simpson will win best actor next year. :approve:

    Last edited: Mar 3, 2007
  14. Mar 3, 2007 #13
    I'm absolutely confident on what energy said. other than one point.
    The dogs were not the first cause... The first cause is simply the first instance which started this whole string of existence. Now say bigbang or whatever...

    As a result the only free choice and chaos existed at the first cause & not for the rest of the events.

    Don't you think so?
  15. Mar 3, 2007 #14
    Mubashirmansoor. I agree, it would have been more appropriate to say "beginning cause for this particular branch of events"

    Everything connects back to the big bang (and the events that preceded it)
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2007
  16. Mar 26, 2007 #15
    Determinism vs. Free Will

    This is the way I look at systems that behave according to a determine system of rules and systems that actively make decisions.

    In chemistry, molecules automatically pursue the lowest energy state possible...hence the influence of entropy. In quantum mechanics, some electronics seem to already "know" what is the best possible path to get from point A to point B. These are systems that behave according to scientific law, a pre-determined set of rules, in essence, cause and effect.

    Nature is incredibly smart, molecules and atoms always choose the state that is most favorable to them...they obey the laws of cause and effect; human beings don't always....that's the strongest proof of free will.

    If you want an actual example, think of all the stupid people you see on a daily basis? How many stupid things have you done in your lifetime?

    Molecules and atoms always choose the course of action that's optimal for themselves, human beings almost never do.

    Another proof of free will is that systems that obey a set of laws, any set of laws, show a repeated response to stimuli.

    To prove that human beings do not show a repeated response to stimuli, try kicking one of your co-workers in the shin. First time "ouch, stop." Second time "ouch, stop." Maybe even a third time "ouch, stop." Fourth time, you walk away with a bloody nose.

    Why do you think the phrase "Too much of a good thing" has become even slightly prominent? Because something can be good the first few times you do it, and then you get tired of it.

    Why do you think that computers were invented? Because they are really good at doing repetitive tasks and human beings aren't. Human beings are still more intelligent than computers, but computers can do millions of calculations a second.

    You could argue that some people are just better at determining the mathematical odds of situations than others are, and that's what some people are considered "stupid" and why some people are more successful.

    First of all, I'd just like to point out that you can't use mathematical odds to determine every decision you make. Example, go out to dinner. Look at the menu and try to use math to make your decision. You could look at the prices and choose the price that's optimal for your particular situation. What if all the prices were the same? Would you try to calculate the chances of one particular meal giving you indigestion vs another? Try putting your appetite in terms of numbers. It's not that easy. Of course, you could rate on a scale from 1 to 10, but not everyone's favorite meal is the same. I suppose to you could go through life putting everything on a scale from 1 to 10, but who wants to wake up as Dave Letterman every morning?

    Another proof of the existence of free will is that some people can be incredibly intelligent, calculate the odds of a situation perfectly and still choose a course of action that's not optimal to them. Look at the instances of altruism. I know they are few and far between, but they do exist. Ask a Vietnam vet if they have ever heard a G.I. throwing himself on a grenade.
    If that G.I.'s decision making process was controlled by calculating mathematical odds in order to make the optimal decision for himself, then he chose the course of action that was completely opposite of optimal.

    If you want to say "well, it was determined that he was going to throw himself on a grenade, he didn't actually make that decision." Then just the same as saying "It was determined that he would have free will."

    If you want another example, think of your mother. She carried you for nine months and then went through the horrible pain of giving birth to you when she could have had an easier time having the brains sucked out of your skull before you were even able to take your first independent breath. Not to mention she could have spent most of her life traveling around world, pursuing a career, or anything else she wanted instead of teaching you to feed yourself for 18 years or more.

    Yet another proof of free will is to simply look at the implication of everything being determined by a series of causes.

    If everything is determined by a series of causes, why complain about George Bush's decisions as president? He can't help it. Those decisions were made as soon as the big bang occurred. Did some guy break into your house and steal the things you worked for? You can't complain, that guy isn't responsible for his own actions.

    Basically, if you consider determinism is true, every criminal is given a carte blanche and every charitable person's actions count for nothing...including your mothers. She didn't love you, she was just reacting to a cause.

    Every criminal could then walk into a courtroom and say "My actions were determined, I didn't have anything to do with it" and then walk out again.

    If you're married, there's nothing special there, right? You were just reacting to a stimulus, it doesn't mean anything.

    If you're going to say that every decision you make is just maximizing the situation for yourself, then every relationship that has ever existed is simply manipulation.

    Your mother gave birth to you because she wanted someone to help her do the housework, not because she actually cared anything about you.

    My arguments could have been presented in a more organized fashion, and probably worded more suitably as well, but this is just an online forum. Before you say things like "everything is determined", take a look around you and at your own life and see if that's actually the case. If you say that something is true, then it has to repeatedly true in various situations. That's my beef with moral relativism...it wouldn't even hold up under scientific standards, much less philosophical standards.

    Scientific laws are tested based on their repetition...an experiment can be repeated millions of times with the same result, but there is NOTHING that requires the same result the next time you do the experiment.

    If you put moral relativism to the test, then you get not repetition whatsoever, you get a different result everytime.
  17. Mar 30, 2007 #16
    I think you are with Royce here. But hey, we can always explain that by unaccounted factors, can't we.

    But wait a minute, same goes for my complaints in both cases, I'm not responsible for them, so you aren't really saying anything here.

    Same here, the court has no choise but to put him on electric chair.

    I think now you mean to say "see if you like that" ;)

    Though this is off the topic, I will note that I do get the same result every time - wrong is what goes against my... emmm... will, right is what's in line with it.
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