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Author Topic: Do we really have free will?  (Read 4188 times)

lyner

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Do we really have free will?
« on: 07/03/2009 18:48:26 »
I wonder whether this is the best forum for this question but here goes.

We're all so chuffed with ourselves as humans. We claim to have free will and that, somehow, this is something we should feel good about. However, we now know that decisions we make are made long (half a second at least) before we are aware of them. So when do we make these so called free will decisions? Certainly not whilst we are aware of them.
It's a great feature of many religions but isn't it just another way in which we rationalise the results of what our brains have done and use the free will idea to help us pretend we're still boss.
"What do you think?" (Or what did your brain make you think you thought?)



 

Offline RD

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Do we really have free will?
« Reply #1 on: 07/03/2009 19:59:14 »
According to the gene centered view of evolution lifeforms are vehicles for genes. This explains behaviours such as altruism where some lifeforms are sacrificed to preserve others who share the same genes.
 
So someone risking their life to protect their family may believe they decided to do this when actually they were genetically programmed to do it.
« Last Edit: 07/03/2009 20:01:55 by RD »
 

lyner

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Do we really have free will?
« Reply #2 on: 07/03/2009 21:04:34 »
OK
One against 'free will'.
Any 'for'?
 

Offline neilep

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Do we really have free will?
« Reply #3 on: 07/03/2009 21:12:24 »
So was it predetermined that you were going to post the question about free will ?

I would sacrifice myself for my family because my bond to them makes me do so, but I would still have the choice to not so. I think the self sacrifice is also strongly influenced by what some may say is a love so powerful for the family that it may also be deemed an instinct. But I still believe it to be free will.

I do believe in free will.
 

Offline graham.d

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« Reply #4 on: 07/03/2009 21:46:14 »
It can come down to a matter of definition. If we regard the human brain as a machine that responds to stimuli according to its programming, remembering that the programme itself can also be altered in response to input data, then it is open to question that free will exists in the purest definition. However, this would not stop us believing we have free will and our responses are experimentally indistinguishable from an organism that could be said to have free will (in the purest sense) with any experiment we are technologically able to perform today. Neil would still behave the same as he suggests in either case. You could, more reasonably and perhaps usefully, describe free will as what a person's inbuilt processor decides to do as a result of all its complex algorithms and array of input data.
 

Offline Karsten

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Do we really have free will?
« Reply #5 on: 07/03/2009 21:47:34 »
Thank you Sophiecentaur for asking this question. I was thinking about asking this very question for a while myself. I was wondering if there is scientific doubt that it may not exist. I am curious to learn more.
 

lyner

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Do we really have free will?
« Reply #6 on: 07/03/2009 22:49:13 »
So was it predetermined that you were going to post the question about free will ?

I would sacrifice myself for my family because my bond to them makes me do so, but I would still have the choice to not so. I think the self sacrifice is also strongly influenced by what some may say is a love so powerful for the family that it may also be deemed an instinct. But I still believe it to be free will.

I do believe in free will.
It really is a matter of definition. We merely make decisions. They are affected by circumstances and our predisposition. An amoeba does exactly the same thing -its intellectual world is a bit more limited than ours but it works on the same principle.
I think that the distinction between free will and 'determinism' is just an illusion.
Why do we have that illusion?
I should say it is for similar reasons to why people believe in gods: It works best for us to think that way.
 

Offline neilep

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« Reply #7 on: 08/03/2009 01:48:57 »
So was it predetermined that you were going to post the question about free will ?

I would sacrifice myself for my family because my bond to them makes me do so, but I would still have the choice to not so. I think the self sacrifice is also strongly influenced by what some may say is a love so powerful for the family that it may also be deemed an instinct. But I still believe it to be free will.

I do believe in free will.
It really is a matter of definition. We merely make decisions. They are affected by circumstances and our predisposition. An amoeba does exactly the same thing -its intellectual world is a bit more limited than ours but it works on the same principle.
I think that the distinction between free will and 'determinism' is just an illusion.
Why do we have that illusion?
I should say it is for similar reasons to why people believe in gods: It works best for us to think that way.

An amoeba (as far as I know ) is not sentient. It is not self aware and does not have the capability to question it's own existence.  I think that is a fundamental difference. We (including this sheepy) enjoys the benefit of being able to intellectualise our own environment. We come by decisions by applying rationale that we have gained by knowledge that we choose to learn. In fact we have this urge to seek out knowledge based on wanting to know about our own existence.


This seeking of knowledge is very important....as far as I know, no other animal wishes to know the answers  to it's own reality and the the nature of the world it lives in. We do. If there is any kind of predetermination that is controlling our decision process then it could be argued then that the conclusion will lead to a definitive answer that has been put there for us to find.

Other animals decisions are derived by basic drives, to feed and procreate. Some may even gain pleasure and repeat an action for amusement, but, I have yet to see any other being wish to gain a knowedge when the reward is only knowledge itself rather than a fish or a treat. In this regard, I believe ' free will' is not an illusion...BUT...as a sheepy..I am of course always open to persuasion and most definitely education..........I want to learn......I really do...........Oops, that's my free will voicing itself ! :-)  ;)
 

Offline Madidus_Scientia

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« Reply #8 on: 08/03/2009 02:02:33 »
Quote
I have yet to see any other being wish to gain a knowedge when the reward is only knowledge itself rather than a fish or a treat.

But our gained knowledge helped us to get more fish and treats. Those fishing trawlers sure beat trying to catch them by hand.

So maybe the reason we enjoy gaining knowledge is because we're genetically programmed to, because we evolved that way


Also, what if instead of sacrificing oneself for your family you did it for a mate? This does happen so is that free will? Or is our brain just confused and thinks your friend is family because you love them?
« Last Edit: 08/03/2009 02:04:55 by Madidus_Scientia »
 

Offline neilep

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« Reply #9 on: 08/03/2009 02:05:29 »
Quote
I have yet to see any other being wish to gain a knowedge when the reward is only knowledge itself rather than a fish or a treat.

But our gained knowledge helped us to get more fish and treats. Those fishing trawlers sure beat trying to catch them by hand.

I agree totally.....but discovering about the nature of the universe is, in my opinion, not going to reward me with more choccy  ;) !..nor is the reward of choccy my goal for the seeking of that knowledge...it is the knowedge itself !


« Last Edit: 08/03/2009 02:35:36 by neilep »
 

Offline neilep

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« Reply #10 on: 08/03/2009 02:08:15 »
Quote
MADIDUS:.........Also, what if instead of sacrificing oneself for your family you did it for a mate? This does happen so is that free will? Or is our brain just confused and thinks your friend is family because you love them?

It's the ' human' thing to do !......One would sacrifice for a friend also !...even in some instances a complete stranger, epsecially if that stranger was a child !
 

blakestyger

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Do we really have free will?
« Reply #11 on: 08/03/2009 10:11:50 »
These are interesting arguments but without free will the justice system in the west would fall apart. It is predicated upon free will - otherwise people are being punished for doing something over which they had no control.
This is not an argument for free will although I believe we have it as the alternative is determinism - which rather takes away the point of anything.
This problem has been well explored in Daniel Dennett's book Freedom Evolves (2003) where he sets out to explain it as an evolutionary emergent.
 

Offline LeeE

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Do we really have free will?
« Reply #12 on: 08/03/2009 15:09:58 »
I think it must come down to whether the future already exists, and we are just moving along a pre-existing route, or whether 'now' is more like a boundary shock-wave and we are moving in to 'new' time.  If the future already exists then it would seem that free will is just an illusion but if we are moving in to 'new' time then what we do could be down to free will as much as due to other instinctual factors.
 

lyner

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Do we really have free will?
« Reply #13 on: 08/03/2009 20:16:27 »
There seems to be some confusion about what 'free will' actually entails. We 'decide' on a course of action, based on conscious and subconscious influences. The reasons for all but the simplest decisions are hard to identify. Our brains are far less deterministic than a set of NAND and NOR gates on a simple logic board for which the actual input conditions can be determined exactly.
The fact is that our 'input conditions' are too complex to assess. Moreover, the system of the brain is highly non linear so Chaos theory can be expected to apply. Hence, we couldn't predict an outcome because a small alteration in input could produce  'any' result.

The justice system is part of the feedback which applies to behaviour and which affects our decisions about future actions. And ignorance of the particular Law is no excuse because the Law is designed by Society.

So we can't really kid ourselves that we ever make entirely independent and personal choices - they are all based on all our pasts and on all our genes.
 

Offline lightarrow

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« Reply #14 on: 09/03/2009 18:09:03 »
The interesting thing about free will is that, if it exist, it must be casuality. I explain: if you make a decision *because of* something, then it couldn't be free will, it was just the authomatic consequence of that something.

If we could prove that some of our decisions come from absolutely random "fluctuations" of the electromagnetic field inside our neurons or neural links (for example) then , in my opinion, we would have proven the existence of free will.

That said, I have to point that, in base of my experience on psychology, a great percent of what we do everyday comes from our genes or the "programmes" we have that comes from our parents when we were little.
 

lyner

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Do we really have free will?
« Reply #15 on: 09/03/2009 19:10:53 »
lightarrow
Don't forget that there is bound to be Chaotic behaviour in such a complex non-linear system. That means that the outcome (decision we make) may be impossible to predict although, in some situations (the 'no-brainers') the outcome is pretty much a foregone conclusion - unless there's some other factor which we failed to put into our prediction model.
That seems as near as dammit to being 'free will' without there having to be anything 'special' about it.
 

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