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Philosophy Free will - what does it mean and do we have it?

Mischief

Stranger in a strange land
Has anyone, ever, argued that free will is unconstrained and limitless? I mean, if the universe itself is not infinite, why would anyone think that anything within it is infinite?

To me, free will is what you do within certain restraints, which include the laws of physics, your own genetic makeup and life experiences, and the actions of those around you.

In your nectarine example, there exist a whole host of possibilities. You might eat the nectarine. You might leave it for your wife. Your wife might then urge you to eat it. You might share it with your wife in a lot of different proportions. You might toss it out the back window to chickens in the yard. You might put it in a pocket, thinking you'll eat it while taking a walk, and then give it to a child along the way. Or you might end up throwing it at a car that splashed you with mud. You might decide to try your hand at juggling, pick up the nectarine and a couple of apples, and end up dropping all if the fruit, and then accidentally step on the nectarine while lunging for one of the apples.

I could probably go on all day, describing possibilities.
 

Indian Summer

Cult Leader
Administrator
Has anyone, ever, argued that free will is unconstrained and limitless? I mean, if the universe itself is not infinite, why would anyone think that anything within it is infinite?

To me, free will is what you do within certain restraints, which include the laws of physics, your own genetic makeup and life experiences, and the actions of those around you.

In your nectarine example, there exist a whole host of possibilities. You might eat the nectarine. You might leave it for your wife. Your wife might then urge you to eat it. You might share it with your wife in a lot of different proportions. You might toss it out the back window to chickens in the yard. You might put it in a pocket, thinking you'll eat it while taking a walk, and then give it to a child along the way. Or you might end up throwing it at a car that splashed you with mud. You might decide to try your hand at juggling, pick up the nectarine and a couple of apples, and end up dropping all if the fruit, and then accidentally step on the nectarine while lunging for one of the apples.

I could probably go on all day, describing possibilities.
These might seem like possibilities - and yet determinism dictates there was ever only one possible outcome for Fred. The laws of nature rule every part of the universe from the macroscopic down to the tiniest particle. These, together with the state of the universe (which includes Fred) at the time of Fred starting to deliberate on a decision, entirely determine the outcome. There is no room for choosing 'option B' - there is only one possible option. Therefore no freedom of will.

Unless you believe in chance. Though it's unclear how chance could provide any freedom of will since you would decide to do one thing, and then randomly do something else.
 

Mischief

Stranger in a strange land
What I believe us that life is something more than an electrical current that keeps the heart beating and impulses coursing through our nervous systems. And it's life that adds another dimension and keeps this world from being nothing more than an elaborate system of marbles rolling through a succession of chutes, with only one choice available at each split in the chutes.

Life is what creates choices, not only for humans, but every animal, and perhaps for plants too.

Can I prove it? No. But I have witnessed too many deaths to believe that the only difference between before and after is that a mechanical system has been turned off.
 

Indian Summer

Cult Leader
Administrator
You can believe what you want :) (As if you really have a choice!)

Yes, life is so much more complex than many of the other processes in the universe. It certainly brings it all to an even higher level of unpredictability. But predictability is relevant only to conscious lifeforms. It doesn't provide freedom of will as everything is still subject to the laws of nature, and therefore determined.
 

Mischief

Stranger in a strange land
You can believe what you want :) (As if you really have a choice!)

Yes, life is so much more complex than many of the other processes in the universe. It certainly brings it all to an even higher level of unpredictability. But predictability is relevant only to conscious lifeforms. It doesn't provide freedom of will as everything is still subject to the laws of nature, and therefore determined.
That's a really bleak vision, IS.

No point in taking pleasure from any of your achievements - after all, they were completely predetermined. No point in taking joy in any achievement of your child, for the same reason.

No point in feeling bad for harming someone - you had no input into your actions.

Why even give any consideration to what you're going to do tomorrow? It's already been decided, long before you or your grandfather were even born.
 

Indian Summer

Cult Leader
Administrator
That's a really bleak vision, IS.
I know it seems that way! I know it's all determined, but because it's beyond human capabilities to predict with much accuracy the outcome of even 'simple' chains of cause and effect not involving humans, e.g. a longer-term weather forecast, this doesn't really have much impact on our daily lives. We have a strong intuition that we can freely make choices, and from a subjective point of view we do, it's just that they aren't free choices from the point of view of 'the universe', i.e. objectively speaking.

I basically choose to ignore it in my daily life, and have been quite successful in doing so for several years. And after all, it's an active field within philosophy, so there's always a possibility that some argument will be found at some point that undermines the entire theory, and free will is rescued from the death grip of determinism.
 

Andy_T

Addicted Poster
Forum Moderator
I think it is ironic that this question gets asked here, on a vegan/vegetarian forum.

Why?

Because each and every one of us has bucked the societal trend to eat animals/animal products. And that is really no small thing, considering that society, culture, habits, advertising all urge us to consume more animal products and our families, friends, work colleagues all look at us in disbelief for acting so strangely.

So unless there is some other, underlying, unknown pre-ordained force that made just us (maybe 1-5% of the population), but nobody else, behave so strangely, I would suggest might actually be an example of “free will”.
 

Indian Summer

Cult Leader
Administrator
Here's a video which gives an intro to the problems with so-called free will :)
(Just beware he starts off on the wrong foot by confusing fate and determinism! You can safely ignore that part, though, the rest is still valid.)
 
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