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Old 8th March 2010, 08:41 PM   #106 (permalink)
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Re: Does free will exist?

So when you were offered the chance to learn the trombone, Inter, your immediate response was, "Blow that!"

*cough*

The trouble is, you don't know what your unconscious decision making involved. As I've been arguing - fruitlessly, it seems - is that it doesn't matter which part of you makes the decision. It was the collection of atoms that at that moment made up the being that we call Interference (I know that sounds nebulous ) decided it did not want to learn to play the trombone. Nothing else - no other atoms, collected together or not - made the decision. An angel, bruised from failing to get on the head of a particular pin did not make the decision for you. You made it. You don't know why you made it, but you did.

And thus it was that the Irish, rock-and-roll version of Glenn Miller never saw the light of day. (And I've decided not to make known my views on whether or not that is a good thing. )
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Old 8th March 2010, 09:02 PM   #107 (permalink)
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Re: Does free will exist?

Ummm ... I'd rather we concentrated on why I'm not a Latin Lover, but okay, let's go with what you're saying for a while ....

The predeteminist route you describe is 100% valid as far as I can see. From the Big Bang when the first matter appeared and became the second and fourth and sixteenth and so on (I know, who know if that's what happened, but let's keep it as a model for the moment) it is arguably predictable how, like snooker balls, each would lead to the next. Unlike snooker balls, we don't need to take into consideration errant draughts, passing lorries, floating fluff or chalk on the table. So that atom bounces into that one. The result is these two or it's a vibration or it's something that, had we but the skill, we might define and measure.

Soon the mayhem becomes planets, which become earth-like, which produce life, all in a predictable fashion, and each infinitesimal particle must have arrived where it is because of where it came from and where it's going to finish up.

By this model of existence in 4 dimensions, even the thoughts are susceptible of extrapolation with the right tools and thereby every decision that was ever made, every birth and every war. With sufficient processing power, we should therefore not only be able to predict who the next Shakespeare will be, but even write his plays before he's born - which again would be a predictable outcome of the model.

So far so good and the predeterminists have their win.

And my sub-clause to this model is that we become the people we become through experience and learning which defines for us our intentions and feelings towards things. Had Clarke Kent been raised by Thomas and Martha Wayne, he would of course still have been Superman (he was already that to begin with) but seeing his parents murdered may have made him a very different Superman. Of course, he'd probably have prevented the murder and turned out no differently.

Had Wayne been raised by Jonathan and Martha Kent, on the other hand, we would have been unlikely to see Batman, but rather Smallville's brightest Police detective.

His nature predicted his path.

Wayne would never have become a criminal or a feckless playboy, Kent would never have used his superpowers for world domination or self-interest.

And neither of them would ever have learned trombone.

But of course, there is no way in this Universe that Clark could have been fired off in a rocket from Krypton and landed in a field near Thomas and Martha Wayne's house. Neither could the soul of young Bruce have inhabited any other child.
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Old 8th March 2010, 09:05 PM   #108 (permalink)
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Re: Does free will exist?

You're not a Latin lover because it's all Greek to you, perhaps...?


Is your reply to Chinook (after finally reading his post)?
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Old 8th March 2010, 09:18 PM   #109 (permalink)
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Re: Does free will exist?

Errr .... I really ought to read that, oughtn't I

See, I can agree with both of you because the argument is ultimately moot. Whether I have free will (i.e. the ability to choose between any number of propositions at will) or not (because my atoms have found their pre-destined orbits OR because the way I was brought up precludes me from choosing a bunch of stuff that might be really cool) doesn't affect my behaviour one jot. All I know is that as long as I don't believe in God, I've no one else to blame but myself for the way things turned out and that's a surprisingly comforting thought.
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Old 8th March 2010, 10:11 PM   #110 (permalink)
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Re: Does free will exist?

There is no doubt that Bruce Wayne's decision to become Batman was hugely influenced by the death of his parents, but there was a chance he wouldn't choose that life, that, for instance, if he had just gone to confession one time and opened his heart to the Parson that he would have learnt forgiveness and not concentrated on revenge, becoming instead and very gothic baker.
Are you suggesting that he had no choice in the matter, that all of us here have not chosen to become Chrons but merely are here because we are here.
That suggests that there are no reasons for anyone doing anything, that there only is. While I cannot prove that there is a choice made (consciously) by any sentient being, I choose not to resign myself to believing that there isn't free will.
Technically nothing is free, even the descision making process costs energy in the form of brain processes, neuron firing and what not, so maybe there is a will, but it is never free
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Old 8th March 2010, 10:14 PM   #111 (permalink)
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Re: Does free will exist?

iI'm saying that choice has nothing to do with it. We are who we are, we do what we do -- or as the great philosopher, Popeye, once said, "I ams what I ams and I canst be no ammer."
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Old 9th March 2010, 02:10 AM   #112 (permalink)
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Re: Does free will exist?

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...With sufficient processing power, we should therefore not only be able to predict who the next Shakespeare will be, but even write his plays before he's born - which again would be a predictable outcome of the model...
Ahem! *cough* There will never be another Shakespeare, even with time being infinite and all. We are all unique, just like everyone else.

And don't start with the million monkeys punching keyboards eventually authoring one of his works. No single monkey could ever do it, and if it were several monkeys, someone would have to pick the pieces up and put them together. That, in my estimation would be cheating.
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Old 9th March 2010, 02:18 AM   #113 (permalink)
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Re: Does free will exist?

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iI'm saying that choice has nothing to do with it. We are who we are, we do what we do -- or as the great philosopher, Popeye, once said, "I ams what I ams and I canst be no ammer."
Not to be argumentative or anything, but isn't it the choices we make that make us who we are?
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Old 9th March 2010, 02:52 AM   #114 (permalink)
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Re: Does free will exist?

It took a somewhat less than infinite number of monkeys to make the first Shakespeare

No arguments from here. Everything you say on the subject is as likely to be true as everything I say until we find out for sure, I'm not arguing with anybody.

However

Yes. Our choices make us who we are. But are those choices freely made? Why am I replying to any of this? Simply because who I am is the kind of person who will reply to this. Why am I the person I am? Because I couldn't be anyone else, given my origins all the way back to the Big Bang.

And if that doesn't work for you, then I'm still who I am because of the free choices I made to bring me here.

All I'm saying really is that whether I'm me from choice or me from predetermination, I'm still me. And I would always be this me, as long as the rest of my history remains unchanged.

And this particular Me has no option but to write this reply.

Choice doesn't really enter into it.

Ok, I could choose not to reply, but clearly I haven't. So did I really have a choice? Nah.
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Old 9th March 2010, 04:43 AM   #115 (permalink)
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Re: Does free will exist?

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The act of walking is probably semi-automatic.

Choosing to be walking is an act of free will
Exactly. My point was to (try to) illustrate the difference between the idea of Free Will, and the question of Conscious vs Sub-conscious thought, which are two separate issues. Someone earlier said something to the effect of how many decisions we make are made sub-consciously, and my point is that sub-conscious thought is not anathema to free will.

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No: Because we set ourselves up with a system of beliefs and morals that will ever-after inform our decisions.

I do not have sufficiently free will to make me hurt a cat, for example, or to become a Latin Lover or to play trombone with the LSO or to sit through an entire episode of Lost without saying "Oh, get on with it!" every five seconds.
Sorry, but I completely disagree with that sentiment. I think you're convincing yourself of mystery, metaphysics, destiny and enigma in areas of your life where there is none.

There is no question that you do, most definitely, have the free will to hurt a cat, become a Latin Lover or to play trombone or to watch Lost. The reason you don't do these things is because of morals, personal preference, lack of ability and bad taste in television(), respectively.

Everything is destined, we have no free will, we are not really free to choose what we do... These are all excuses to be used when trying to justify our shortcomings. After all, if there is no free will, then any time I screw up, it's not really me who's screwing up. It's just destiny. Hitler wasn't such a bad guy, then. Or Stalin. Wish they were still around. And racism? Well, what's wrong with that? If I hate blacks/Jews/Asians, it's because I can't help it, I don't have a choice in the matter.

********, I say. Everyone needs to learn to take responsbility for their own mistakes, their thoughts and actions, their beliefs. The alternative is the cowardly way out. This convicted belief in "Everything is predestined" has nothing to do with religion or belief in the divine. If you're a ****-up in life, it's not because God 'destined' for you to be one; it's because you ****** up, and that's the cold, hard reality.

Live with it.
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Old 9th March 2010, 04:58 AM   #116 (permalink)
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Re: Does free will exist?

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You state quite a lot of things that are not free will, DA, but unless I've missed it, neither you nor anyone else has come up with a definition of what it is -- apart from a process that's been developed.
Actually, I stated quite a lot of things that have nothing to do with the question of free will.

And that was the point.

As to what free will is? Well, it's possible get all super-metaphysical on it if someone wants; for me, the layman's definition of free will would be the ability to make my own decisions and choices (for better or for worse). As opposed to the idea that my decisions are not my own, and have already been made by [insert decision-making entity/process here], which I don't buy.
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Old 9th March 2010, 05:11 AM   #117 (permalink)
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Re: Does free will exist?

DA - I whole-heartedly agree with you right down the line. In fact I think that was the point the band Rush was trying to make in their song of the same title. I'm not too sure I agree with the way you used the word 'anathema', because of it's utterly evil implications. I was the one who was talking about thoughts becoming "sub"-conscious.They don't start out that way. When a child chooses to attempt walking, he may be following some watered down version of "instinct", but the way I see it, it is free will because he is choosing to make the attempt. It doesn't even matter how many adults are egging him on, it is still his choice. Later on when walking becomes more automatic, he may not have to look where his feet are but it is still free will that is moving him around. The parts of the action (any action we take) that have become routine may not seem to be there anymore, but they are. They happen with such ease and speed that we seldom think "I'm moving my leg." Yet they are an underlying requirement of anyone wishing to move their leg, so technically those "automatic" thoughts are still part of the equation that makes up the concept of free will. (I had to say all of that. Someone was pointing a gun to my head, and telling me what to say.)
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Old 9th March 2010, 05:45 AM   #118 (permalink)
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DA - I whole-heartedly agree with you right down the line. In fact I think that was the point the band Rush was trying to make in their song of the same title. I'm not too sure I agree with the way you used the word 'anathema', because of it's utterly evil implications.
Really? *quickly Googles 'anathema' so as not to display his ignorance of multi-syllable words* Ah... yes, well, er.. I suppose that might not have been the best choice of words. Funny, though, I could've sworn I have heard it being used in a similar context. I think I shall make this one of the ultra-rare occasions I use my Get-Out-of-Jail-Free "English is not my first language"-card. *wondering if it worked*

Quote:
They happen with such ease and speed that we seldom think "I'm moving my leg." Yet they are an underlying requirement of anyone wishing to move their leg, so technically those "automatic" thoughts are still part of the equation that makes up the concept of free will.

*applauds*
I quite agree, of course.
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Old 9th March 2010, 08:11 AM   #119 (permalink)
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Re: Does free will exist?

For those who think we have free will, would you agree that free will is only going to be exercised in ways that don't go against the personality? For example, though there is nothing physically stopping me doing so, I couldn't exercise my will to torture a kitten, at least not in my current state of mental health. (I think Inter made a similar point earlier.)

But where does this personality come from? It is a combination of genetics and experience, the same combination that I've argued governs our behaviour at a very detailed level. So unless you argue that personality doesn't determine behaviour at all, you have to find some level of detail at which free will comes into play, otherwise you'll go all the way down to determinism.

BTW, I looked up the experiments I referred to in my first post.
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Old 9th March 2010, 10:46 AM   #120 (permalink)
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Post Re: Does free will exist?

$&*(@#&! I had written a longish reply but the damn net stalled. Actually, I think it might have just been these forums, since other websites were working fine. Any one else experience any problems?

Anyway, in brief, then. Your personality is one of the many, many factors (albeit a significant factor) that affect your decision-making process. But the decision, in the end, is still yours. That is an example of free will. Many people do ignore their upbringing and experiences and end up doing things that don't seem to fit with what they've learnt. Serial killers would be an (admittedly extreme) example.

HareBrain - I think the question that is actually plagueing (sp?) you is not about free will, at all. What you're really wondering about (from what I've discerned after reading your posts) is the idea of Conscious versus Sub-conscious thinking/decision-making/choices. All of the arguments you have presented so far seem to support that. As I said before, I believe these are separate issues.

I am not just contesting your claim that there is no free will (though I believe there is). I'm also contesting the validity of your arguments. Not because I think you're full of **** (I don't), but because I feel your arguments are related less to 'free will', and more to 'consciousness', if you know what I mean.

As far as your arguments themselves go - that our decisions are frequently the product of sub-conscious thinking; we do things without fully knowing why; personality, upbringing, experiences etc. play a large part in our choices, etc. - I absolutely agree with you. A lot of our decisions are undoubtedly the result of some sub-conscious process.

Let's say, if someone tries to punch you in the face. Your automatic reflex is probably to duck, right? That is a product of sub-conscious processing. Your brain knows that it should duck and try to avoid the hit; you don't have to consciously think, "Right, then. There's a fist coming at me. Maybe I should try to avoid it. But should I bend down? Or move to the side? Or maybe try to parry?" By the time you got through that line of thinking, you'd be missing a tooth or two. If humans hadn't developed the ability to process information sub-consciously (and do so very quickly), and instead relied on the tedium of conscious reasoning for every little thing, there is no doubt we wouldn't have accomplished a fraction of the things that we have.

So, yes, our sub-consciousness plays a huge part in our day-to-day lives. But, again, that is neither an argument for nor against free will.

Apples and oranges is what I'm trying to say, in an unnecessarily long-winded manner.

*EDIT* Okay, so that wasn't very brief.

Last edited by Devil's Advocate; 9th March 2010 at 10:53 AM. Reason: I don't know. It was destined. :)
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