Debate:Free will vs. determinism

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Which one is correct, and why? I'm interested in everyone's views on this one. Also, if the debate hits a dead end, we can discuss the free will wager.

Your comments[edit]

Just for the hell of it I'll be deliberately inflammatory to start things off: there are some powerful arguments than can be made for determinism. First, Newtonian physics is inherently deterministic, as it proves that the interaction of molecules can be calculated with 100% certainty. Thus, even the interactions of the molecules (and thus neurons) in the cell can be predicted. mathematically. Since "brains cause minds," this would imply that the "decisions" we make can be predetermined. Though quantum randomness fudges this logic, even if the universe is random it does not mean that there is free will - it simply means that the future cannot be predicted; nowhere does this imply that human beings have some sort of non-physical mind that acts independent of its physical component, the brain. Tetronian you're clueless 23:02, 29 October 2009 (UTC)

The problem with citing physics, is that it's layered. The rules at the quantum level don't necessarily apply at the atomic level. I like to use the computer analogy, in that a processor places certain limits on what the computer can do, but this is abstracted as you go up the chain. Someone writing Bash scripts doesn't have to worry about registers (in fact many compilers ignore the option in C to place variables in a register). Although we are, at a basic level, subject quantum oddness, this doesn't mean that rules aren't an analogue of how we think. The word "predicted" is the key point here. I don't think we can easily test this, since both freewill and determinism would seem to be just like Biblical prophecies: they only make predictions in hindsight. --ConcernedresidentAsk me about your mother 23:18, 29 October 2009 (UTC)
(ec) Newtonism is a lie. Just as the Darwinists would have us practice eugenics, the Newtonists want people to be dropped out of windows and shot into the air from cannons so they can follow predictable trajectories. Corry 23:23, 29 October 2009 (UTC)

An Irrefutable Belief[edit]

I am predestined to believe in Free Will![edit]

(Think about it.)

(Now think about it some more.)

Jambaugh (talk) 16:39, 4 October 2010 (UTC)

It's funny - it's been a year since I started this debate, and my views have changed a lot. In regards to your point: a defender of free will would probably claim that your argument is based on assertion, since you didn't prove why you are "predestined" to believe in free will. So I don't think it's a very good argument. Personally, though, I agree. When we discuss this problem, we seem to be asking "Why do I have free will?" instead of "Why do I think I have free will?", which is the better approach to the question since it can be answered with empirical data. Personally I'm a fan of computationalism, but I am only a novice at this philosophy of mind business. Tetronian you're clueless 17:25, 4 October 2010 (UTC)

I don't think using the physics of inanimate objects as a basis of determinism and cognition of free will as boundaries are good comparisons. Particles and inanimate objects don't care what you do to them. They go where ever the laws of physics takes them while uncaring to do anything about it. It is doubtful anyone is going to read the mind of a lump of Iron and see it saying "Maybe I'll go this way today, I hear the Crab Nebula is nice".

There are certainly things that are deterministic in ones life using the laws of physics, such as not being able to do much but run around screaming if a large meteor is heading your way. Nothing can be complete free will either, the world is too staggeringly complex to make every decision completely unique as they come along (along with any decisions that abstract from it later). No one would get anything done.

There are degrees to which you can express your will in the decisions you can make, as many times choices are constrained. I don't think it is determinism (or lack of free will) that you can't act in any way you want and get any outcome you desire. Such as living in society and murdering anyone wearing a red hat, or jumping off a cliff to kill yourself and expecting to play a wonderful rendition of Mozart later that day.

Personally I think cognition is pretty complex. People have conscious automated scripts they run through to take care of the minor stuff, based on past experience and personal preference. People know it is there, but don't give much thought to it because it is not worth the effort when it is usually correct (coffee choices, daily routes to work). If you have been thinking of something else while doing something, like washing the dishes right and thinking of a problem at work, you probably have done this.

Unconscious scripts are also present, the subconscious emotional parts, where due to severe stimuli or conditioning people have preferences that are difficult for them to explain. Such as people making decisions not to go into dark places if they were locked into rooms when they were younger, those adverse to investing because they bought high risk assets that tanked, or even hating some one because they look like their ex-spouse. Most people have a hard time dealing with these issues because they are uncomfortable. Many people rationalize other reasons why they made the decision instead of the real one.

Few people take the time out and make really focused and thoughtful decisions that take into account all the relevant data objectively. Scripts can be changed if one desires to make the effort, or confront the demons to deal with them. It is not often people desire to think on how they think, till it becomes a severe issue in their lives. I think everyone has free will, but it is to what degree do they exercise it. Most people run on a proportion of both on a daily basis. People who run on pure repetitive automation have it, but are lazy and idiotic if they rely on it for important parts of life. Those that run without any automation tend to take things at a slower pace and life takes more effort, which is not always a bad thing. ~ Subsound ~ 19:02, 2 December 2010 (UTC)

What is Free Will anyway?[edit]

The brain is embedded in physical, well, physics. Those are deterministic therefore it is deterministic. Quantum effects might have an effect, (ie, an extra photon making a speck of light barely visible triggering an extra neuron or not, that leads to a different thought pattern. And that extra photon having had a quantum chance not to be emitted or not) but being random is not free will. A robot with a true "random number generator" inside it in order to make it pick a direction is still not "free".

Personally, I just see everything in terms of "computations" or not. The universe is made of two basic materials. "Stuff" (atoms, electrons, photons, dark matter, electromagnetic forces etc) and "Information". (An abstract idea, which only applies to non-individual stuff. A human, and a pile of molecules the weight of human might have the same energy content, but different information). From that point and after, everything computes. Two molecures hitting each other "compute". (the information of their respective 3d movement vectors and momentum interacting with each other using the stuff in question and the physical laws as the "hardware" it runs, and giving rise to a result which will be enclosed in the results of that collision) rocks compute, tectonic plates compute, crystals compute. Brains compute too and they are about as "alive" as tectonic plates. Just more complex. I have no idea how the fuck conciousness arose from that, but it is clearly some kind of self-referential thing, coupled with the brain being able to absorb huge amounts of external information and store it inside it (thus able to act "on it" even with huge delays in-between). Sen (talk) 19:33, 2 December 2010 (UTC)

Why DO people believe in free will?[edit]

Now, I cannot speak for everyone else on this topic, but I myself believe in free will because, frankly, I don't want determinism to be true. It would result in your stock "garden variety" existential crisis. I know there isn't any evidence for free will, but there isn't any either for determinism either. So it could be either way, and I'm taking this opportunity to believe what I will. Now, I don't know this for sure, but I have a feeling that many free will proponents have this as their core motivation too. Occasionally, I find myself haunted by the possibility that I am only imagining that I have control over my actions, that whatever I do will have been destined. 107Ag47 06:26, 24 July 2015 (UTC)

I have a question: Is it by free will that I can believe in determinism, or; has it been determined that I must believe in free will, or; has it been determined that I must believe in determinism? One of my favourite quotes is from Edward de Bono: "If you can't change your mind, why bother having one?"— Unsigned, by: Emgaol / talk / contribs

Why not both?[edit]

I found Stephen Wolfram's argument compelling in his book "A New Kind of Science" that suggests that just because the universe is deterministic, it does not preclude free will.

One of his arguments in favor of this comes from his cellular automatons he created. Despite the rules that govern CA being simplistic, and despite it being a deterministic system, there emerges complex patterns and behavior, and predicting its behavior appears to be hard. Harder, at lease, than simply running the program and seeing what comes out.

Similarly, the physics that govern the universe, our bodies and the complex chemistry that makes life possible, these all could be deterministic, while we ourselves are not necessarily so.

Read for yourself and decide (he gives his book away in electronic form). I would be curious to hear your thoughts:

MardukSonOfEa (talk) 09:28, 29 March 2019 (UTC)

Or if you are not much up for reading, here is a video of Stephen being asked about this, and explaining it better than I can:

MardukSonOfEa (talk) 09:42, 29 March 2019 (UTC)