Why 'Free Will' is Logically Impossible

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Rational Atheist
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Why 'Free Will' is Logically Impossible

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Post by Rational Atheist »

Here is a simple, yet powerful, argument against the idea that we 'freely' choose our actions.

1. Our thoughts determine our choices.

2. We do not freely choose our thoughts.

3. Therefore, our choices cannot be free.

I don't think anyone would object to premise 1, especially those who believe in free will, since by definition, a "free" choice, if it could exist, requires a person to consciously make it, which by definition involves thought. Premise 2 may be controversial to some, but with a simple thought experiment, it can be proven to be true. If a person could freely choose their thoughts, then they would have to be able to consciously choose what they were going to think before actually thinking it. In other words, there would have to be a time before a person thinks a thought that that thought was consciously chosen by a person, which literally entails the necessity of being able to think a thought before one thinks it. This, of course, is a logical contradiction. Ergo, free will does not exist.

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Re: Why 'Free Will' is Logically Impossible

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Post by Kevin King »

My apologies, I hit "submit" instead of "save." I will finish tomorrow. Can you hold your fire until then, please, Miles. Thank you.

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Re: Why 'Free Will' is Logically Impossible

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Post by Kevin King »

The other night, I pressed the wrong button and got interrupted. Sorry, I was going to finish the last point by saying just because influences on behavior doesn't mean free will does not exist or that it is not logically possible that it has ontology.
Quite an overstatement. :roll: The only perceived loss would be a false awareness of accountability involving morals. I fail to see why laws, philosophy, and civilization would cease to be. Care to explain?
Perhaps I cannot ever convince you of this. All you have to do is follow the chain of probable events: If there is no individual freedom of will or choice, there is no personal responsibility. No personal responsibility, there is no sense of right and wrong, no sense of right and wrong, no ability to think morally or ethically, no ability to think morally or legally, no ability to detect bad actions or actors, no ability to detect bad actions or actors, no law, no law, no justice. If there is no justice, anarchy ensues throughout society, perhaps the world, depending if it spreads, and civilization collapses.

This is an induction: One starts with a narrow premise (individual freedom of will) followed to a wider conclusion. This is one way to prove free will probably can logically! There are probably other proofs and arguments I will review later.

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Re: Why 'Free Will' is Logically Impossible

Post #33

Post by AgnosticBoy »

Miles wrote: Tue Sep 07, 2021 1:57 am
AgnosticBoy wrote: Mon Sep 06, 2021 6:25 pm We're not mindless.
Never said we're mindless or that lacking free will would render one mindless.
I never stated what your claim was. You asked me a question about what makes humans different than everything else in a deterministic Universe, and I answered that we have a mind. While mindless objects are blind, passive, and reflexive to the laws of nature that governs their interactions, but humans are clearly not. The human mind not only enables us to know about the laws of nature and the process of how they control us, but it also allows us to play an active role in the process.

In order to show that your hard determinist position is correct, you must show that a human is no different than a tree limb (or any other mindless object) in terms of interaction. You have to show that humans have completely no control nor say in their actions. Thus far, I haven't seen any determinists make that case.
Miles wrote: Tue Sep 07, 2021 1:57 am
AgnosticBoy wrote: Mon Sep 06, 2021 6:25 pm We have the ability to know what controls our actions which is why we are able to modify our behavior.
Yup, and we do so because those actions were determined by prior causes and the operation of laws of nature, and therefore couldn't be other than what they were.
In terms of human actions, determinism is not simply about causation, but rather it's about what's behind the causation or if we play any role. Of course, determinists would say that the laws of nature govern our actions and that we have no control over this. In contrast, free-will has to do with the person being the cause (self-determination?) as opposed to external factors.

If I accept any level of free-will, it is because I don't see how or where every part of my life is outside of my control. The areas that are not set in stone leave room for freedom, in my view. I seem to have more freedom, than say, all of the mindless objects that aren't able to change their behavior at all.
Miles wrote: Tue Sep 07, 2021 1:57 amYou couldn't modify any behavior unless you had prior causes making you do so.
As I mentioned in earlier threads, we can be active in any causal change that involves the way we act. This happens when I can filter or deliberately acquire certain inputs to achieve a certain output or when I can manipulate the environment and biology to reach a certain goal.

You mentioned that there's even prior causation involved in my wanting to manipulate other causes, and I can agree with that. The problem with your view is that it still doesn't show that I can't be active in the causes that you're bringing up in this instance. Theoretically, if we had knowledge of all of the causes, even down to the quantum level (assuming those play any significant role or that they are the initial cause as opposed to some higher level factor, like biology), then we could play an active role on all levels. So we may be lacking free will or or an ability to manipulate the chain of causes because of our lack of knowledge. In other words, free-will may exist but we don't know how to fully use it.

Another problem here may be in what you consider to be part of the person. I certainly see myself playing a role in my behavior when my thinking and planning are part of the process. If you're not even counting those efforts as being "me" and my agency, then I question your view. Is it correct to then say my mind made me do it, as opposed to just saying I did it?

I also question how your view squares with the concept of emergence. In order for your view to carry much weight, then all levels of the Universe, which are categorized in the sciences (chemistry, biology, psychology, etc.), would have to be reducible to how the phenomena described in physics works. It's not proven that this is the case. New laws may emerge at a different point. Here's an interesting article on that issue: Reductionism vs. emergence: Are you “nothing but” your atoms?.
Miles wrote: Mon Sep 06, 2021 4:41 pm
AgnosticBoy wrote: Mon Sep 06, 2021 11:57 am I'm not trying to show that we can act outside of a causal chain, but rather my claim is that we can use the chain to achieve a certain goal or outcome.
[sure you are]
How so? My view of behavioral change has always been within the context of a causal chain. I believe some changes can occur based off of mental factors alone. Even if we consider external factors alone (e.g. the environment and biology), then even in that scenario we can play an active role when I can use the environmental and biological causal factors to bring about a certain outcome.
Miles wrote: Mon Sep 06, 2021 4:41 pmOnly to the extent the chain makes you do so.
And again, I can play an active role even on this level. I can set into motion the causal factors that would make me want to do something.
Miles wrote: Mon Sep 06, 2021 4:41 pm
AgnosticBoy wrote: Mon Sep 06, 2021 11:57 amTo use a computer analogy, imagine that we're programmed by code, and that we have the ability to modify or write our own code.
Poor analogy because no one can choose to do anything including modifying or writing our own code.
If "choice" is a bad word in your worldview then we can just say act. I presume that you agree that we can act to change our code in the same way you can act to stop reading someone's posts.
Miles wrote: Mon Sep 06, 2021 4:41 pm
AgnosticBoy wrote: Mon Sep 06, 2021 11:57 amIf anything, the goal or outcome can be considered outside of a causal chain because it can be anything that we can imagine.
Can that anything include flapping my arms and flying because I imagine it?
No, because there are obvious physical limitations to that. We can act on anything that's humanly possible.

The larger point I was trying to show was the spontaneity and novelty that can be exhibited in imagination, esp. when it comes to 'creative imagination'.
Creativity requires that new information come into the world. It must be information that was not implicit in earlier states of the world.
Human creativity requires the same freedom of thought (generating possibilities) and action needed for free will, our Cogito Model.
Source: https://www.informationphilosopher.com/ ... ivity.html
Miles wrote: Mon Sep 06, 2021 4:41 pm
AgnosticBoy wrote: Mon Sep 06, 2021 11:57 amAnd then figure out what causes, factors, or inputs that would go towards that goal.
Only if prior causes come together and create that figuring.
What is doing the figuring out? Seems as if you're trying to make an untenable distinction. If my mind is figuring it out, why is that not the same as person trying to figure it out? Stating that prior causes is figuring out things sounds like a category error. This also gets into my earlier point about freedom of thought. We may even find that hard determinism is wrong while using our freedom of inquiry to explore the Universe.
Miles wrote: Mon Sep 06, 2021 4:41 pm
AgnosticBoy wrote: Mon Sep 06, 2021 11:57 amImplement it accordingly to reach the target outcome.
Only if prior causes come together and create that implementation.
Another category error. People implement things and not the laws of nature.
Miles wrote: Mon Sep 06, 2021 4:41 pm
AgnosticBoy wrote: Mon Sep 06, 2021 11:57 am Well first, being in a deterministic universe does not mean that you wouldn't know about all the causes and effects.
If all the deterministic causal factors needed to produce such knowledge didn't come together you certainly wouldn't.
Sure, if we don't experience the deterministic factors, then we'll likely never know about them. Besides experience, I'm not sure what prior causes you're referring to.
Miles wrote: Mon Sep 06, 2021 4:41 pm
AgnosticBoy wrote: Mon Sep 06, 2021 11:57 amIt seems as if you may be assuming otherwise.
I'm claiming otherwise.
Please, also provide logic and evidence for your claim. What supports your claim that we can't know about the causal factors, even after we experience them?
Miles wrote: Mon Sep 06, 2021 4:41 pm
AgnosticBoy wrote: Mon Sep 06, 2021 11:57 amRemember we're not mindless robots. We have self-awareness, we're able to question everything and explore many things.
And the only reason you would ever form such questions, whatever they may be, is because particular deterministic factors caused you to do so rather than not.
I can think of things in many different ways, even creative ways, using my freedom of thought alone. Of course, experience and logic also plays a role. If I experience whatever causal factors you're referring to, then I can know about them and play an active role in their process, as well.
Miles wrote: Mon Sep 06, 2021 4:41 pm
AgnosticBoy wrote: Mon Sep 06, 2021 11:57 am I'd expect that under hard determinism, but in a lesser form, some degree of choice exists.
So what would this "lesser form" look like? Would determinism only operate sometimes?
Just think of how determinism works for a tree branch. The tree branch decides NOTHING. It can not choose between all of the behaviors that are possible for a tree branch. It is completely passive in the causal chain. A lesser degree of control would be one where something or someone can do more than the tree branch.
Miles wrote: Mon Sep 06, 2021 4:41 pm
AgnosticBoy wrote: Mon Sep 06, 2021 11:57 amWe have a say on what path to follow or we at least know about different paths. All that it takes to select a given path it's just to apply all of the inputs, factors, and causes into your life.
Problem is, you have no choice in what you say or apply. What you say or apply is strictly determined by prior causes coming together to create your doing A rather than B, and if B happened to be following path XYZ, you never had a chance in following that particular path.
I'm still not convinced of that. Under my view, you can change your behavior, even down to the initial causal factor, and use that to choose B instead of A.

In both choices (choosing A or choosing B), there are causal factors for choose either. And I'm claiming that I can manipulate the causal chain to where I would've wanted to choose either of the two. I can't choose both of course because that would be a contradiction and there would probably be spatio-temporal limitations, as well.
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Re: Why 'Free Will' is Logically Impossible

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Post by Bradskii »

AgnosticBoy wrote: Sun Sep 12, 2021 11:12 pm
Miles wrote: Mon Sep 06, 2021 4:41 pmOnly to the extent the chain makes you do so.
And again, I can play an active role even on this level. I can set into motion the causal factors that would make me want to do something.
But what you want is part of the chain. To use an extreme example, you and your child are in a desert dying of thirst - do you drag yourself to where there is a treaure chest or to where there is water? Your choice is obviously determined by your situation. It doesn't matter how many times you run that scenario, you'll head for the water. Now what if your neighbour says he'll pay you to mow his lawn and your wife says she wants to go out for a drink. Kinda the same choices but not so clear cut this time. But you make your decision.

The way I see it is that the decision you make in the second example isn't as obvious a choice as the first. But whether you mow the lawn or go for a drink, there was a causal chain of events that resulted in you making that decision. And if you ran that moment when you made the decision umpteen times, then the causal chain would be exactly the same and would result in the same choice. That is, you had a reason for making it and that reason would always be the deciding factor.

The only way you could break that chain is by not making a choice and decide by spinning a coin or doing something that makes it truly arbitrary.

The non-existence of free will doesn't mean that you can't make choices. It means that you would always make the same choice in exactly the same situation. And it's quite logical to change the tense and say 'you always will make the same choice in exactly the same situation'. And as there's logically only one situation - the one that actually occurs, then logically there is no free will.

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Re: Why 'Free Will' is Logically Impossible

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Post by mgb »

Rational Atheist wrote: Thu Feb 18, 2021 7:18 pmIf a person could freely choose their thoughts, then they would have to be able to consciously choose what they were going to think before actually thinking it. In other words, there would have to be a time before a person thinks a thought that that thought was consciously chosen by a person, which literally entails the necessity of being able to think a thought before one thinks it. This, of course, is a logical contradiction. Ergo, free will does not exist.
Past thoughts (memory) also determine our actions. We make choices not only in terms of what we are thinking at the moment but in terms of all the thoughts, memories and experiences we have had during our lives. This is far more sophisticated than simply thinking and acting on the most recent thought.

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Re: Why 'Free Will' is Logically Impossible

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Post by Swami »

[Replying to Rational Atheist in post #1]
The biggest mistake in Western philosophy is separating the subject and object. In reality, all is one.

To understand free-will requires that you first understand what is the self. If you limit self to a body, then there is no free-will. This is the evil of materialism.

But when you identify self as being one with the Universe, then there is an infinite number of possibilities and potentialities. This is better than freedom of the will. The self even goes beyond an individual will. You can not say that I am under a law because I am the law.

Free-will is not true liberation. True liberation is when you are able to experience everything, all possibilities and all potentialities, as Self. True liberation brings bliss.

Ashtavakra Samhita, Chapter 1, Nature of Witness Self
The Self is the witness, all pervading, complete, one, free, consciousness, inactive, unattached, without desires, peaceful, even when it revolves or wanders in the cycle of births and deaths.

Know that the form is unreal, but the formless is permanently stable. By the instruction of this fact, rebirth becomes impossible.

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Re: Why 'Free Will' is Logically Impossible

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Post by Tcg »

Swami wrote: Thu Sep 23, 2021 10:39 am
To understand free-will requires that you first understand what is the self. If you limit self to a body, then there is no free-will. This is the evil of materialism.
Until verifiable evidence is provided that supports the idea that the self is anything more than a body, there is no reason to accept this line of reasoning. Additionally, there is nothing provided here to support the claim that materialism is evil. On the contrary, if it is true that materialism is an accurate view of reality, one would have to question the morality of promoting false hopes based on non-materialism. However, until one or the other can be established as an accurate reflection of reality, moralistic proclamations concerning either should be avoided.


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Re: Why 'Free Will' is Logically Impossible

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Post by Swami »

Tcg wrote: Fri Sep 24, 2021 2:25 am Until verifiable evidence is provided that supports the idea that the self is anything more than a body, there is no reason to accept this line of reasoning. Additionally, there is nothing provided here to support the claim that materialism is evil. On the contrary, if it is true that materialism is an accurate view of reality, one would have to question the morality of promoting false hopes based on non-materialism. However, until one or the other can be established as an accurate reflection of reality, moralistic proclamations concerning either should be avoided.

Tcg
When you are able to experience what I have experienced, then we can debate. Until that time, it makes no sense to debate. Why would someone challenge anyone when he has not grasped the subject matter? Do scientists visit the Dalai Lama to challenge him or to first learn and experience for themselves?

To date, Western scientists will acknowledge that they do not know the nature and origins of consciousness, life, and the Universe. Unless you are informed by the Eastern worldview, you have no solid ground to challenge my views.

Scientific American
"His Holiness the Dalai Lama had invited the U.S.-based Mind and Life Institute to familiarize the Tibetan Buddhist monastic community living in exile in India with modern science. About a dozen of us—physicists, psychologists, brain scientists and clinicians, leavened by a French philosopher—introduced quantum mechanics, neuroscience, consciousness and various clinical aspects of meditative practices to a few thousand Buddhist monks and nuns. As we lectured, we were quizzed, probed and gently made fun of by His Holiness, who sat beside us [see photograph above]. We learned as much from him and his inner circle—such as from his translator, Tibetan Jinpa Thupten, who has a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Cambridge, and from the French monk Matthieu Ricard, who holds a Ph.D. in molecular biology from the Pasteur Institute in Paris—as they and their brethren from us.

What passed between these representatives of two distinct intellectual modes of thinking about the world were facts, data—knowledge. That is, knowledge about the more than two-millennia-old Eastern tradition of investigating the mind from the inside, from an interior, subjective point of view, and the much more recent insights provided by empirical Western ways to probe the brain and its behavior using a third-person, reductionist framework. What the former brings to the table are scores of meditation techniques to develop mindfulness, concentration, insight, serenity, wisdom and, it is hoped, in the end, enlightenment."

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Re: Why 'Free Will' is Logically Impossible

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Post by Miles »

Swami wrote: Thu Sep 23, 2021 10:39 am [Replying to Rational Atheist in post #1]
The biggest mistake in Western philosophy is separating the subject and object. In reality, all is one.

To understand free-will requires that you first understand what is the self.
Bull hockey. Free will is nothing more than the ability to have done differently.



.

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Re: Why 'Free Will' is Logically Impossible

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Post by Tcg »

Swami wrote: Fri Sep 24, 2021 9:49 am
When you are able to experience what I have experienced, then we can debate.
This is a debate sub-forum. Debate is to be expected and is in fact what this section of this site is set up for. Your claims to have experienced something or other is not evidence nor does it disqualify you from the need to support your claim with evidence.


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