Why 'Free Will' is Logically Impossible

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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

Post #111

Post by bluegreenearth »

The Tanager wrote: Mon Oct 25, 2021 1:06 pm How is it incoherent? I don’t see how this scenario is any different than what we’ve already talked about. In the last few posts we talked about the will deciding about two things it was aware of. Here you simply add that at some point the will wasn’t aware of the two options but then became aware. At that point, we are right back to what we’ve already discussed. The reason the will chose one over the other is because it wanted to. That is neither a deterministic reason nor no reason at all.
According to you, the "want is a decision" (i.e. wanted = chose). Accordingly, the bolded statement above can be rewritten as follows:
  • The reason the "will" chose (i.e. wanted) X over Y upon becoming aware of X and Y is because it wanted (i.e. chose) X over Y.
AND
  • The reason the "will" wanted (i.e. chose) X over Y upon becoming aware of X and Y is because it chose (i.e. wanted) X over Y.
AND
  • The reason the "will" chose X over Y upon becoming aware of X and Y is because it chose X over Y.
AND
  • The reason the "will" wanted X over Y upon becoming aware of X and Y is because it wanted X over Y.
By equivocating the concepts of "want" and "decision" (i.e. choice) in accordance with your definition, it is impossible to explain how the "will" ever arrives at a reason (deterministic, free, or otherwise) for wanting or choosing X over Y upon discovering the existence of X and Y because it immediately becomes trapped in its own infinitely circular reasoning loop:
I, the "will", have become aware that X and Y exists.
Do I want X over Y or Y over X?
I must now decide if I want X over Y or Y over X.
What reason do I have for wanting X over Y or Y over X?
My reason for wanting X over Y or Y over X is because I'm choosing X over Y or Y over X.
What reason do I have for choosing X over Y or Y over X?
My reason for choosing X over Y or Y over X is because I want X over Y or Y over X.
So, what reason do I have for wanting X over Y or Y over X.
My reason for wanting X over Y or Y over X is because I'm choosing X over Y or Y over X.
Again, what reason do I have for choosing X over Y or Y over X?
My reason for choosing X over Y or Y over X is because I want X over Y or Y over X.
Again, what reason do I have for wanting X over Y or Y over X?
...etc. ad infinitum.

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Re: Why 'Free Will' is Logically Impossible

Post #112

Post by The Tanager »

bluegreenearth wrote: Mon Oct 25, 2021 8:26 pmBy equivocating the concepts of "want" and "decision" (i.e. choice) in accordance with your definition, it is impossible to explain how the "will" ever arrives at a reason (deterministic, free, or otherwise) for wanting or choosing X over Y upon discovering the existence of X and Y because it immediately becomes trapped in its own infinitely circular reasoning loop:

On determinism, my wanting is also a decision, so I’m not begging the question in favor of my view. In the same way a determinist could say “the reason my will chose X over Y is because previous material factors forced it to the libertarian free will believer could say “the reason my will chose X over Y is because it was free to to do so. Both of these are giving reasons why X was chosen over Y.

If you want to talk about reason in the sense of the wisdom behind a choice, then let’s say I ate a smoothie because I wanted to eat healthy. It doesn’t make sense to me to say the propositional statement “eating healthy” caused me to do X. How does a propositional statement have causal powers? On your determinism, isn’t the cause some outside concrete factor? It just so happens that the factor sides with "the healthier choice" sometimes and not others.

To say “I chose X because it is a healthier option” seems to me to point towards freedom to choose which state (conveyed by propositional truths) you want try to make or cause to happen. I wanted to bring about a healthier state for my body and choice X would seem to do so, therefore, I chose X over Y rather than being forced to do so.

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Re: Why 'Free Will' is Logically Impossible

Post #113

Post by bluegreenearth »

The Tanager wrote: Wed Oct 27, 2021 8:33 pm On determinism, my wanting is also a decision, so I’m not begging the question in favor of my view. In the same way a determinist could say “the reason my will chose X over Y is because previous material factors forced it to the libertarian free will believer could say “the reason my will chose X over Y is because it was free to to do so. Both of these are giving reasons why X was chosen over Y.

If you want to talk about reason in the sense of the wisdom behind a choice, then let’s say I ate a smoothie because I wanted to eat healthy. It doesn’t make sense to me to say the propositional statement “eating healthy” caused me to do X. How does a propositional statement have causal powers? On your determinism, isn’t the cause some outside concrete factor? It just so happens that the factor sides with "the healthier choice" sometimes and not others.

To say “I chose X because it is a healthier option” seems to me to point towards freedom to choose which state (conveyed by propositional truths) you want try to make or cause to happen. I wanted to bring about a healthier state for my body and choice X would seem to do so, therefore, I chose X over Y rather than being forced to do so.
A combination of your genetics, environmental factors, and social pressures is the reason you wanted to bring about a healthier state for your body. The perception you have of making a free choice to eat healthier is an illusion. Your brain allows you to believe there was a possibility of making a different choice when the decision was already determined by your genetics, environmental factors, and social pressures. It is very similar to the experiences people have when they are addicted to alcohol or nicotine but believe they can freely quit any time they want to. Realistically, the chemically addicted will all require some form of external support to help them recover.

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Re: Why 'Free Will' is Logically Impossible

Post #114

Post by Tcg »

bluegreenearth wrote: Thu Oct 28, 2021 9:04 am
A combination of your genetics, environmental factors, and social pressures is the reason you wanted to bring about a healthier state for your body. The perception you have of making a free choice to eat healthier is an illusion. Your brain allows you to believe there was a possibility of making a different choice when the decision was already determined by your genetics, environmental factors, and social pressures. It is very similar to the experiences people have when they are addicted to alcohol or nicotine but believe they can freely quit any time they want to. Realistically, the chemically addicted will all require some form of external support to help them recover.
A friend of mine is a possible exception concerning the chemically addicted. One night at a bar he drank 36 Margaritas. Because of this he realized he had a serious problem with alcohol and decided to quit drinking. He did so immediately. No 12 step programs or programs of any kind. He relied on one step: Don't drink. Perhaps it could be asserted that he was predetermined to do so, but he quit drinking on his own.


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Re: Why 'Free Will' is Logically Impossible

Post #115

Post by bluegreenearth »

Tcg wrote: Thu Oct 28, 2021 10:41 am A friend of mine is a possible exception concerning the chemically addicted. One night at a bar he drank 36 Margaritas. Because of this he realized he had a serious problem with alcohol and decided to quit drinking. He did so immediately. No 12 step programs or programs of any kind. He relied on one step: Don't drink. Perhaps it could be asserted that he was predetermined to do so, but he quit drinking on his own.
I did the same thing. However, it could be argued that neither your friend nor I was chemically addicted to alcohol. It is my understanding that people who binge drink on occasion (i.e. have difficulty controlling the quantity they consume on occasions when they do drink alcohol) are not chemically addicted to alcohol in the same way as people who need to drink alcohol daily.

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Re: Why 'Free Will' is Logically Impossible

Post #116

Post by Tcg »

bluegreenearth wrote: Thu Oct 28, 2021 11:40 am
Tcg wrote: Thu Oct 28, 2021 10:41 am A friend of mine is a possible exception concerning the chemically addicted. One night at a bar he drank 36 Margaritas. Because of this he realized he had a serious problem with alcohol and decided to quit drinking. He did so immediately. No 12 step programs or programs of any kind. He relied on one step: Don't drink. Perhaps it could be asserted that he was predetermined to do so, but he quit drinking on his own.
I did the same thing. However, it could be argued that neither your friend nor I was chemically addicted to alcohol. It is my understanding that people who binge drink on occasion (i.e. have difficulty controlling the quantity they consume on occasions when they do drink alcohol) are not chemically addicted to alcohol in the same way as people who need to drink alcohol daily.
That is an important distinction. I'm not sure whether or not my friend drank everyday or not. He did spend many nights at the bar. His use of nicotine was a different story. He smoked about a pack a day for 25 or so years. He had more trouble giving up smoking than drinking. A great deal of the difficulty was that his wife smoked and it was hard to quit when smokes were so available. It wasn't until they both agreed to quit that he was able to kick it completely.


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Re: Why 'Free Will' is Logically Impossible

Post #117

Post by The Tanager »

bluegreenearth wrote: Thu Oct 28, 2021 9:04 amA combination of your genetics, environmental factors, and social pressures is the reason you wanted to bring about a healthier state for your body. The perception you have of making a free choice to eat healthier is an illusion. Your brain allows you to believe there was a possibility of making a different choice when the decision was already determined by your genetics, environmental factors, and social pressures. It is very similar to the experiences people have when they are addicted to alcohol or nicotine but believe they can freely quit any time they want to. Realistically, the chemically addicted will all require some form of external support to help them recover.

Yes, if determinism is true. The propositional statement “X is healthier” isn’t the reason I decide on X over Y. The outside factors you mentioned are the reason/cause of my decision. Sometimes, those same outside factors end up causing me to choose a less healthy option. So, the question we are asking is something like: what reason does a will choose X over Y.

(On determinism) the reason my will chooses X over Y is because of outside factors.

I’ve been asked to give a similar answer for libertarian free will:

(On libertarian free will) the reason my will chooses X over Y is because I (or my will) wanted to and was free to do so.

When one then responds with “but why do you want to choose X over Y,” we have equivocated on “reason” here. “Because X is healthier” rightly explains both (1) and (2) above. Thus, “there is always a reason one can offer” isn’t a pointer to determinism over libertarian free will.

All you’ve done here is give a coherent narrative if determinism is true. I then give a coherent narrative if libertarian free will is true. They answer the “what reason” question in the same sense.

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Re: Why 'Free Will' is Logically Impossible

Post #118

Post by bluegreenearth »

The Tanager wrote: Fri Oct 29, 2021 10:32 am Yes, if determinism is true. The propositional statement “X is healthier” isn’t the reason I decide on X over Y. The outside factors you mentioned are the reason/cause of my decision. Sometimes, those same outside factors end up causing me to choose a less healthy option. So, the question we are asking is something like: what reason does a will choose X over Y.

(On determinism) the reason my will chooses X over Y is because of outside factors.

I’ve been asked to give a similar answer for libertarian free will:

(On libertarian free will) the reason my will chooses X over Y is because I (or my will) wanted to and was free to do so.

When one then responds with “but why do you want to choose X over Y,” we have equivocated on “reason” here. “Because X is healthier” rightly explains both (1) and (2) above. Thus, “there is always a reason one can offer” isn’t a pointer to determinism over libertarian free will.

All you’ve done here is give a coherent narrative if determinism is true. I then give a coherent narrative if libertarian free will is true. They answer the “what reason” question in the same sense.
How does the "will" decide what it wants when the decision-making process you've described has been demonstrated to trap it in an infinitively circular reasoning loop?

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Re: Why 'Free Will' is Logically Impossible

Post #119

Post by The Tanager »

bluegreenearth wrote: Fri Oct 29, 2021 12:34 pm
The Tanager wrote: Fri Oct 29, 2021 10:32 am Yes, if determinism is true. The propositional statement “X is healthier” isn’t the reason I decide on X over Y. The outside factors you mentioned are the reason/cause of my decision. Sometimes, those same outside factors end up causing me to choose a less healthy option. So, the question we are asking is something like: what reason does a will choose X over Y.

(On determinism) the reason my will chooses X over Y is because of outside factors.

I’ve been asked to give a similar answer for libertarian free will:

(On libertarian free will) the reason my will chooses X over Y is because I (or my will) wanted to and was free to do so.

When one then responds with “but why do you want to choose X over Y,” we have equivocated on “reason” here. “Because X is healthier” rightly explains both (1) and (2) above. Thus, “there is always a reason one can offer” isn’t a pointer to determinism over libertarian free will.

All you’ve done here is give a coherent narrative if determinism is true. I then give a coherent narrative if libertarian free will is true. They answer the “what reason” question in the same sense.
How does the "will" decide what it wants when the decision-making process you've described has been demonstrated to trap it in an infinitively circular reasoning loop?
How has the process I've described trap the will in an infinitely circular reasoning loop? I don't see it.

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Re: Why 'Free Will' is Logically Impossible

Post #120

Post by bluegreenearth »

The Tanager wrote: Mon Nov 08, 2021 8:24 pm How has the process I've described trap the will in an infinitely circular reasoning loop? I don't see it.
You may recall this internal dialogue of the "will" from my earlier post:
I, the "will", have become aware that X and Y exists.
Do I want X over Y or Y over X?
I must now decide if I want X over Y or Y over X.
What reason do I have for wanting X over Y or Y over X?
My reason for wanting X over Y or Y over X is because I'm choosing X over Y or Y over X.
What reason do I have for choosing X over Y or Y over X?
My reason for choosing X over Y or Y over X is because I want X over Y or Y over X.
So, what reason do I have for wanting X over Y or Y over X.
My reason for wanting X over Y or Y over X is because I'm choosing X over Y or Y over X.
Again, what reason do I have for choosing X over Y or Y over X?
My reason for choosing X over Y or Y over X is because I want X over Y or Y over X.
Again, what reason do I have for wanting X over Y or Y over X?
...etc. ad infinitum.

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