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

Post #121

Post by The Tanager »

bluegreenearth wrote: Mon Nov 08, 2021 8:43 pmYou 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.
Yes, and I responded to that in post 113. Then you responded in post 114 with another unsupported narrative that it just appears to be a free choice. I don't see how that means you've demonstrated the above is true.

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Re: Why 'Free Will' is Logically Impossible

Post #122

Post by bluegreenearth »

The Tanager wrote: Mon Nov 08, 2021 9:33 pm Yes, and I responded to that in post 113. Then you responded in post 114 with another unsupported narrative that it just appears to be a free choice. I don't see how that means you've demonstrated the above is true.
Your response to that post does not demonstrate how the "will" decides what it wants. To assert that the "will" freely decides what it wants to decide is equivalent to throwing up your hands and yelling "JUST BECAUSE!" as the explanation because it doesn't explain anything. You can claim the "will" freely decides to want X over Y, but then I will ask how it freely decides to want X over Y. If your response is to claim that the "will" freely wants to decide to want X over Y, then I will ask how it freely decides to want to decide to want X over Y. This back and forth can continue indefinitely without us ever arriving at a coherent explanation for how the "will" freely decides anything.

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Re: Why 'Free Will' is Logically Impossible

Post #123

Post by The Tanager »

bluegreenearth wrote: Tue Nov 09, 2021 10:00 amYour response to that post does not demonstrate how the "will" decides what it wants. To assert that the "will" freely decides what it wants to decide is equivalent to throwing up your hands and yelling "JUST BECAUSE!" as the explanation because it doesn't explain anything. You can claim the "will" freely decides to want X over Y, but then I will ask how it freely decides to want X over Y. If your response is to claim that the "will" freely wants to decide to want X over Y, then I will ask how it freely decides to want to decide to want X over Y. This back and forth can continue indefinitely without us ever arriving at a coherent explanation for how the "will" freely decides anything.

How does a determined will decide to want X over Y?

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Re: Why 'Free Will' is Logically Impossible

Post #124

Post by bluegreenearth »

The Tanager wrote: Fri Nov 12, 2021 9:48 am How does a determined will decide to want X over Y?
The will's decision to want X over Y seems to be either randomly determined or determined by a reason:
I, the "will", have become consciously aware that X and Y exist but can only choose X or Y.
  • What reason do I have for wanting X over Y or Y over X?
  • I'm not consciously aware of a reason for wanting X over Y or Y over X.
  • Because I'm not consciously aware of a reason for wanting X over Y or Y over X, I cannot consciously decide to want X over Y or Y over X.
  • Therefore, the decision to want X over Y or Y over X will have to be either randomly determined or determined by an unconscious reason.
  • If the decision to want X over Y is randomly determined for me, then I'm not freely making the decision.
  • If the decision to want X over Y is determined for me by an unconscious reason, then I'm not freely making the decision.
OR
I, the "will", have become consciously aware that X and Y exist but can only choose X or Y.
  • What reason do I have for wanting X over Y or Y over X?
  • Reason Z compels me to want X over Y.
  • Because I'm compelled by reason Z to want X over Y, I cannot consciously decide to want Y over X instead.
  • Therefore, I am not freely deciding to want X over Y.
  • Could I decide to choose Y over X even though I want X over Y?
  • Well, what reason do I have for choosing Y over X when I want X over Y?
  • Reason W compels me to choose Y over X even though I want X over Y.
  • Because I'm compelled by reason W to choose Y over X when I want X over Y, I am not freely making the decision.

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Re: Why 'Free Will' is Logically Impossible

Post #125

Post by Miles »

The Tanager wrote: Fri Nov 12, 2021 9:48 am
How does a determined will decide to want X over Y?
It doesn't really decide at all. It is compelled to want X over Y because of the preceding forces and influences (causes) over which a person exercises no meaningful control.

For Y to win out over X something in the nature of the preceding events, the ongoing cause--->effects, would have to have been significantly different. However, because nothing was significantly different, X was forced into being the "want."


.

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Re: Why 'Free Will' is Logically Impossible

Post #126

Post by The Tanager »

[Replying to bluegreenearth in post #125]

[Replying to Miles in post #126]

How does a determined will decide to want X over Y? From your two posts, I see two possible answers: mental reasons and physical forces. Could you both clarify your answer within that categorization, even if you think there is a third category (or more)?

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Re: Why 'Free Will' is Logically Impossible

Post #127

Post by bluegreenearth »

The Tanager wrote: Fri Nov 19, 2021 12:18 pm How does a determined will decide to want X over Y? From your two posts, I see two possible answers: mental reasons and physical forces. Could you both clarify your answer within that categorization, even if you think there is a third category (or more)?
It is my understanding that mental reasons are abstract concepts that emerge from a physical brain which is determined by physical forces. So, I'm inferring that physical forces can act on a physical brain to induce the emergence of mental reasons to compel the decision to want X over Y. Please don't ask me for a precise neurological explanation beyond that oversimplified summary because I lack the education and expertise in this field of study. Also, I reserve the right to be smarter later if I'm currently mistaken in my understanding.

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Re: Why 'Free Will' is Logically Impossible

Post #128

Post by Miles »

The Tanager wrote: Fri Nov 19, 2021 12:18 pm [Replying to bluegreenearth in post #125]

[Replying to Miles in post #126]

How does a determined will decide to want X over Y? From your two posts, I see two possible answers: mental reasons and physical forces. Could you both clarify your answer within that categorization, even if you think there is a third category (or more)?
The will doesn't decide (choose) anything. It functions at the mercy of those factors (cause -> effect events) that operate it. IOW, what the will does is entirely dependent on the nature of cause-effect events that set it into operation, as illustrated here.

........................ Image


Whatever the event was at the blue circle junction it made the will do either X or Y. The will had no choice in what building controlled it.


.

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Re: Why 'Free Will' is Logically Impossible

Post #129

Post by The Tanager »

bluegreenearth wrote: Fri Nov 19, 2021 1:05 pmIt is my understanding that mental reasons are abstract concepts that emerge from a physical brain which is determined by physical forces. So, I'm inferring that physical forces can act on a physical brain to induce the emergence of mental reasons to compel the decision to want X over Y. Please don't ask me for a precise neurological explanation beyond that oversimplified summary because I lack the education and expertise in this field of study. Also, I reserve the right to be smarter later if I'm currently mistaken in my understanding.

Yes, so the ultimate cause are the physical forces. And on libertarian free will, the ultimate cause is the will itself. These are explanations at the same level. That a mental reason exists for choosing X over Y is at a different level than these two explanations. Thus, that level either contradicts both of our views as an answer to the question or is asking a different question.

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Re: Why 'Free Will' is Logically Impossible

Post #130

Post by bluegreenearth »

The Tanager wrote: Fri Nov 19, 2021 5:35 pm Yes, so the ultimate cause are the physical forces. And on libertarian free will, the ultimate cause is the will itself. These are explanations at the same level. That a mental reason exists for choosing X over Y is at a different level than these two explanations. Thus, that level either contradicts both of our views as an answer to the question or is asking a different question.
I'm not following your logic for how the existence of a mental reason for choosing X over Y is at a different level than the two identified explanations.

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