What is Free Will?

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fast
 
Reply Tue 15 Dec, 2009 09:53 am
I'd like to begin the process of creating a special written definition of "free will" that I agree with. I call it a special definition because I don't know what else to call it. It may start out as a stipulative definition, but as I tweak it more and more, I'd like it to resemble what some may call a lexical definition, but I want it to be highly informative and superior to typical lexical definitions. I'd like it to resemble an explanation flush with particularly important buzzwords.

As we begin talking about what you think free will is, I'll be particularly interested in the exact words you use. For example, if you use the word, "desire," and if I think that word conveys too much passion, then I may prefer to use the word, "want" instead.

Although I do want to know what you think free will is, keep in mind that what I want in the end is a good working definition of "free will" that I agree with, so despite any disagreement we may have, any help in formulating the definition that fits what I believe is true will be appreciated.

To give you an idea of what I believe is true, understand that I lean heavily towards how a soft determinist may use the term.
 
prothero
 
Reply Tue 15 Dec, 2009 04:26 pm
@fast,
The ability to do otherwise (more than one possiblity or outcome for a given event). Actually it would appear even "nature" may have some degrees of freedom.
The difference between a little freedom and no freedom; is all the "difference in the world".
 
sometime sun
 
Reply Tue 15 Dec, 2009 05:04 pm
@prothero,
Quick thought quicker answer, Q;What is free will? A; choice, and consciousness of the option question or answer consequence.
Conscious of the choice you will make, but not always of the choices you have made.?
Do we have free-will sometimes and sometimes not?
 
fast
 
Reply Tue 15 Dec, 2009 05:29 pm
@prothero,
prothero;111580 wrote:
The ability to do otherwise (more than one possiblity or outcome for a given event). Actually it would appear even "nature" may have some degrees of freedom.
The difference between a little freedom and no freedom; is all the "difference in the world".


Nature doesn't do anything. The word, "do" is interesting though. I can raise my hand. It's something that I can do. Also, I can trip and fall, but tripping and falling is not something I do. It's something that happens to me.

We need to somehow make it clear that nature is excluded as having abilities. When you say, "the ability to do otherwise," I thought you were talking exclusively about an agent, and perhaps you were, and I say that because you said, "even" when you said, "it would appear even that 'nature' may have some degrees of freedom."--it's almost as if you were contrasting nature to that of an agent (or most people).

Also, "otherwise" may be useful, but not unless it's abundantly clear as to what it's other than.

---------- Post added 12-15-2009 at 06:33 PM ----------

sometime sun;111585 wrote:
Quick thought quicker answer, Q;What is free will? A; choice, and consciousness of the option question or answer consequence.
Conscious of the choice you will make, but not always of the choices you have made.?
Do we have free-will sometimes and sometimes not?

But not just any ole kind of choice. When she made the choice to get into the car after having a loaded gun pointed at her, it was not the case that she got into the car of her own free will. Although she could have resisted, she was forced by threat of violence to do as she did.
 
scian
 
Reply Tue 15 Dec, 2009 06:05 pm
@fast,
There is no free will. What is and what will be is inevitable, based on what is now and what was.

Of course I personally don't believe this, I can't. However, determinism is clearly the logical and scientific absolute given our current knowledge base-excluding, of course, what we feel.

Assuming that free will does exist then I propose that the definition of free will be: a result that is contradictory to what was to be the inevitable result.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Tue 15 Dec, 2009 06:43 pm
@scian,
áscian;111604 wrote:
There is no free will. What is and what will be is inevitable, based on what is now and what was.

.


"Inevitable" means, "avoidable". If I take precautions, I can avoid having an accident.
 
GoshisDead
 
Reply Tue 15 Dec, 2009 07:12 pm
@kennethamy,
I think the best evidence of free will is your ability to create a defenition of freewill that you agree with
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Tue 15 Dec, 2009 07:25 pm
@GoshisDead,
GoshisDead;111623 wrote:
I think the best evidence of free will is your ability to create a defenition of freewill that you agree with


Why is that?.........
 
GoshisDead
 
Reply Tue 15 Dec, 2009 08:02 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;111628 wrote:
Why is that?.........

Because I felt Like saying it.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Tue 15 Dec, 2009 08:05 pm
@GoshisDead,
GoshisDead;111643 wrote:
Because I felt Like saying it.


I didn't ask you why you wrote it.
 
prothero
 
Reply Tue 15 Dec, 2009 08:07 pm
@fast,
It is deliberately ambiguous.

[QUOTE=fast;111592] Nature doesn't do anything. The word, "do" is interesting though. I can raise my hand. It's something that I can do. Also, I can trip and fall, but tripping and falling is not something I do. It's something that happens to me. .[/QUOTE] I find the denial of "free will" is almost invariably the result of a more fundamental mechanistic and deterministic view of nature. "Science" of the mind is in its infancy and likely to remain so for some time. It becomes useful to directly question the mechanistic deterministic view of nature that leads to denial of "free will" at the level of the mind. In fact the evidence that nature is deterministic at the level of every independent event is highly questionable. There are deterministic interpretations of quantum mechanical events but they imply hidden variables and other kinds of assumptions. Even nature at its most fundamental level is probabilistic (stochastic) and although this does not prove humans have "free will" it opens the door to serious consideration of the possibility.

[QUOTE=fast;111592] We need to somehow make it clear that nature is excluded as having abilities. When you say, "the ability to do otherwise," I thought you were talking exclusively about an agent, and perhaps you were, and I say that because you said, "even" when you said, "it would appear even that 'nature' may have some degrees of freedom."--it's almost as if you were contrasting nature to that of an agent (or most people). .[/QUOTE] Well I think nature has quite a few abilities. It is more likely the notion that nature has teleological purpose that you object to. I think nature has teleological purpose as well (order, creativity, novelty, complexity, self organization, etc) but then I am a Platonic type idealist.

[QUOTE=fast;111592] Also, "otherwise" may be useful, but not unless it's abundantly clear as to what it's other than. .[/QUOTE] Even if there are only two choices for breakfast tomorrow, you may be free to "choose" raisin bran other than "shredded wheat". You do not have to have complete freedom it is clear you do not. There just has to be more than one possible option or path.
 
GoshisDead
 
Reply Tue 15 Dec, 2009 08:12 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;111645 wrote:
I didn't ask you why you wrote it.

Would it be less ambiguous if I said, because he felt like writing it?
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Wed 16 Dec, 2009 04:37 am
@fast,
I think both Free Will and Determinism tempt us emotionally. From Free Will we get a sense of openness. From Determinism, order. I mention this temptation because I think motive grounds prejudice.

Spinoza offers us a gleaming determinism, cruel and beautiful. All is one and all is already done. Enjoy the ride. I used to be attracted to this.

Free Will helps anchor our individual dignity. What credit can we take if all is determined? We are sensitive puppets, nothing more.

I used to think that determinism was the "scientific" choice. But some of this new science has changed my mind.
 
prothero
 
Reply Wed 16 Dec, 2009 09:09 am
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;111746 wrote:
I think both Free Will and Determinism tempt us emotionally. From Free Will we get a sense of openness. From Determinism, order. I mention this temptation because I think motive grounds prejudice.

Spinoza offers us a gleaming determinism, cruel and beautiful. All is one and all is already done. Enjoy the ride. I used to be attracted to this.

Free Will helps anchor our individual dignity. What credit can we take if all is determined? We are sensitive puppets, nothing more.

I used to think that determinism was the "scientific" choice. But some of this new science has changed my mind.
And is not that just how the world appears to us. A world of ordered possibilites balanced between predictability and freedom. Free will, agency, is an almost universal notion presupposed in the practice of living and fundmental to the notions of human responsiblity and moral action. My suggestion is it should be accepted as "true" until undeniable evidence to the contrary is available. Such evidence I do not think will ever be available because nature itself seems to be founded on ordered possibilites not hard determinism.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Wed 16 Dec, 2009 09:19 am
@prothero,
prothero;111778 wrote:
And is not that just how the world appears to us. A world of ordered possibilites balanced between predictability and freedom. Free will, agency, is an almost universal notion presupposed in the practice of living and fundmental to the notions of human responsiblity and moral action. My suggestion is it should be accepted as "true" until undeniable evidence to the contrary is available. Such evidence I do not think will ever be available because nature itself seems to be founded on ordered possibilites not hard determinism.


I don't think that predictability and freedom are opposed to one another. That someone can predict what I am going to do, and I do what he predicts I am going to do, does not seem to me to be inconsistent with his doing what he did freely. Why cannot the person have freely chosen to do what he did, and I predict that he would freely choose to do to do it. My predicting that he would act as he did does not compel him to act that way. Does it?
 
scian
 
Reply Wed 16 Dec, 2009 10:39 am
@fast,
Let's suggest that free will is choice. If a choice cannot be made then there is no free will. Perhaps the question of free will can be answered by understanding how we make choices? Assuming we actually are making choices.

We can suggest that a choice begins with what I know. What I know is a culmination of a lifetime of experience, experience that has been perceived through the biological filters of my body, which is different for us all; for example, I smell roses, you smell poop.
I use what I know and compare it to what is happening (also based on my perception) and make a choice based on the combination of these two knowledge sets. So the question becomes, is the choice that I am making inevitable based on these two knowledge sets? And, if I know this, can I choose a contradictory choice simply based on the fact that I want to prove my free will by picking the contradictory choice, which in itself is still inevitable based on my two knowledge sets?

Because my choice was the inevitable result of the conditions that preceded it I didn't really make a choice. My choice was the only choice I could have made; based on who I was, the knowledge I had, and the conditions I found myself in. It could be argued that I had no other choice, therefore no free will.
 
Zetherin
 
Reply Wed 16 Dec, 2009 10:45 am
@scian,
áscian;111792 wrote:
Let's suggest that free will is choice. If a choice cannot be made then there is no free will. Perhaps the question of free will can be answered by understanding how we make choices? Assuming we actually are making choices.

We can suggest that a choice begins with what I know. What I know is a culmination of a lifetime of experience, experience that has been perceived through the biological filters of my body, which is different for us all; for example, I smell roses, you smell poop.
I use what I know and compare it to what is happening (also based on my perception) and make a choice based on the combination of these two knowledge sets. So the question becomes, is the choice that I am making inevitable based on these two knowledge sets? And, if I know this, can I choose a contradictory choice simply based on the fact that I want to prove my free will by picking the contradictory choice, which in itself is still inevitable based on my two knowledge sets?

Because my choice was the inevitable result of the conditions that preceded it I didn't really make a choice. My choice was the only choice I could have made; based on who I was, the knowledge I had, and the conditions I found myself in. It could be argued that I had no other choice, therefore no free will.


Say, according to what you say, I did not have a choice. But say I believed I had a choice. Wouldn't all that matter is that I believed I had a choice?
 
fast
 
Reply Wed 16 Dec, 2009 11:16 am
@kennethamy,
An important concept to understand and associate with determinism is the concept of causation. An important concept to understand and associate with free will is the concept of compulsion. Confusing these two things (causation and compulsion) is the source of much confusion.

All events are caused, but not all events are compelled, so not only do we have caused events that are compelled, but we also have caused events that are not compelled. The confusion is in the thinking that because an event is caused that it is also compelled.

For example, I got into my car as I always do, and she got into her under the threat of violence. There is an underlying cause for why I got into my car; likewise, there is an underlying cause for why she got in her car, but although I did what I did of my own free will (i.e no compulsion to do as I did), she did not do as she did of her own free will (i.e she was compelled to do as she did).

Only agents can be compelled. We cannot compel a tree to grow. There are causes for why a tree will grow, and we can influence the growth of a tree, but because the tree is not an agent, we cannot compel a tree to grow.

Compulsion comes in degrees. For example, consider a man locked up in a jail cell. He cannot get out of the cell, so he is restrained from leaving (e.g. Compulsion by restraint); however, there are plenty of examples where we are either restrained (i.e. compelled from acting) or constrained (i.e. compelled to act) where we can overcome the compulsion (either the restraint or constraint).

For example, the law constrains me to obey the traffic laws (or restrains me from disobeying traffic laws). Yes, we can overcome the force of compulsion. That I can speed is not to say the law is not compelling me to act in certain ways.

What I want to do is important. If I do not want the candy and am told that I'll be punished if I eat the candy, then I'm not being compelled to act in opposition to what I want.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Wed 16 Dec, 2009 11:20 am
@Zetherin,
Zetherin;111793 wrote:
Say, according to what you say, I did not have a choice. But say I believed I had a choice. Wouldn't all that matter is that I believed I had a choice?


I am not sure what, "I had no choice" means. Often, it just means that I had to choose between two evils, and that I chose the lesser evil. But, of course, then I did have a choice. Just not a good choice. It is not, then, literally true I had no choice. If you mean that quite literally, I could not have done otherwise than I did do, then I don't understand why you think it would not matter as long as I believed I had a choice. What would not matter?
 
scian
 
Reply Wed 16 Dec, 2009 11:26 am
@Zetherin,
Zetherin;111793 wrote:
Say, according to what you say, I did not have a choice. But say I believed I had a choice. Wouldn't all that matter is that I believed I had a choice?


I would agree with you. It seems to me that the question of what is and what I believe is must be answered before we can determine what free will is. If I know I have free will, whether or not is exists is immaterial.
 
 

 
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