Free will in Animals

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efpierce's picture
Free will in Animals

Hello everybody,

I was simply wondering after doing a bit of reading on the internet, if we accept the concept of free will then does it also apply to animals throughout the world? Do animals have free will to do whatever they want or does God simply control them entirely?

What are your thoughts?

Thank you.

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Spewer's picture
"...does God simply control

"...does God simply control them entirely?" That seems like a trick question on this board. :)

We can't prove whether humans have free will, but if humans have it, *other* animals would as well, IMO. Many act purely on instinct as opposed to will, but clearly many species have thought capability that would imply will.

Since your question sort of presumed a god, I'll add that if foreknowledge is possible, free will left the building. But that's a different thread.

Zaphod's picture
I suggest that if we were to

I suggest that if we were to accept the concept of free will as put forth in the bible, I don't see why animals couldn't also have free will. However, they're according to the bible creation story, the beast of the sky, sea and land were made to be ruled by man!

mysticrose's picture
I think, animals have free

I think, animals have free will too. Humans are the highest form of animals so it means that other animals below us are privilege as we are too in terms of free will. Who knows, maybe one of those animals will finally evolve into thinking mammals like us!

efpierce's picture
I believe that certain

I believe that certain animals have free will but others are, as the poster above said, simply acting upon instinct or their inert nature. Some animals, jellyfish for example, lack brains and are simply nervous impulses responding to stimuli. But yes the higher animals definitely seem to act with free will.

Unknowntyper's picture
In some cases even acting on

In some cases even acting on instinct is free willed. There is not outside force controlling the motions and movements of even a fly. It is not prohibited for certain actions by a god. Things without a brain do not make choices per se. But these are also not governed by anything more than external stimuli.

If the animal has a "brain" it has some "free will" within the confines of its understanding and comprehension.

efpierce's picture
I agree with you here, think

I agree with you here, think you have hit the nail on the head really. To be honest though the term free will is fairly hard to define within this context.

Walker's picture
All animals are free to do as

All animals are free to do as they please and all they have to worry about are the consequences of those actions in the world they exist at. This animals include us of course.

Spewer's picture
Here's another fun tangent:

Here's another fun tangent: If a being lacked free will, would it know that?

efpierce's picture
I think this is certainly

I think this is certainly something we will never truly be able to know, but it is definitely an interesting spin on the original question!

SammyShazaam's picture
Fun tangent, yes it is! This

Fun tangent, yes it is! This is actually a pretty hot topic in neuroscience, and there's tons of amazing little tidbits that pop up :)

As it so happens, this marvelous "free will" that humans have isn't really so free at all. We actually have a piece in the brain (roughly, no two brains are exactly alike) that is in charge of making sense of actions we were going to do already based on our instinctual drives and information that we're not consciously processing.

Case in point, there was a young male patient with split brains (the corpus collosum was surgically severed due to severe epilepsy) who, when his right hemisphere was shown an action to take via words presented to the right eye, would go about following the commands. When asked, the left brain which spoke would come up with a completely arbitrary reason for doing whatever it was, and being totally unaware that it was actually following orders would make up some random reason why he *wanted* to do what he was doing. If the right brain was told to leave the room, he would get up and go. When asked why, he would say he was hungry and wanted to go to the vending machine, or had to use the toilet.

Even those of us tho have a corpus collosum still feel first, and rationalize second. The rationalizing part makes us believe that we have ultimate control over our actions. That's not entirely untrue... but it's not entirely true either. So no, I don't think we'd know if we didn't have free will :)

mysticrose's picture
Of course not, because if it

Of course not, because if it knows that free will is lacked from it then he can analyze the situation and eventually realize that he too should have a free will.

DarkLight's picture
This kind of takes us to the

This kind of takes us to the whole "if a tree falls in the middle of the forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound" debate. It seems to me that anything you are not aware of can't possibly affect you, unless you have the capacity to assume things, which is basically what separates us from other animals.

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