Free Will, real or an illusion?

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Mith Vahkar's picture
Free Will, real or an illusion?

Free Will, real or an illusion?

Ok, just to make it clear, I'm starting this topic for a few reasons and not just a philosophical debate.
An example of one reason would be on the premise that we do not exactly control our actions like we think we do thus making an argument about us really being guilty or not, leading to the summary that we are either all completely innocent of our own actions or all completely guilty of other's actions, thus meaning separation of places like heaven and hell in many beliefs are pointless or hypocritical giving a result of religious arguments more invalid. Other reason is just to get others to debate on this as I will most likely leave a lot out that can be discussed and I'll try to sound like I'm supporting the side as I write it.

I am going to try my best to make arguments for both sides but I will likely favor one more than the other and will be using more arguments containing psychological and biological bases but I won't explain them too much into detail, you got google and plenty of sites for sources and even some educational videos about this stuff on youtube. And since I'm going to try to sound like I defend both arguments completely please don't take it as that they are certainties for me, I'm just trying my best to sound like it.

After my arguments what I am hoping for from this is your ideas and opinions from each of you on how we should observe this idea, how it should affect us as a society, how should we base morals on these arguments and for those that conclude that it is an illusion in some aspect how should it affect the legal system & why, along with explaining more angles that these arguments can be observed from.

(Note: I'm not that great of a writer, I would even like to say horrid but I don't know if I'm just being modest or if it's dead true.)

(First off playing as devil's advocate)
Free will, well if we don't have it what are all the choices we pick or emotions we have based on? Some might try to defend that through evolution we have evolved and to survive we do things favorable to us, we pick up traits and make choices to help us survive better, correct? The earliest fossils of anatomically modern humans that we have found are from about 200,000 years ago and our ancestors before that millions of years. So after all that time I ask you this; Why do we still do things that endanger our survival individually all that time? I not even asking about things that can only come with modern technology, I'm not talking about weapons, rifles, explosives, nukes, chemical weapons. I'm talking about some simple habits, over eating despite the need not too, walking on a cliff's edge, hanging yourself for a high building with one arm or even suicide over petty things that have nothing to do with our survival, things like that and even more. Ok maybe we didn't evolve in certain areas, we get addicted to sugars and fats quickly, but is this a new thing? Nobody in the past over ate? It's not like we lived with modern technology like we did in the past that we could keep ourselves alive despite all the set-backs of something like this, you would think the ones more resistant and better fit would be the only ones to pass on their genes. Ok well what about the dangerous actions we do? Walking, sitting, hanging ourselves from spots that are clearly dangerous, we do know it's dangerous, we have fell from smaller distances and have hurt ourselves, even when we trip it hurts when falling like that. Is the excuse the 'high' we get from it? So we yet again didn't pass on another important gene that would prevent something like that? And that high overcomes all fears and awareness of the dangers? Sometimes it seems a little too far fetched.

Fine then here's another way to look at it, first off we can agree them that women, compared to men, have motherly instincts to protect their children. Let's say we took 2 mothers and each one with one child. Both of these mothers haven't experienced any severe trauma as they grew up. Now each one is put in a situation where their child is endanger of dying but can be saved at the cost of their own life and the child is guaranteed to live. Why is it that one mother will choose to save their child and the other to not? This isn't something uncommon. We even find mothers or parents neglecting their children despite not having an abusive childhood. Some just don't even want a children at all.
Fine that didn't convince you then what about simple examples of children and youngsters today. They can disciplined, spoiled, given attention, abused or even a moderate of most of these things yet we can still find them doing things that would put an adult in jail sometimes even for life. What, they don't know right and wrong? We teach them that all the time, even if the parents don't it's seen in school or on the streets or even on the TV or internet. So why is the ones that are given love and discipline can turn around and steal or hurt somebody or put themselves or others endanger? I say free will.

Fine then, even if we accept free will doesn't exist after all this, that we aren't responsible for our own actions then, that 'cause and effect' is what brings us to do ,what we do for these questions:
Why follow the law or care about right or wrong? Why not just do whatever you want?
Why put people in jail or prison when it was the environment's fault for the way they turned out? Why not just let nature play it's course and let people do whatever they want to do? Is it not survival of the fittest?
You should now understand free will or not, it's needed, at least in a moral view.

Ok before reading further I would like you to take a moment to argue these things in your head if you haven't already while reading it because after this point I will be making the next argument to counter nearly everything said here, of course whether they are valid or not is up for you to decide. There is also likely more that could be said to defend Free Will but since I don't really hold that belief anymore like I use to when I was younger I can't really remember much on how to argue for it. I'm also trying not to make everything too long so I'm leaving it up to you guys in the comments to extend both sides of the arguments even more.

Now for the counter argument which is based on more what I defend and some other's ideas as well.
I'm also going to try to not use extensive details or words and definitions that might make some need to google them every few seconds.
Well first off I want to say that with everything we (as a human species) have researched, everything psychological is biological. After all the tests and data that have been gathered we always see a correlation between our thoughts & emotions with our bodies. Whether it be interactions with the cells in our brain or the chemicals that they release and flood your brain, or other chemicals being spread out from other parts of your body, all these giving you fear, pain, pleasure, want and many other urges.
So evolutionary wise, why do we have some many traits that can endanger us? Well we are always still mutating and even despite that we can get traits like that and some of them are even just dormant, but we pretty much already have all those traits, the amount of environmental factors shape us to which of them we favor or pressure on more. And even now the knowledge and experiences that we can pass on faster we can overcome more of these things. Whether we do them are not is still environmental. You can't compare 2 people to one subject because there will always be a difference. Just like how we do experimentation, we test objects in the same situation and except to get the same results, but when it comes to people it is never the same situation, there is always a difference biologically and environmentally. People to not walk in the exact same steps as each other and don't live the same moments. Even identical twins that are brought up in the same house and go to the same school didn't engage the same exact person and sit and look at the same exact thing in the same position. Whether or not they may be similar they can only be 'similar' and not the same, it's just like evolution but on a different scale, all these small things add up. So even on this argument you can debate on how do we know these things if you can't experiment in the same exact conditions. Well we don't in the same context, with similar conditions we just except similar results then and as long as they stay consistent when we try to control the environment as much as we can, we can see the similarities are nearly the same. Just as environmental factors affect us or biological ones do too, there can be big differences between people that still lived in similar conditions. The conditions whether good or bad can affect people differently depending on previous conditions they have lived or in the order they have lived them.

So even with all this some can ask is this really enough to disprove free will? Depends on how you view it. So imagine, you body is controlled by electric impulses, chemicals that sway your mood, can change your urges and give shape to your thoughts, so let's say the light that reflects off an object hit's your eye, the intensity and variations of it is sent to your brain as data and your brain sorts this out and makes it an image, this image is the last step of just happened. You emotions are made from the chemicals in your body and this information is sent to your brain and change into awareness and is the last step again. So the example is you have the sense of fear hit you, isn't your choice of any action you take not just the after image of what your brain will react to before you become aware of it? Yes the difference in between noticing and the action might be so small it might be nearly immeasurable but it doesn't mean it's there. How are we to know that the thought comes before the choice when the conscious, the images, impulses, everything are all the result of data gathered before it?

Let's look at another perspective to define free will. Actions, let's say we can do them in two ways, which that can even be disputed. One, randomly, if it can be done randomly without an reason or impulse to do it, is it free will? If it's random then it's not in your control, and if it's not in your control is it really free will? And two, with a reason. Does experience not affect the choice you make? How can you make a choice without experience to have reason to choose it if it's not random? You yet again will choose something to benefit to your desire or needs at that moment and picking the opposite would just be your desire to pick the opposite in the end. Without a reason or desire a choice can't be understood or made and reasons & choices are made from experience and biological effects. At this point it should be clear that this isn't free will if you are just being manipulated by your experience and biology.

And as for morally, why laws? Why imprisonment? They aren't guilty if it's manipulation. Well this isn't just any manipulation. We should still imprison those that commit crime because we place laws for each other's benefits and we try to stop things that can cause long term problems or high risks which can be more unbeneficial. And yes in a sense it isn't their fault since it was the manipulation of their experiences and impulses, but it's to separate them to prevent further chaos and the punishment to help sway them from repeating the things as well due to the desire to not be imprisoned again. Some may not like the idea of them being described 'innocent' and even think that there is injustice in this idea, but an explanation in this is that some confuse revenge with justice. Revenge, the idea for an eye for an eye first starts to form after you learn to want to defend yourself from things harmful or have a negative effect on you. Justice is to bring order from the chaos, to put strong emotions aside as desires are what started the unbeneficial actions in the first place.
So in the end, even without free will, moral values are made, not by choice but by our desires and what we find beneficial for our nature.

Argue, criticize and ridicule and tell me if the subject was boring or if I just made it boring =D
I also realized I used more questions to an argument then actually stating things, damn it...

(Please inform me of grammar mistakes as well so I can fix them, thx <3 )

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Nyarlathotep's picture
heh, I'll just say that when

heh, I'll just say that when someone tells me I don't have freewill, I always try to respond with something really nasty (maybe a very rude action, or just a very rude statement). When they become upset and demand to know why I just did what i did: I just slyly respond with something like "you said I don't have freewill, clearly I didn't have a choice in the matter".

In my experience, everyone acts as if we do have freewill, even the people who claim we do not.

Mith Vahkar's picture
I like that idea, whether we

I like that idea, whether we accept or not that have free will can sometimes just come down to how you define it. Maybe we are acting it, maybe we aren't. In the end if we are acting out something the whole time and never doing the opposite, does that really make it an illusion? Maybe the act of it is the actual reality then.

Edit: I also want to try out that idea with giving a rude statement, etc and seeing their reaction =D

Travis Hedglin's picture
I think a lot of this seeming

I think a lot of this seeming discord is due to a breakdown in communication. I do not think even the most ardent defender of free will would argue that past experiences and education do not impact our actions in a major way, they just don't see that as being deterministic. It is essentially the idea that you can give someone the choice of something they consider good, and something they consider bad, and then considering it deterministic that one would prefer the good option. I think a lot of the philosophical conflict comes more from how the concepts are framed, a legitimate question that I think could solve this quandary is simply this:

Is a choice, that was influenced by something, still a choice?

The answer to that question is, essentially, the answer to whether one believes in "free will" or not. But if one answered no, then no choice could ever actually be any choice at all, because even circumstance could influence what one might choose.

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