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Do You Have Free Will?

Virtudes, de Rafael, na Stanza della Segnatura...

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Most people take it for granted that they exercise free will, yet the evidence seems to indicate overwhelmingly that they don’t.

1) If God knows everything, including the future, that means he knows what you are going to do before you do it. Hence you have no choice about what you are going to do. Hence you have no free will.

2) Everything has a cause. Human actions, choices and decisions have a cause. If something has a cause, a specific effect will inevitably follow. If you are part of an inexorable chain of cause and effect, at what point can you make a free choice? According to the philosophical position known as determinism, there is no such point. Hence you have no free will.

3) According to the contrary position – indeterminism – some human actions, choices and decisions, do not have a cause and hence are free. But if an action is uncaused i.e. there is no reason for it, then it is random, purposeless and pointless. Hence there is free will, but it is contrary to the cause and effect evident all around us, and it results in uncaused, random behaviour. And that is not what anyone realistically means by free will.

4) Compatibilism asserts that a distinction must be drawn between causation and compulsion. An action can have a cause and still be free provided that no compulsion is involved (like having a gun put to your head). But if the causes of your actions are ultimately given to you by your genes and/or by your childhood environment where your character was moulded, then these were things over which you had no control, hence your choices and actions are governed by forces outside your control, hence you have no free will.

5) Agent causation theory says that an action is free when an agent, and nothing else, causes it to happen. But there is no clear definition of what a free agent actually is. Is it the free originator of an action or is it the constrained by-product of forces over which it had no control (such as genes or environment)?

6) Imagine that a supercomputer could be built that could create a complete simulation of both you and the world you live in. Imagine that every detail of your life was perfectly programmed into it. Imagine that the simulation of you and your world was run a day in advance of your life and it transpired that 99% of the simulation exactly matched what you actually did the following day. Most people are extremely predictable. Their daily routines are well known. Their tastes are known. Amazon can send you book recommendations based on your previous book choices and mostly get it right. Advertisers can easily manipulate you. Opinion pollsters can accurately determine your likely voting preferences simply from your zip code/postcode.  Friends and family can predict what gifts you will like and dislike. You yourself know the experiences you are likely to enjoy and those you will probably hate. You seek out the former and avoid the latter. Your life seems to run along railroad tracks. So in what way are you really free? Hence you have no free will.


3 responses

  1. Damn…feel like I am being forced into making a comment here….urrgghhh…resist…resist….ah feck it!!!!
    hi free nice post!

    April 5, 2011 at 10:40 am

    • Never any force here buddy, just a bit of arm twisting by proxy lol, great to hear from you, by the way I am also looking into the royal stuff (crown estates).

      April 5, 2011 at 11:36 am

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