Is Free Will Just an Illusion?

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HAGART
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Is Free Will Just an Illusion?

Postby HAGART » 21 Oct 2013 20:22

This is related to lucid dreaming because in a lucid dream we make choices and think about what we want to do before we do them.
Even in non-lucid dreams we make choices, but they tend to be gut reactions and we don't weigh the possibilities in our logical minds before doing them.

There is a very good chance that all our choices in waking life and in dreams are mere atoms and electrons acting due to cause and effect and every choice we made was just the universe unfolding in a predetermined way. It's hard to fathom because to realize it, you would need to think faster than thought itself and that is a contradiction.

Those are my initial thoughts, and I am interested in this.
If we all lucid dreamed this world would be a better place.

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Summerlander
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Re: Is Free Will Just an Illusion?

Postby Summerlander » 21 Oct 2013 20:39

Well, I don't. I think it's an incoherent concept. On a classical level, the universe is deterministic, it follows cause and effect and we are a part of such construct. Not even quantum mechanics, with its probability framework, escapes determinism kick-started since the Big Bang.

In fact, even if one posits the existence of a soul, the notion of free will is still incompatible. The soul's urges to do something are just as mysterious and certainly dependable on what happens environmentally and how one feels about it. Likewise, a soul is also no explanation for a life force or consciousness. One would also have to ask how is a soul conscious? It does not even begin to address the problem.

So, you are as free to decide your next move as you are free to decide what card you will play next. The decision-outcome is constrained by the rules of the game, how things pan out, how one feels about how the game is going, and, of course, the hand that one has been given (which one did not pick).

You did not pick your genome, your gender, your family, what happens to you, or what country you are born. All of these things are beyond your control and you merely behave accordingly because all that you are is atoms and molecules following cause and effect. Free will is an illusion.

Someone who is a manic depressive cannot help this, due to his brain states, and this may lead to his decision to end his life. But this is not a decision from free will. It is an urge that one could not help. Brain states dictate that the will to die is stronger than the will to live in this case. We have will, but it isn't free.

As neuroscientist Sam Harris once put it: "You can decide what you decide but you cannot decide what you will decide."

As the late intellectual Christopher Hitchens once quipped: "Yes, we have free will...because we have no choice."

Many people will find it hard to accept that there is no free will because it makes judicial punishment, or any form of punishment for that matter, seem immoral. Despite our attachment to the erroneous notion of free will, most of us are well aware of the fact that brain disorders alone can trump our best intentions in mind. Sam Harris said it well in his "Free Will" thesis:

"Without free will, sinners and criminals would be nothing more than poorly calibrated clockwork, and any conception of justice that emphasized punishing them (rather than deterring, rehabilitating, or merely containing them) would appear utterly incongruous. And those of us who work hard and follow the rules would not 'deserve' our success in any deep sense. It is not an accident that most people find these conclusions abhorrent. The stakes are high."

"Free will is an illusion. Our wills are simply not of our own making. Thoughts and intentions emerge from background causes of which we are unaware and over which we exert no conscious control. We do not have the freedom we think we have."


Not only are we not the conscious source of our thoughts and actions in the present, we also would have behaved exactly the same as we did in the past, contrary to popular belief and no matter how much we may regret certain actions. If we went back in time and adopted the exact same original brain states that corresponded to the past actions we would have behaved no different and would have felt exactly the same as we did.

If, however, we went back in time with the neurophisiology that we possess at present (the one that has the regretful memory of certain past events) we would indeed be able to act differently. But not because of free will. Because we would have brain states with extra experience and thus capable of using that as a point of reference - and provided that we remember those past events too. Recalling, as everyone knows, doesn't happen when we want it to.

Furthermore, science comes in with experiments such as that of Benjamin Libet's. An EEG showed activity in the brain's motor cortex arising 300 milliseconds before a person feels that he has decided to move. Other labs extended the experiment using functional magnetic resonance imaging. In Free will, the experiment is described as follows:

"Subjects were asked to press one of two buttons while watching a 'clock' composed of a random sequence of letters appearing on a screen. They reported which letter was visible at the moment they decided to press one button or the other. The experimenters found two brain regions that contained information about which button subjects would press a full 7 to 10 seconds before the decision was consciously made. More recently, direct recordings from the cortex showed that the activity of merely 256 neurons was sufficient to predict with 80% accuracy a person's decision to move 700 milliseconds before he became aware of it."

I would even argue that even if cerebral activity happened at the same time as the conscious decision, it would still not give credit to the free will notion for obvious reasons (from cosmological determinism to environmental influences on sentient beings). One might, however, decide that free will, even if illusory, is too strong and too important to discard - as in the compatibilistic view (as opposed to hard determinism). However, I do feel that ignoring facts is not the answer.
"Empty cognizance of one taste, suffused with knowing, is your unmistaken nature, the uncontrived original state. when not altering what is, allow it to be as it is, and the awakened state is right now spontaneously present."

- Padmasambhava

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Re: Is Free Will Just an Illusion?

Postby deschainXIX » 21 Oct 2013 22:24

Interesting ... It's true; there's no free will because every "decision" is based entirely upon genetic influence and environmental stimuli... Regardless of nature/nurture debate, everything is predetermined by natural balance and imbalance.
Unless, of course, there was spiritual (or temporal) influence from something outside of our dimension or universe meddling with natural course, which would ruin any sequential chain of events acting and reacting to things happening after the Big Bang. And if you believe multiverse theory, it's impossible for there not to be a universe out there that has influenced ours.
Well said.

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Re: Is Free Will Just an Illusion?

Postby AceOfSpades » 21 Oct 2013 23:39

Free will is not an illusion. Even our inhibitions are based around choice.

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Re: Is Free Will Just an Illusion?

Postby HAGART » 22 Oct 2013 00:42

I think free will is an illusion.
The best we can do is have will power. We can choose to do something unpleasurable now, knowing it will have benefits in the future. Like quitting addictions or dieting. So if you do quit and change your life, you feel good and consider it something you did by sheer free will. But that was just will power. There's a difference.

In actuality all matter and energy moves in predictable ways, so I think my entire life could have been predicted. And since my brain matter is matter too, all my choices as well. To predict it, it would require a hypothetical super computer that knows the placement of every atom and it's energy and movement ect. in the entire galaxy, but I think everything is unfolding as it should in a predictable way. It's cause and effect with so many variables that it's too much for our meager minds to comprehend.
If we all lucid dreamed this world would be a better place.

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Re: Is Free Will Just an Illusion?

Postby Summerlander » 22 Oct 2013 01:53

As we've mentioned in our didactic posts, AceofSpaces, choice is "pre-decided" by our physiology without our awareness. Consciousness merely hijacks the responsibility because it is the spotlight where things are seen to emerge in perception.

Consciousness is like a supermarket that brands the Fairtrade product with its own logo. But it did not make it despite selling it as its own

The product was made abroad. Abroad means the chemical processes that we are not conscious of and do not control, which in turn are influenced by external factors such as the environment and course of events.

Our will is not free. Unless, of course, you have a valid refutation besides your insubstantial and obdurate two-phrase post?

Thus, I maintain. Our will is not free and choice is constrained by urges we do not control. You are either going to feel like eating chocolate or you won't. You will either eat it if you feel down and need to perk up (or whatever) or you don't (perhaps you're allergic).

Again, I pose the question: where is free will? Give us an example...

I like Hagart's smoker's will power. It is certainly not free will. Someone who has tried to quit after 10 years has finally managed to do it. Why did he not do it after 5? Because he did not have the will power. His will to quit was not as strong as his will to smoke. His brain chemistry did not permit this until after 10 years.

What made him quit? Perhaps he used patches to help him. Perhaps his family urged him to stop due to healthy or finance. Perhaps someone close to him died of cancer. Whatever it was, it was not free will - it was changes in his physiology effected by the environment.

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"Empty cognizance of one taste, suffused with knowing, is your unmistaken nature, the uncontrived original state. when not altering what is, allow it to be as it is, and the awakened state is right now spontaneously present."

- Padmasambhava

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deschainXIX
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Re: Is Free Will Just an Illusion?

Postby deschainXIX » 24 Oct 2013 01:42

Every single little thing that we don't notice consciously is picked up regardless. Every line of thought or feeling is inspired and based upon external (or internal) stimuli that was caused by something else, creating a chain going on forever. A slight little shiver of wind hitting you could lead you to certain thoughts even if you didn't notice it. Nothing is caused by nothing. There is no action without a reaction.
You could say that while in sensory deprivation your mind creates hallucinations of its own. But all of that is just hypnagogia picked up by your subconscious and conscious throughout your life and projected.
Do you see? Agh this is so hard to explain.
Well said.

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HAGART
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Re: Is Free Will Just an Illusion?

Postby HAGART » 24 Oct 2013 03:18

It's hard to explain but you either get it or you don't.
Every night is a moment of sensory deprivation, but the void gets filled with subconscious data beyond my seemingly free will.

Then sometimes I am lucid and that's another story...... do I have free will in those or does it just seem so. Who is the "I" in that sentence? I question 'I' in lucid dreams and wonder if I am just a dream character crafted by my mind from a different vantage point, with a POV all it's own.

It makes me wonder what free will is to begin with. Since I lose it every night during hypnagia, I should be an expert by now, but I'm not. And I wonder if I have it at all when even awake. IT REALLY MAKES YOU THINK.

I question the ego sense of self identity when I think about these things and I think that is a construct of my mind too.

I don't know who I am anymore!..... :lol: When I sleep I lose myself. It gets deep, but its fun and I like to keep it all uplifting. But let's get deep. Again, it's hard to explain and I will try to word it better next time.
If we all lucid dreamed this world would be a better place.

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Summerlander
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Re: Is Free Will Just an Illusion?

Postby Summerlander » 24 Oct 2013 08:33

Even when we lucid dream we still don't have free will. Whatever we wish for in the dream world is driven by prior causes before we even become aware of them. Before we even know that we want them the potentials in cerebral activity have already begun to peak due to prior causes beyond our control.

I am yet to see an example of free will here or anywhere else.

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"Empty cognizance of one taste, suffused with knowing, is your unmistaken nature, the uncontrived original state. when not altering what is, allow it to be as it is, and the awakened state is right now spontaneously present."

- Padmasambhava

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Thinker
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Re: Is Free Will Just an Illusion?

Postby Thinker » 24 Oct 2013 15:38

HAGART wrote:I think free will is an illusion.
The best we can do is have will power. We can choose to do something unpleasurable now, knowing it will have benefits in the future. Like quitting addictions or dieting. So if you do quit and change your life, you feel good and consider it something you did by sheer free will. But that was just will power. There's a difference.

In actuality all matter and energy moves in predictable ways, so I think my entire life could have been predicted. And since my brain matter is matter too, all my choices as well. To predict it, it would require a hypothetical super computer that knows the placement of every atom and it's energy and movement ect. in the entire galaxy, but I think everything is unfolding as it should in a predictable way. It's cause and effect with so many variables that it's too much for our meager minds to comprehend.


I don't know if your life could be predicted if we consider that there are random events...or it's like Poincaré once said, random events are just an ilusion and are the events wich we have no explanation of how they work, and therefore we think they are random?
Determinism may be confused with Destiny and that is wrong if there are random events. Because thing are not meant to be...there are a lot of probable futures. Still, there is no free will, because we are determined by the random events too, like the weather (I'm not sure), Chaos Theory? Summerlander, you have thoughts on this?

I think the main idea is that our choises are motivated by subconcious belief, so, our actions are caused by those concepts that were created by experience (social interaction, etc)

A challenge to determinists: The action off raising my hand ''has free will''? I can choose to raise it to the left or to the right or just with more 20 degrees. It's determined that the person will raise the hand, but is determined how It will occur?


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