the problem of freewill

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the problem of freewill

Postby TerraFrost » Mon Aug 15, 2005 8:46 am

the problem of evil is often cited as something that casts Gods existence in doubt (or atleast the god of abrahamic religions in doubt), but what about the problem of freewill? basically, why would an all-powerful being who values free will create a world in which the majority do not have freewill?

consider the society we have today. does true freewill exist in it? you can't act without having to face consequences. if you, as an admittedly extreme example, kill someone, you're excersizing your free will, but will soon be deprived of yours. also, through the act of killing, you deprive someone else of their freewill.

so do we have freewill? does freedom of will require freedom from consequences? and does this pose as much a problem for the existence of god as does the problem of evil?

(incidently, stargate sg-1 was the inspiration for this post - the ancients value freewill above all else but through their pacifism, let things happen that kinda threaten the freewill of others...)
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Postby Roadkill » Tue Aug 16, 2005 1:12 am

freewill has nothing to do with consequences. Freewill only has to do with choice. Consequence is a consequence of freewill. mya seem somewhat paradoxial but that's how it is. It only contradicts itself if you see freewill and consequence in the same word. The government can try to limit free will -- or the ability of the individual to choose his own path -- and may sometimes r even often succeed, but it cannot eliminate it. Choice is inherit in our need to live. Otherwise we act as caged animals.
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Postby shahmask » Tue Aug 16, 2005 2:56 am

president bush missed that part. :) well, among "christian" developed countries, he has missed that part the most.
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Postby paleofrrrost » Tue Aug 23, 2005 7:15 pm

Roadkill wrote:freewill has nothing to do with consequences. Freewill only has to do with choice. Consequence is a consequence of freewill. mya seem somewhat paradoxial but that's how it is. It only contradicts itself if you see freewill and consequence in the same word. The government can try to limit free will -- or the ability of the individual to choose his own path -- and may sometimes r even often succeed, but it cannot eliminate it. Choice is inherit in our need to live. Otherwise we act as caged animals.


I agree. In practical terms, unless someone has you in chains and is dragging you somewhere, you have free will. Even if someone is pointing a gun at you, you choose whether to do what they say or not. You may or may not take possible consequences into account, and you may or may not like the choices you are given, but unless you are physically being forced, as in "picked up and dragged," you are exercising free will.

Even a government as repressive as Saddam Hussein's could only exist because the governed chose to let it exist. They may have feared for their lives, but most of them chose to live with his regime rather than die trying to change it. A government may work to reduce your choices, but you as an individual still get to choose whether to go along with it or not.
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Postby tsian » Tue Aug 23, 2005 7:26 pm

Do you really have free will? (ignoring, for a moment, an all-knowing god which would somewhat negate free will's existance).

You make a choice based on inputs, right?

Given the exact same inputs, would you ever make a different choice?
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Postby paleofrrrost » Sun Aug 28, 2005 2:51 am

tsian wrote:Do you really have free will? (ignoring, for a moment, an all-knowing god which would somewhat negate free will's existance).

You make a choice based on inputs, right?

Given the exact same inputs, would you ever make a different choice?


Hmmmmm. Interesting question.

But, would it be possible to ever have the same inputs?

If you are presented with the same inputs a second time, you also have the memory (consciously or un-) of being presented with those same inputs previously, and you have the memory of your reaction to those same inputs, which constitutes a new input.

So, it's sort of an unanswerable question. Or it's a question based upon an impossible assertion.

Did you ask that impossible question of your own free will?

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Postby Exalted Ugu » Sun Aug 28, 2005 6:51 am

It's more of a logical problem with the concept of a 'free will'. I present two alternatives, either the inputs determine the outcome or they don't. In the first case, which i believe to be true, your actions are the result only of your life experiences, genetic neurochemical predispositions and the lifetime of interactions between the two. Your decision, was it possible to put you in the exact same circumstance again, would be the same, since it is as logical a decision as it is possible for a human to make. Note, it is not relevant to talk of your memories of past instances of the exact same inputs, since those memories are themselves an input. To be in the exact same circumstances is for practical purposes impossible, but this is a thought experiment.

The other case, were your action is not a result only of the sum of your inputs, means you are essentially random in nature. Your 'free will' is really a sort of internal die-rolling, and any moral superiority assigned to it seems misplaced.

Not that this has any practical value, but i believe that all human action is predetermined by previous events, as all observable macrophysical action is. Humans (and other life forms) are merely vastly more complex than simple billiard balls on a pool table, since we incorporate past experience into our action in a much more dramatic fashion than a cue ball does.


What i'm leading to, i guess, is the idea that to whatever extent humans can be said to have free will, that capacity is inalienable. It is simply impossible to reduce someone's freedom of choice. You can definitely restrict the range of choices, but there is always a choice involved. A man chained up and drugged almost to unconsciousness still has the choice of weather to rattle his chains left or right, to moan or groan, to move his head or his feet. Even direct physical force leaves you with choices, resist or acceede, complain or remain silent. You cannot EVER remove a human's power to choose, though to call it a free will is misleading. Better to say that whatever circumstances you set up for a live and conscious human, his past and being will always influence the outcome.

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Postby tsian » Sun Aug 28, 2005 6:56 am

That is a good elaboration / explanation of about what I was trying to say. Though, to be fair, we do live our lives as if we had free choice over our actions. This of course raises the question as to whether a perfect illusion of free will (or anything) is less valuable or important that the real thing.
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