Do we have free will? Or are we just slaves to physics? Are we just the physical laws of the universe playing itself out? Many people like Sam Harris think we’re the universe’s puppet.

I think we have free will. And I also think free will has nothing to do with determinism. The more I think about free will the more I conclude that we really have no idea what it is.. However – I think that basically our “soul” is like a piece of software running on a meat computer we call the brain. And that this software is so very different than any software we have created that we don’t understand it or the property of it that we experience as free will.

I think that in maybe 20 years when we first create software that has agency, “I think therefore I am” then we will at least know what free will actually means. Maybe the computer will explain it to us?

Thoughts?

Also – those who don’t believe in free will have the right to choose not to believe in it if they don’t want to.

 



  1. ± says:

    Free will has everything to do with determinism. If the universe is deterministic, then what anyone does next was determinable 13.7 billion years ago at the Big Bang and at every time since.

    Also the mechanism of foreknowledge of an event is irrelevant. If I have inerrant knowledge that tomorrow at 3:01 PM you will pick up a pencil, that is what you will do, regardless whether you think you have freewill to do otherwise. It doesn’t matter how I have the knowledge, it just matters that I do. This is why an omniscient invisible friend in the sky means no one has free will.

  2. Kevin Roa says:

    Do people really waste their time thinking about such things?

    • spsffan says:

      It depends. Maybe they have no choice but tho think about such things. Maybe you have no choice but to ask if people really waste their time thinking about such things. Maybe I have no choice but to comment on your question.

  3. pedro says:

    The squirrel doesn’t have free will

  4. Tim says:

    I’m deterministically {?? some of those neurons are like a slot machine, these days ??} *thinking* that we have free will. Perhaps the solution lies along these lines —

    “”Lorenz expected to be able to predict the behavior of his weather simulation by entering the same variables. However, minute differences caused by computer rounding errors caused random behavior that produced unpredictable results in different trajectories that appeared to start with the same initial conditions.

    http://gakushuu.org/article/unpredictable-dynamic-systems


    Do you think there will be cake?

  5. reader says:

    “Invalidation is to reject, ignore, mock, tease, judge, or diminish someone’s feelings. It is an attempt to control how they feel and for how long they feel it.

    Constant invalidation may be one of the most significant reasons a person with high innate emotional intelligence suffers from unmet emotional needs later in life.(1) A sensitive child who is repeatedly invalidated becomes confused and begins to distrust his own emotions. He fails to develop confidence in and healthy use of his emotional brain– one of nature’s most basic survival tools. To adapt to this unhealthy and dysfunctional environment, the working relationship between his thoughts and feelings becomes twisted. His emotional responses, emotional management, and emotional development will likely be seriously, and perhaps permanently, impaired. The emotional processes which worked for him as a child may begin to work against him as an adult. In fact, one definition of the so-called “borderline personality disorder” is “the normal response of a sensitive person to an invalidating environment” (2)

    Psychiatrist R.D. Laing said that when we invalidate people or deny their perceptions and personal experiences, we make mental invalids of them. He found that when one’s feelings are denied a person can be made to feel crazy even they are perfectly mentally healthy.” http://eqi.org/invalid.htm

    War is a racket! It has created more invalids along with more debt nobody seems interested in. Fool everybody into doing the opposite of what their basic survival instincts suggest. Since they were fools to start with it’ll be easy and you know easy makes their minds up for them. Gee no thinking required.

    “What they say about a breakthrough is completely an illusion. They are sending their warplanes to fly very low in order to have vibrations on these sacred places.” Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf

    It’s all an illusion. Money is an illusion and it all disappeared. Now you owe them. “The world owes you nothing, it was here first.”

    • Tim says:

      please don’t take this the wrong way — Or do. I don’t give a shit…

      As the blogs’ somewhat tolerated squatter and drunkard alpha-male, I just wanted to saunter over your way and tell you that your bahgdad bob shit is starting to creep me out.

      pick some few relative lines of text and let the link suffice. Sometimes, this is not what we do but ‘damn clyde’!

      If you are a bot then get a soul already! You’ve got some good links. Don’t ruin it by sticking to IBM extended maintanence plans.

      • Tim says:

        umm. don’t go to soulsforbots.se …. that one causes ‘One is glad to be of malfunction,sir’ carry on

  6. bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist still in awe of the wonderment of it all says:

    Do we have free will? /// Yes.
    Or are we just slaves to physics? /// No.
    Are we just the physical laws of the universe playing itself out? /// No.
    Many people like Sam Harris think we’re the universe’s puppet. /// Only a few folks have the deterministic view…and I would only bet that a careful read of whatever he said would reveal a loophole the size of the Titanic ((all implications intentional)).

    I think we have free will. /// Exactly.
    And I also think free will has nothing to do with determinism. // … or just the opposite as it is a seeming exception to the deterministic model of physics at the non quantum level. You know—after the cat shits in the box.

    The more I think about free will the more I conclude that we really have no idea what it is.. //// Except you give ideas and conclusions covering the field. You are quite wishy washy that way. You need closure.

    However – I think that basically our “soul” is like a piece of software running on a meat computer we call the brain. /// There is no soul. Your love of mixing science and religion…. more inability to reach closure?

    And that this software is so very different than any software we have created /// we didn’t create it.

    that we don’t understand it or the property of it that we experience as free will. /// Just give it some more time, advances coming on strong. It is all brain chemistry…. yes “like” software/machine ware, but wet.

    I think that in maybe 20 years when we first create software that has agency, “I think therefore I am” then we will at least know what free will actually means. /// No we won’t. No contradiction there. We use lots of “things” we don’t understand to various degrees.

    Maybe the computer will explain it to us? /// No. Certain epistemological issues will remain unresolved conundrums. Life is like that whether wet or dry.

    Thoughts? /// Not a one.

    Also – those who don’t believe in free will have the right to choose not to believe in it if they don’t want to. /// Thats a different issue. The right to choose opposed to what you choose.

    Derp.

  7. bobbo, we think with words, and flower with ideas says:

    Hah!

    Quick google reminds me that Harris is a neuro-biologist. Thats pretty heavy meaning he has seen the brain scans of decisions being made before being conscious in the person otherwise exercising freewill.

    Excellent application for my nom de flame….. I chose it so well. Yes===freewill is what it is defined as, for me: what we experience when we have choices to make. Doesn’t even matter if said decision are reached deterministically when they are experienced as freewill.

    Doesn’t matter whether you think decisions are freewill or determined==>they act just the same. That other bobbo with the pragmatic existential frame of reference will no doubt agree with me.

    The seeming gibberish Harris spouts on the 2 videos I first glanced at are pretty much explained by Chaos Theory:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chaos_theory

    Its a beautiful morning.

  8. dusanmal says:

    Ah, the people who stopped at the Newton’s Physics (or earlier)…
    Modern state-of-the-art understanding of Physical laws deals a blow to “determinism”. Physics as we now understand it is based on likelihoods (to trivialize a bit). Car approaches a hill at the speed ox X mph. When will it reach other side of the hill? – Likelihood that it will be there instantaneously (never mind other non-deterministic possibilities for the end result) is NOT 0. It is small but finite and nothing that preceded in the Universe has any impact whether by chance that particular outcome will come true. Call it free will or chance but modern Physics has dispatched determinism long ago.

    • bobbo, we think with words, and flower with ideas says:

      Hmmmm….. while that may be (is!) true… does it actually address/resolve the issue?

      I recall in High School physics our teacher saying there was a very remote chance that if you release a pen from your hand it could float or go up rather than just have gravity take over. Same with walking thru a solid wall. His point was that if all the atoms in the pen/wall/body aligned is some way, you get the improbable result. The odds were like .9 with 9′s to infinity. Not addressing that .9 to infinity = one, what would all those atoms rotating the same way have to do with decision making?

      Just because one notion of physics kinda sounds like another one doesn’t mean one explains the other.

      Same with quantum mechanics. Just because an electron may appear in two places at once or act at a distance… what does that have to do with decision making?

      Know what I mean?

      • Dinner with Andre says:

        Suddenly I have a headache and lost appetite. Perhaps I’ll just have coffee or tea. I could choose either one.

        But now I’m worried about my choice and what it means.

        Help me HAL.

        • bobbo, we think with words, and flower with ideas says:

          ♫…..Don’t Worry……….
          …………………………………Be Happy……..♫

        • Tim says:

          fuckin’ fret about it for 5 more minutes… I’m sure ISIS will be along any minute to break the tasteocracy.

          hmm. it depends on what the meaning of IS IS is…

          • bobbo, we think with words, and flower with ideas says:

            Dayum!!! You mean the Middle East is facing the threat of a Double Clinton!!!–??

            Heh, heh…..it appears USA is too!

            Damn the Double IS.

        • reader says:

          I went through a near death disaster. I bought Tasters Choice. For the rough road go with Folgers. http://www.thehorsehospital.com/now/the-hobo-kings-and-queens-of-leanne-castillo/

        • reader says:

          Iraq’s Kurds Sell Oil To Israel, Move Closer To Independence

          Forbes-10 hours ago
          Kurdish forces warned Baghdad about the impending assault on Mosul. Since ISIS swept into Iraq, the Kurds’ peshmerga forces havce been …Kurds are the smartest ones there. All the people the US supported turned out to be morons with religious designs.

  9. Fabby says:

    It all depends on your definition of”free will”…

    If you’re Robinson Crusoe, yes, you have total free will!

    If you desperately need to take a leak and the only urinal available is my car parked over there… Well, heck no, you don’t have any free will!

    >:)

    • reader says:

      You can have my free share of Iraq. No charge. I’ll throw in my healthcare too. If dirt were dollars we’d all be in the black. Use sand dollars!

      • Tim says:

        “”If shit were worth something then poor people would be born without assholes — some black dude

    • Tim says:

      I’m sorry, was that you capsing at me to get my cock out of your Chrysler?

  10. Mr Anderson says:

    You have will, it’s not free.

    • noname says:

      A penny for your will?

    • reader says:

      It’s complimentary my dear Watson.

      “Some teachers work too hard. They spend time and wasted energy on battles that can be avoided and wars that can be prevented. In each school there is a gigantic waste of human resources. Time and talent are devoured by needless conflicts and useless quarrels.”

      • Tim says:

        My pussy itches. Is there some verse or inspired prose that might give me the gleefulness of emancipation from boxaginal pruritus?

  11. Cognitively Crippled says:

    You’re over thinking this existence thing way too much.

    Yes, humans and even ANTS have free will to do whatever they want. Anything with a brain has this. HOWEVER! There are these things called SKILLS which limits what we can do. And having SKILLS is where nature comes in and where you’re either naturally advantaged in a particular way or your not. That doesn’t mean you have to develop a skill though…

    So when it comes to humans and free will, we do have another added advantage — we have cognitive abilities which we can develop into additional skills that we might use in order to overcome or limit whatever nature left out (but not completely). The very fact that humans are the only creatures on earth who can engineer complicated things and precisely control their own environments — and each other (which is a huge realization here) — is proof of that fact.

    But if you want to look at “free will” itself, just consider how much free will you would have if all you ever had to do was figure out what you’re going to eat each day. For example, how much free will do you think it takes just to stay nourished? Think about it! Because as a human being, you also have the free will to do really reprehensible things like commit murder and rape! So do you REALLY think you have all that much control over your own free will? Now take it to more extreme levels where there are cultures and even LAWS which limit what you can do.

    Yes, we have free will. But just how much of that is actually “free” does seem to be the real question. And when you throw certain religions or even certain political persuasions into the mix you don’t even have the freedom to THINK — they took it away when they took away your ability to LEARN!

    • Cognitively Crippled says:

      … And if you want to get into the whole existence thing, one only needs to look at the human ability to keep and learn from a recorded HISTORY!

      So that whole life after death thing… Whatever you leave behind is whatever your “after life” is going to be. Therefore, I say make your own history a good one.

      One only needs to look at greedy bastards like Hitler or even Rockefeller to know what after life they choose.

      • reader says:

        History is bunk. The idiots have disarmed their own and armed the enemy. WE have the debts to prove it! It’s the land of the Fred and home of the Barney. Boil stones for soup. Space shuttles finished and the Jetson plan flopped. They got yellow cake and aluminum tubes in Iraq. Last thing you’ll see is a mushroom cloud blah blah blah. Mission Accomplished. FUD and scud miss…All your mortgages are junk and you lost $40K. It’s the bank ownership society. Your pensions are gone. Ha ha, we made bonus. Send money to NYC for big returns…Sign up for VA modeled healthcare. Invest in waiting room magazine ads…We’ll get you in in 6 months. Work the bonus racket. Your 401K is a 1K.

        It was a great place to live. Hey, at least it’s still a great place to die. The refugee count is growing. More homeless kids to support the big corporate plan. I think the plan’s not working. The kids pay for the war.

  12. Mr Anderson says:

    If you have no will, then you will not argue.

    • reader says:

      “Once you have felt discriminated against, for example, it is much easier to relate with someone else who has been discriminated against. Our innate emotional intelligence gives us the ability to quickly recall those instances and form associations when we encounter discrimination again. We then can use the “reliving” of those emotions to guide our thinking and actions. This is one of the ways nature slowly evolves towards a higher level of survival. In other words, over time, awareness of our own feelings may lead us to treat others in a more pro-survival way.”

      S.E.R.E.? Don’t argue, create angles and use geometry. Value aging. I know, they argue and have bad marriages. Marry your own sex, you’ll have more in common which might make up for a lack of common sense that seems to be growing. Iraq should approve gay marriage to have more growth and peace because peace is growth.

  13. bobbo, we think with words, and flower with ideas says:

    Actually, not always, but often enough to be worth your attention, you PAY for free will by the consequences of the decisions you make.

    Yea, verily!

    • reader says:

      Or the decisions he/she makes before the divorce. I didn’t agree to that.

  14. orchidcup says:

    Free will is an illusion.

    Humans are encouraged from birth to pursue wealth and social status, create progeny, and die of old age after retiring comfortably.

    I feel certain the only thing that will survive my passing will be a witty epitaph engraved on my headstone that reads:

    “I wasted half of my life updating my software.”

    • bobbo, we think with words, and flower with ideas says:

      Orchi–how is free will an illusion in your vocabulary/experience/philosophy?

      Doesn’t it quack, waddle, and have feathers???

      Whatever you want to think FW is, it is close enough that the differences don’t matter.

      Don’t you agree? …… the applicability of pragmatism and all?

      • orchidcup says:

        The other half of my life was wasted responding to the comments of bobbo.

        • bobbo, we think with words, and flower with ideas says:

          Well, that certainly does demonstrate your waste of time.

          Why not think instead?

          • reader says:

            If I had all the money back that I spent on booze I’d spend it on booze again.

          • bobbo, we think with words, and flower with ideas says:

            Did Timmy invite his whole gang to post here…. or what?

            Statistics confirm that 95% of Lotto Winners are broke within 5 years of winning. One such guy confirmed this: I spent 95% of what I won on fast cars, fast women and booze.

            I wasted the rest.

          • interogator 12 says:

            97.317% of software on ifones are closet apple apps.

  15. reader says:

    “In the absence of a conscience, behavior must be controlled by fear, threats and punishment, or by separation from society. This comes at tremendous social cost, and evidently is ineffective, given the overcrowded prisons and rising fines.

    It seems that laws are really only needed when conscience has failed. We might say that the more laws a society needs, the less emotionally intelligent.”

    It’s the leftovers from the Reagan punishment society aka the Bush hangover donorship society. The ownsership society plan failed. You broke it you bought it. You own Iraq. It’ll match your broken bankrupt press. We have Free Will and nobody is reading that crap. The busted Interstate in Delaware is another chemical dump which means it’ll reopen after a big cleaning project. They wrecked the roads and water supplies. They want you signed up for the new VA deathcare program. IGNORE!

  16. Tim says:

    Anyhoo,

    where there is a whip, there is a way…
    http://youtube.com/watch?v=YdXQJS3Yv0Y

    no, wait…

  17. reader says:

    The kids that aren’t refugees can spend the rest of their lives in debt paying for all the war debts. You can pay bad mortgages for the next 20 years and still have no home equity. They read the will and you inherit $100K, in debt. You were debt free. Gee thanks George W! Now we are bankrupt and the kids are stuck with trillions of toxic waste debt. Iraq is free though. Swell!

    • Hole says:

      You really do need to pull your head out of your ass there reader.

      That said, I do hear you and I too am outraged at the unequal and unfair treatment that an increasing number of people are getting simply because they don’t have enough money or a descent way to earn any. But the problem isn’t so much with the ultra rich who enjoy making us all miserable — as bad as that is. The problem is with anyone who accepts it! In other words, apathy is way more your enemy than anyone in Washington/Wall Street is.

      Anyone cunning enough already knows that a society will revolt if it is forced to change too quickly. However, people WILL accept nearly any horrible change if it is imposed on them little by little over time. Sometimes a huge terrible change takes a generation or two for the masses to accept. And since people don’t care to remember things (learn history) they are often ignorant of these small changes especially when it doesn’t necessarily even affect them.

      That’s not to say that change is necessarily bad. After all, change is the only constant we have in life. But just look at your own dollars if you need any clues. Check out the huge dick the American people were forced to swallow in 1913 when the Federal Reserve was instituted. The American people probably didn’t even think they swallowed anything. But just in case you were (are still) bamboozled, the “fed” is NOT part of the government (and hasn’t even been audited since the 1950′s)! Now look at the IRS which was created that very same year. And while your at it, take a look at the 16th Amendment which was ILLEGALLY ratified and which now allows the government to tax your wages. None of this existed before Democrat President Woodrow Wilson came into power. (Interestingly, Wilson was also the first president who was elected where women were allowed to vote.) So what you see happening today is just more of the same PROGRESSION!

      So go ahead and get pissed at the bankers, Wall Street and even Washington if you want. George Bush (either one of them) are not exactly innocent here either, and you’re quite right to be pissed at them too. But before you get too indignant (and hypocritical) you might like to take a look at where your own money flows. Because if you’re still using credit cards and don’t at least have your money in a credit union then YOU ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM!

      The same can be said if you always unthinkingly vote according to your political party’s wishes too. So pull your head out, learn a little history and then maybe we can talk.

      It’s been said that freedom isn’t free. You might even say the very same thing about education too — we all pay for it one way or another. Though, if you’re intelligent you can learn without too much pain. Unfortunately, I don’t see very many intelligent people (which could explain why we have so many ongoing wars).

      • bobbo, we think with words, and flower with ideas says:

        For being so well written with the historical scope and all, one of the poorest apologitics I’ve seen on this forum.

        Reader CORRECTLY states the most proximate cause of the Millenials not leaving home and you want to direct his attention to where he banks and what Woodrow Wilson did?

        Ha, ha….. So which Wallstreet Firm did you want to work at?

        You know====AFTER the Fed Reserve was establish, IRS, Wilson the USA had the most economic growth and largest expansion of the middle class ever seen.

        Now…. even if you disagree, surely not so much as to say that Reader and myself have our heads up our ass? Bit hyperbolic when removing your misdirection and straw men you have no argument at all and in fact express agreement??

        Wait until you have a real target before you shoot.

        Yea, verily. I wrote this with the exercise of my own minimally deterministic chaotic process.

        • Tim says:

          Well, theoretically speaking, it is possible to have your head up your own ass and a bulls’ ass at the same time —

          the solution is that you first stick the bull up your ass and then insert your head.

          • bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist and junior culture critic says:

            A turducken of sorts?

            Why the recipe?….. How many tangents must I jump?

  18. Peppeddu says:

    As long as there’s consciousness there’s also free will.

    Now, the $1,000,000 question is: How do you create free will with software?

    • Tim says:

      I’m sure there’s all kinds of projects out there foreverlorn to see about software writing itself — like enough monkeys eventually pounding out a shakespearean sonnet, it’s probably less computationally demanding than solving that next block-chain, these days.

      I’m sure it babbled around for a little while before it stopped making sense; what does not?

  19. Interesting question about free will. Whether or not it truly exists, it is a critical part of our justice system’s foundation. Belief in free will underpins society’s justification in imposing many types of punishment. Without free will, criminals would lack any ability to form intent, which is at the heart of many laws and sometimes critical to determine that a law has even been broken (fraud and murder, for example). Also, lawbreakers determined to have been insane at the time they committed their crimes are treated very differently from those who intentionally brought harm to others, and the difference is attributed to the reduction of free will in committing the act.

    Questioning free will is a philosophical exercise that can get very deep, but if free will were ever definitively disproven, we would be scrambling to rewrite our modern social contracts and the laws that uphold them. Whether or not you believe in something, sometimes it’s best to just pretend you do.

    • bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist and junior culture critic says:

      Not true. Punishment/treatment (what we would) would still be utilized for all the same reasons we do now.

      LABELS DO NOT CONTROL AN ISSUE.

      Silly hooman behavior is what it is. Whether it is freewill or deterministic it is what it is.

      Related, maybe what such a determination would do is move the criminal justice system more to a health system or even social support system. Too humanistic for the USA, but we are moving that way only because it is cheaper.

      We are silly.

  20. deowll says:

    In order for there to be virtue, the option to be otherwise has to exist.

    Free will may be partly an illusion in that certain behaviors get weeded out albeit the weeding continues.

    The do as I say part is basically some good advice that functions to keep you from self destructing and society operating in a more humane and self perpetuating manner. Individuals and societies are free to self destruct.

    At the rate bad laws, rules and regulations are being passed and bad choices made by citizens I see the US as being rather like the old USSR in maybe 20 yrs but don’t expect to have to deal with it personally since I have every reason to think my expiration date will arrive first.

    • RE@DER says:

      We are ruled by the dead. All the laws were passed by people long ago and the situation has changed. They voted for more debt. Screw them. I stayed home.

      I could see how “democracy” might do very well in a society of saints and sages led by an Alfred or an Antoninus Pius…

      Want democracy? Follow the money to Iraq. It’s consuming all the resources it proposed to protect.

    • Tim says:

      “”personally since I have every reason to think my expiration date will arrive first.

      In other words, should I get the fake butter or the real?? No, wait… Reno’s Radiation Free Reindeer Steaks or chicken Kiev {“Is good chicken Kiev. How to cook?”… “Cook?” } ??

      “”Yummmm…. Irradiated… Throw him in the cart because I’m expecting a blow and the fridge might go on the blink.

    • Tim says:

      “”personally since I have every reason to think my expiration date will arrive first.

      You never know — You might have a plane crash in the mountains going to YouRube the bumfights at the soccer game and be good to go for months on end…

      “”…Uruguayan rugby team stranded in the snow swept Andes are forced to use desperate measures to survive after a plane crash.

      Alive
      http://imdb.com/title/tt0106246/

  21. immovableobject says:

    Free will is an illusion, but a very compelling one. In fact it is so compelling that we believe that all our choices are deliberate rather than the mysterious percolations of our unique neural structure processing the stored residue of our life’s experiences.

    Even those of us who share my opinion about this will still treat each other as if there was such a thing as free will, because what option is there? We aren’t going to tolerate and excuse the violence and malice. We will hold each other accountable, even if deep down we understand that people do what they do because their actions seem acceptable to them at the time. Nor would we hope to find much in the way of sympathy from others for our own misjudgments and offenses.

    Yet deep down we know that each of use is actually doing the best we can with the hand we were dealt with.

    So in summary, free will doesn’t exist, but for all intents a purposes we must act as if it does.

  22. bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist and junior culture critic says:

    Freewill: that extended level of chaotic determinism that results in behavior that cannot be predicted, also that level of self awareness that experiences same.

    There ya go.

    Should we have a go with mutually shared illusion?

  23. reader says:

    If you can’t beat them http://funnyjunk.com/damn/funny-pictures/5196114/ Join them.

  24. RE@DER says:

    “Whatever unfolds, the Ucadia Financial System is a legitimate model that addresses the fundamental problems with complex financial systems and does so honoring the Golden Rule and Rule of Law.” http://blog.ucadia.com/2013/10/the-ucadia-financial-system-model.html