Friday, January 2, 2009

Do we have "Free will"?

Consider one of the “Great Philosophical Issues”: that of Free will versus Determinism.
Do we humans have free will? Are our choices and actions determined by outside forces (or even inside mechanical forces not having to do with the results conscious choice. Well, maybe the point is that we can do what our conscious mind decide to do, but what they decide to do is determined).
By determined, I mean one of three agencies causes the action: (1) mechanical or physical forces (biological "hardware" is included here, e.g., genetic causes), (2) randomness, or (3) past experience. It is interesting that it is (3) that many social scientists refer to when they say we are determined ("nurture" rather than "nature").
One of the problems with arguing against determinism is: What does free will even mean? If an action is not caused by mechanical forces, randomness, or past experience, what can it be based on. Doesn't it really seem that these include every cause we can think of? I mean, when the "you" decides to do something, isn't that due to your physical state and your past pattern of action (your character). Even postulating the existence of a soul or spirit whereby one's consciousness transcends nature doesn't seem to offer a way out, as the same possibilities seem to exhaust things there too, (since “hardware” would now the stuff of that world). It is often thought hat quantum mechanics suggests free will because of the random nature of things in its view, but it is not clear to me that this is the case because what comfort is it to think that randomness is a factor in our choices. surely this is not what free will means. True, quantum mechanics does suggest a way out or room for free will, but it doesn't seem to help understand what it is.
There are problems with determinism also. Why can't we say to the advocate of determinism "you are just advocating that position because you have to!"? In other words taking and defending a position seems to assume we're not determined by any of the above three things. Or you wouldn't be trying to convince me since my position is determined too. In other words, how can an automaton arrive at the truth that it is just a robot; then it would think that because it was programmed in (or it was programmed in as a possibility to be thought in case of certain random triggers), and we would then ask if the program were "validated" against the real world.Perhaps, as philosopher Martin Gardner has suggested, the whole problem is insoluble to us beings that experience their reality "in time". In other words, maybe the paradox is only resolvable "outside of time"…..if there is such a thing.

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