An argument for free will

Now, before I begin, I want to say that I’ve been a determinist. I understand that if we accept that cause and effect is universal, then we have no free will. Of course I couldn’t really give you an example of human action that had not been caused. There is always a cause to human action.

Now, one could argue about quantum physics, but even if it is true, it doesn’t necessarily apply to the human psyche. I’ll consider quantum physics a digression from my discussion.

Anyway after going over some arguments in syllogistic form, I was inspired to write a better argument for free will, because all of the arguments I read sucked. They really sucked.

The first problem with free will is that it is often defined as “the ability to do otherwise”.
This idea doesn’t really help it’s case, since we could never show that one could have done otherwise then what one did. Even if one had free will, one might still not do otherwise.

So, I would say that free will is the ability to choose between equal desires.

Now then:
(1)I have desires X and Y
(2)Desires X and Y are contrary to each other.
(3)Since they are contrary, I cannot simultaneously act on desires X and Y.
(4)Desires X and Y are not hierarchical. (We desire them equally.)
(5) The only cause for acting on either desire can be free will.
(C) Therefore free will exists.

Now, you couldn’t really deny (1) if the case is that it isn’t true, then we aren’t talking about the same case.

Now, could we deny that there are contrary desires? My example of a contrary pair of desires would be X=Wanting to stay home. Y=Wanting to go to work. Albeit, some people don’t want to go to work for the immediate benefit of going to work, but we still desire going to work, even if we see it as a means to an end. This is all that I mean by contrary desires.

To deny (3) is to say that we can simultaneously do contrary things. I can both go to work and stay home. One could nit-pick and say one could work at home. However, in this case I’m either not *going to work. It seems, prima facie, like theoretical bullshit to point out the distinction between “going” and “staying”. However, to not see this point is to miss my entire point or contrary desires.

Now, you could deny (4). That desires are non-hierarchical. This seems like the most plausible route. However, consider the way we “measure” how much one desires something. Had I chosen to go to work, you would say that I desired going to work more. Had I chosen to stay home, you would say that I desired to stay home more. Before I have chosen, you cannot say which I desire more. So what is the default position? That needs are hierarchical or that they are not? Simply having chose a desire doesn’t mean I desired it more, not any more than it means that I chose between to equal desires. I think this is where the debate will mostly take place.

Of course, you can’t really deny (5) without denying (4). If you said that there was another cause for my action, that cause would have tipped the scale and there would no longer be equal desires.

And now (C). If you didn’t deny any of the previous premises, then you would have to accept this conclusion. Provided the argument form is valid. (I haven’t taken a formal logic course, so that is also possible.)

Anyway, I think if we look at free will this way (The ability to chose between equal desires.) then it ends the free will vs determinism debate. Though, not in a decisive way. The heart of the matter is the existence of equal, contrary desires in a single individual. Where ever these exist, free will exists. Unless we can find a way to disprove that we have equal desires, we can’t really prove determinism is always the case when it comes to human experience.

To clarify, it’s not that I think I’ve proven free will, I just think I’ve found a way to show that it is just as explanatory as determinism and not any more unlikely than determinism.

You can deny 5 easily. A computer could easily be programmed to choose between two equally “desirable” options. You don’t need free will, you just simply need an algorithm that chooses between two equally desirable options.

When I was a kid, I lived with my dad’s girlfriend, who had 2 sons. The parents would buy a stack of like 12 pokemon card packages, and then hold them out in front of us. The youngest would get first choice, middle second, and oldest last, and then the cycle would repeat until all of the packages were chosen. I realized at the time, of course, that it didn’t really matter which one I chose (the packages all looked the same, there was no criteria by which to determine one was better than another), but I noticed that the youngest and the oldest (I was the middle) seemed to take a peculiarly long time making a choice that doesn’t matter. I decided, fuck it, it doesn’t matter so I’ll just consistently use this algorithm: If there are an odd number of packages on display before me (they were lined up like 1 2 3 4 5), I would choose the middle one (so 3 in the previous example), and if there are an even number of packages, I will choose the one 1/2 the number of total packages from the left (so I would choose 2 out of 1 2 3 4).

Like I said, that’s not free will. A computer can do that. Chess programs, for example, HAVE to be able to do things like that. If a chess program looks at it’s available moves and ranks them in terms of strength, sometimes 2 moves will be ranked the same. How does the program decide what move to do? Well, I don’t know personally, there are numerous possibilities, but I sure as hell know that it doesn’t reach into its magical free will factory.

Another factor in the free will/determinism debate might be this, albeit more intuitive than rational: Love is something which can’t be compelled or coerced, at least that’s what most of us believe, intuitively. If, as some believe, the highest spiritual value is love, and god IS love, and love can’t be coerced or compelled, what might that say about free will, either genuine free will or the perception of free will? Is love itself deterministic?

I do feel the inherent weakness of my argument, but just to be clear, you’re saying that you can explain a choice between two perfectly equal desires using determinism? More specifically, by taking desirability out of the equation and simply choosing what at “random”. (Obviously in a deterministic universe, nothing is truly random, but for a lack of a better word, “random”.)

My objection is with man, your abstraction of humanity. I believe that desires are hierarchical. The story by FJ accentuates this point.
Human propensity is to judge, to set hierarchies, some fanciful, some accurate, but just as important, reversible. We can change our mind. That is our inconvenient freedom. Even when we have good reason to do A we always look at the prognostic of doing B. our fallibility is our freedom.

That sentence tells me that you believe that free will exists.

My argument that free wlll doesn’t exist is because (1), you cannot grow another arm, change your eye color, nor anything else. But I imagine you have already heard that one many times before. Still true, though.

(2) If you did something you regretted and went back to that time with the same thoughts, the same emotions, the same environent, the same past and future, the same people around you, everything exactly the same, you would do that same regrettable thing again. If you really had free will, you could change that action. Think about it.

(3) You react to your thoughts, and you do not choose your thoughts, they choose you. Your thoughts choose for you, your actions. No free will for you!

(4) Your interests choose you, you do not choose them. And you do what interests you. You cannot do other. You will not do what does not interest you. You can do no other.

Please don’t respond with something like working at something you have no interest in, because it may be that you are doing something that you have no interest in, but really, you are still follwing your interest, because there is some very valid reason you are doing something you hate. Money, fear. You have a different interest, that’s all.

The thing aout seeing that you have no free will is that the idea frees you from circumstances. Lets you be more tolerant. Lets you feel less guilty. “Not my fault.”

I once went to an est training. Before we were to do an exercise where the trainer was to guide 300 of us to focus on a spot in our big toe, in the joint of that big toe, in the bones of the lower arm, etc., the trainer told us that some of us would become angry, some of us would become estatic, some would cry, some would become fearful, etc.

When the exercise was over and we shared our experiences, every one of those emotions were experienced by someone. Where was the free will there?

Yes i would think that there probably cannot be equal desires. Rather that never can two things be exactly equal or balanced, there is always one slight difference. but perhaps free-will still exists by fact of our ignorance: sense we do not know what exact level we may desire the two things we are liable to choose the one we desire less out of ignorance of our own desire.

That is mathematically provable.

That is irrelevant.

The only “free-will” is the freedom of obstacles, not the freedom of causation.

I don’t get this definition of free will personally. Even if I desire two things, equally or non-equally (although I’m not quite sure how we could possibly measure desires against eachother) their is still an emotional motive do do one or the other so any decision to do one or the other is not free will.

To me, free will is doing something opposite to what our desires and feelings urge us to do. Thats free will to me.

At least from my definition of free-will I dont even see what this argument has to do with it. Just becuase I can’t will my body to grow a new limb doesn’t have anything to do with free-will. Although it might have something to do with miracles.

Again I just dont see what this has to do with free-will. Poor example to try prove your point IMO.

This is only half true. We can control our own thoughts with conscious effort. Its could “self-talk”. But of course, if left to its own devises the mind will think for you (for some people this is a dangerous thing).

Oh com’on lol. Firstly many of my intersts have changed in life due to becoming better educated on matters I was previously ignorant for example I used to eat a load of “nice” but very unhealthy food but once I learnt a bit about nutrition I become more and more intersted in something that once bored the hell out of me…I have many examples of this. Secondly, I do things that don’t interest me every day. Just earlier I did my weekly ironing for example. Its noo good saying “this doesn’t count” because of some other underlying reason behind the act to doing the ironing because it doesn’t really hold weight. I go and buy lots of food once a week so I don’t die of starvation but this in no way proves that free-will doesn’t exist.

Huh? A lot of people on here seem to be linking free-will with emotions. I think its just the opposite. Its about a choice that we make independent of our emotions/motives/feelings/urges. To me thats free will. I know for a fact I have a certain amount of power over myself and my environment purely based on my free will.

I think the question we should ask is why we choose what we choose. I believe in free will, but I also believe humans rarely use it. Either too scared to be left out from a pack or they experience “the flow” much more convenient. Truth is a majority of your actions is determined by the greatest common divisor of your surroundings. On top of that you have genetics, telling you what to do or not. I never completely understood the free will vs determinism discussion, anyway. You can off course choose which road you want to drive on, but its still a road that leads to somewhere. To spot the difference between free will and automated behaviour is difficult though, and you’ll have to be a trained expert to do so…
Desires are non-hierarchical in a universal point of view. The universe, as a whole, couldnt care less if you stayed at home or went to work. Your boss would though, and here comes the hierarchy into the equation. All your desires are hierarchical. Thats what makes you, you. Funny thing is, that hierarchy, that you, vary depending on your surroundings, but that is a completely different debate.
Our goal, as human beings, should always be to break free from those greatest common divisors that we dont really want to be a part of, by using our free will…

Most people see this as a pretty essential example to the question of free will, actually. It’s a great example.

You see, if you agree that given the exact same conditions, the agent in question would always make the exact same decision, you’re pretty much a determinist.

Did you just label me? lol

Anyways, I personally see a small connection between free-will and wisdom which is why I don’t see that example as a valid one. But I guess i have a very different definition of the word so of course we will disagree on most matters surrounding it.

If you don’t see that example as a valid one, then you’re definitely using a different definition of free will than anybody who isn’t talking about compatiblistic free will, because for all incompatiblistic definitions, that example is paramount.

Idk why labeling you is something funny or weird. If I were to say “If you believe Jesus Christ was the son of God, you’re a Christian,” would you be offended that I’m ‘labeling’ people who believe in Jesus Christ? In all likelihood, no, that’s not how you would react. You’d see that sentence and think, “Yes, that’s not too unreasonable a definition of Christian.” What I provided was similarly a fairly reasonable definition of determinism – the belief that, given a certain set of circumstances, if all aspects of it were repeated exactly everything would happen the exact same way every time. If you believe that that’s true in reality, you’re by definition a determinist.

There are plenty of labels that apply to you already. Human, I presume, adult maybe, male probably. If you fit the criteria for a label, it usually doesn’t and usually shouldn’t bother you. If you fit the criteria for the label ‘determinist,’ then what’s the problem with labeling you a determinist? That’s how labels work. So let’s not be silly about labels.

Free-will = not caused by anything: motives, tendencies, character, education, desires, etc. Seems to be te common definition of the word and I certainly dont want to offend anyone but to me that seems like a silly definition. For example If I wanted to prove I had free-will I could pick up this cup beside me and put it back down but you would say that becuase my action was done in order to prove you wrong its not free-will lol. Free wil is just choosing ones own action. My actions are determined by my concious mind. I dont view the “free” part of it because of freeness from everything else rather I view the “free” part of it to mean that its MINE to do as I please with it (if i harness it)

I think many people may get confused becuase many people do not live conciously and instead operate subconsciously in a very automatic way. Which is why the Buddha calls it “waking up”. Most people think they are awake but they are not…most people think they are choosing their own actions but they are not… but that doesn’t mean that someone highly concious, highly trained, and “awake” cannot make free choices and choose his own actions FREE OF everything else.

Ok fine. But obviously I’m more than just a determinist. Labeling a person as one thing is rather silly. Human complexity makes sure of that.

I didn’t say you were only one thing. You’re still being silly about labels. Chill out.

I think what you’re saying is that the word “free” can only apply within a certain context or a certain paradigm. We can only be free relative to some possible encumbrance. The paradigm you’ve introduced is an excellent one, but not the only one possible.

I know this is a leap, but… if we’re going to talk about free versus determined in a relatively non-relative way (!), then we have to talk about whether the universe is a closed or open system. And at that scale, it’s hard to say anything at all meaningful. But that is the scale that most people are assuming, when they engage in the free will versus determinism debate. Personally, I think the binary concepts we carry with us simply aren’t meaningful in an ultimate sense. I mean, does it make sense to extract cause and effect from the reality of interdependence? To extract an ego from the complexity of human interactions? It has a usefulness to be sure, but it can have enormous side effects, if we are unable to take a step back and see the forest again. And then maybe take another step back. And then return to a world where there is both “freedom” and “encumbrance”.