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Is everything predetermined or do we have free will?


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This is a philosophical question, not a political question. It is something I have been wondering about for quite some time. What is freedom of will? Do we have freedom over our actions, or is everything predetermined by god, laws of causation, genetics or whatever? And if you don't believe in free will, then why bother 'trying' to change anything?

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  • 1 month later...

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We decide about our future. But nowadays, Politicians found the way to change our will. So we decide about the future they want us to have. They achieve to do it through TV, scheduled economical crisis and MONEY! We can't do anything without money. We can't even live without money. So they decide about us. Humans with power is what makes me to afraid. You see, we are the players of their game. That's all I have to say and believe me I am not overdo it...

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Well, we can do whatever we want with our lives. But do we really want to do anything? I mean, can we take the consequences if we go beyond the rules? I personally believe that everything has a limitation that's why we have rules and the law. Did you ever imagine what would happen if we don't have that? Well, maybe the world would be a horrible place to live in.

I really think that we would never go wrong with following the rules as they are set to control everything to its proper place.

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I believe that we have free will. If there was a "god" out in the universe, many things that are happening, wouldn't be. I understand that he can only do so much in a sense, but if he were all powerful, I don't think things would be as bad as they are right now. Millions are suffering and "god" allows it.

Free will is something that every person can use every day. Yes, there are limitation around us. But you can change how you live your life by making simple choices. If you want to be poor, and live off the government, you can make choices that put yourself in that position. But if you are currently poor and want better, you can make changes, including going to college, taking courses that help improve your skills and other important things.

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  • 2 months later...

This is a very fun subject to talk about, and really it depends on how you frame the question. What you mean by will, god, and a handful of other ideas. I certainly believe god has a plan for me, however my definition of god can change the meaning of this. If I were Christian I would mean something totally different than if I were say a Buddhist. As it turns out I'm neither of those, and I mean something different from either of them.

Speaking from spiritual and religious terms I believe in a animistic world view. I believe that all life has spirit and is all connected. The only thing stopping me from asking this bell pepper plant I repoted yesterday if it likes it's new home, is a lack of a meaningful form of communication between me and the plant. I do what I'm going to do, and the world keeps going around with me. From this point of view the idea of god as an ethereal separate entity dictating the individual actions of many seems unlikely.

At the same time though I'm torn, my physical reality dictates my actions more than anything. For instance, today for breakfast I will not have steak. I don't have a lot of money and there is none in the kitchen. I will not go buy a new house today, nor will i go swimming. Again I'm broke, and it's also the last day of October and kind of chilly outside.

It's a fun thought process though.

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“You are free to do what you want, but you are not free to want what you want.” -- Schopenhauer

This quote from Schopenhauer says it all. I don't think there's a higher truth than this. And I don't think whatever I say can express more, or better, than this one sentence. However, as I love saying the same thing in different ways, repeatedly, I'll go ahead and have my say.

This is one topic on which I've written a number of articles, and it seems I'm always on the unpopular side. No one likes the thought that they have no control over their lives. It appears to be the quintessential human feature that we have free will. Otherwise we're nothing but automatons. Like cows grazing in the field, awaiting the axe to drop on our neck.

But it's not that we don't have free will. We do have it. In fact, I've argued that to say "free will" is a tautology. The will can not be will if it is not free. No other creature has a will; all they have is instinct. Humans are the only species that have a will. And to have a will means to be able to decide you want something, and then to take steps to get it.

However, as my guru Schopenhauer says, what you do not have control over is the desire itself. You do not control what your inclinations are. You, or more correctly, we, do not have any control over the desires that arise within us. We can control the desires -- that is free will. We can choose to suppress the desire. But the desire itself comes through no decision of ours.

The question of this discussion is: "Is everything predetermined?" Well, yes, and no. If you mean by predetermined that some higher being or authority has decided what I am to be and do, then that is not correct. But if predetermined means what is in our genes, then yes, it's all predetermined.

Of course, whatever is in our genes only determines our character. That is, our likes, dislikes, predilections, etc. Remember, though, that the environment plays as great a part, if not greater, in what we shall experience in life.

So, free will, yes; yet, it's all predetermined. And this is not a self-contradictory statement, though it does seem paradoxical.

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At the same time though I'm torn, my physical reality dictates my actions more than anything. For instance, today for breakfast I will not have steak. I don't have a lot of money and there is none in the kitchen. I will not go buy a new house today, nor will i go swimming. Again I'm broke, and it's also the last day of October and kind of chilly outside.

I wouldn't call that physical reality dictating your actions, I would call that physical reality limiting options that you are free to choose. For this topic we should narrow it down to very simple and basic actions like raising a hand, or deliberately blinking or holding you breath. Buying a house, choosing a major or things like that have many factors that need to be considered. It complicates matters unnecessarily.

If you choose to raise you left arm instead of your right arm, all things being equal, is it an act of free will or is not? Or, if I ask that you close your eyes and count slowly to 3 - and assuming that you have done that - would you say that you acted out of free will or would you not? If not, then why?

@Karim

If you deny the existence of free will, then I can understand why you would classify your position as being on the unpopular side. However you say this:

So, free will, yes; yet, it's all predetermined. And this is not a self-contradictory statement, though it does seem paradoxical.

That depends on what is included in 'all'. If 'all' includes my choice of doing something, then I can't see how it isn't self-contradictory, and more than just seemingly paradoxical.

I can accept that I can't choose my desires. I can even accept that I can't change my desires (through no ordinary means or perhaps not at all).

I can't accept that I can't choose whether or not to satisfy my desires, all things being equal. Right now I desire to see a movie. I choose not to. I still desire it though.

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  • 9 months later...

I am an atheist so I don't believe our actions are determined by god. I believe we are 'active agents' in history, we can control our own destiny - within the confines of the system we live in. I don't believe our actions are determined by our genetics, our phenotype is constantly interacting with the environment.

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