I think that every person is able to make a choice at any given moment to be or to do differently. Nothing is stopping you to as you read these words, to take a plane to the other side of the world or to pick up a knife and rip your clothes. You are free to say whatever you want to anyone and do unto them as you wish (as long as you're open for the consequences). Your actions are steered by outside influences though. You won't take that plane because it's more important to stay with your family and job. And you won't rip your clothes because they're valuable. But the option and ability to do so are there.
And to be controversial is not something that many people do, although I know a couple of people who have taken less than 'normal' paths in life. I think that if you'd say that free will does not exist, that you can use that as an excuse for all your actions... which is not quite how things work. So yeah, I heavily believe in choice, even if the odds are against you choosing whatever it is (and it is possible to do so).
Thanks for your feedback, appreciate and respect your response. I believe that there are consequences of one's actions but the notion that we are in charge of our life is just an illusion. Yes you can "choose" what to do but that choice is influenced by your genetics, your upbringing, past experience, your state of mind at the time, your worldview, etc. So it is not really free will but you are merely acting out what your mind thinks is best in any given situation based on all these factors. There are a lot of subconscious processes involved and we become aware that we have made a "choice" and then the "self" (another illusion) gets tricked into believing that he/she has made that choice. It is a fascinating topic and recent advances in neuroscience are shedding a lot of light on how the mind works.
Well, all actions in life are either good, bad or neutral. If you commit a bad action, you can with your argument say that all those actions can be excused because of everything else than your own choice. Therefore: why put people in prison? Or condemn or judge anyone at all? Why praise someone's good deed, if there was no choice involved?
I disagree that genetics have anything to do with your actions (I take it that you don't include physical abilities or appearances in that). One consequence of that belief is that some people are involuntarily superior to others. I do reckon that upbringing and especially the surrounding culture has a lot to do with your actions, and this is apparent in many situations. Choice is always a consideration of which way you're prefer to go and of understanding it, but the choice is there. And it's up to you to decide which path you take, which choice you prefer. By the way, what do you mean with 'the self' being another illusion? (Sheer curiosity, really)
How do you define good and bad? I don't believe in good and evil as such but rather a non-judgmental awareness of what IS. There is no such thing as pure evil because for every "evil" action, something good will eventually arise from that. By sending a criminal to prison, it provides employment for the prison guards for example, allowing them to feed their families. By definition, it is impossible for pure evil to lead to something good. On the topic of prison and judgement, I believe that there are many broken people in prison that have suffered abuse and neglect in their past. Our efforts should be towards rehabilitation, forgiveness and building self esteem rather than just throwing someone in jail because they are considered bad. We are still human and feelings of judgement and revenge will arise when we have been harmed in some way and that should be respected also so the need for some sort of prison system will still exist. But if we are mindful of what leads a person to commit a particular act, it opens the door for forgiveness and acceptance.
By genetics, I mean our predisposition to alcohol and drug abuse, our level of empathy towards others (psychopathy), our level of sensitivity, our intellect, etc. This all plays a major role in the likelihood of a crime being committed. The word superiority once again implies something is better than something else which brings us back to the notion of good and evil. What is better, how do you define better? Also, morality as society sees it is not a constant, it is an evolving entity. There were times when it was ok to stone homosexuals to death or burn so-called witches at the stake or for us to keep slaves and treat woman as second class citizens. We have moved on from that. What was considered good/bad a couple of hundred years ago is not what we consider good/bad today. Which again points to the fallacy of using the words good and bad in absolute terms.
What is the self? If I were to replace one single atom in your body with an identical one, would you still be you? What if I were to replace all of them? What if you lost your arm or leg... would that still be you? Is the air inside your lungs and in your bloodstream part of you? What about the bacteria living inside your digestive tract without which you cannot survive... is that part of you also? These are some interesting thought experiments to ponder. The self is basically a construct of the brain, an illusion of a separate entity that we call me and you. It helps the human organism to survive but when you look into it deeper, what is the self? There is no little man or woman inside the mind that flicks the switches as it where, an independent entity that controls everything we do. The lack of a free will and a self is very difficult for us to accept of course because we FEEL in charge of our destiny. An interesting topic for sure, something that use to be the domain of philosophers but as we learn more about how the brain works, it is increasingly becoming a major field in scientific thought and experiments.
This is certainly interesting to read, thank you for expressing your opinion so thoroughly. I guess I understand now that we're both on different spectrums, both with well established beliefs... The main difference is that I believe in God, and that you don't. This makes an enormous difference in how we look at things and how we come to conclusions... I think it is probably for the best that I don't reply to everything, but that we rather take this as a broadening of our mindsets. We can talk further via notes though, if you wish
I think that is a very mature way of looking at it, broadening our mindsets as you say. I come from a very conservative religious family but have turned my back on religion some years ago as it really messed with my mind and just didn't make sense. Yeah sure, I don't mind chatting through notes at all... I am happy to continue this discussion or we can just chat
Many thanks for taking a look and for your kind comments! . Yes, I do believe that free will is merely illusionary. Me typing these very words is governed by my past experience, my genetic makeup and random chance. I don't have control over it even though I feel that I do! Also see some of my comments below. What are your thoughts?
I'll grant that a lot of we pride ourselves on as being 'ourselves' is smoke and mirrors (genetics; circumstances making indents on a basic personality template the way an artist makes marks on clay) but I do believe we still have some choice in the final outcome.
With your background in science, I imagine you are familiar with the writings of Sam Harris....
Thanks for your comments, I respect what you have to say. Yes, I'm a big fan of Sam Harris, I have his book "Free Will" and that pretty much convinced me of what I always felt was the case. He talked about some interesting experiments where the subject's brain activity was monitored by functional MRI imaging and how the scientists were able to tell up to 6 seconds in advance what the person's decision will be, before the person even became consciously aware of his decision. Pretty fascinating stuff. Have you read any of his material?
It's because the book you mention is on my exponentially growing reading list that I brought him up.
To be honest, even though I believe free will exists, the fact that it might not doesn't bother me the way I am sure it might bother some (supposedly?) autonomous beings. If you consider the philosophical implications, in some ways it could be kind of freeing. In any case, I don't imagine it will have much of an impact on our day to day lives. We all continue to live our lives as if we are making conscious decisions on a daily basis.
I agree. Neuroscience and anything to do with the brain and its shadowy (inhabitant/offspring/dance partner/whatever fits your world view) the mind is fascinating.
I feel that, somewhere between instincts, nature's choices, preferences of others, our primitive need for acceptance, our agony for recognition and the way we're growing up in a society that counts more what you say that you are and not who you really are...
...Pure, genuine free will is an illusion.
But, as human beings, living in a human world that we, in one way or another created. Freedom may seem more like an unbearable burden.
Because freedom means that you are responsible for every decision of yours, for every one of your actions or the lack of them, for every "Yes" you have have to say countless "No"...
So, i'm thinking, maybe free will is like a dream we need, or maybe a milestone to target even if we never conquer it.
Even wondering about it, searching for it, helps us balance...
There is no right or wrong answer of course, reality is a subjective experience... whatever you believe, so it is. I agree with the notion that freedom and free will can be a massive burden to carry. Every time we make a "wrong" decision, we castigate and punish ourselves, like we were somehow responsible. And we do it to others of course as well, even more so. When someone commits a crime, we blame that person, lock them up in jail or even condemn them to death. I think it is human nature to want revenge or to punish someone that has done "wrong" and we should honour that feeling as well. But maybe we can afford the criminal a measure of sympathy because everything in his/her life has led to the moment where the criminal act was committed. Everything in my life and experience is leading me to type this very sentence. If I didn't meet you here on dA, I would not be typing this. If I didn't have the past that I did, this would never have happened. The entire 14 billion year history of the universe is being condensed in this very moment. The same goes for a murderer before he pulls the trigger. But yes, I think it would be difficult for us humans to live in a world where we do not have the hope of free will, we need to feel in charge of our lives, of our destiny, even if it doesn't make any sense. But I think we are also better off knowing that we do not have free will... it leads us to have more compassion for ourselves and for others. We are all part of a giant big cosmic accident and that is not something to be feared...
Even if i know it and expect it. I'm overwhelmed from the fact that two human beings, strangers to each other until a few hours ago. Without having some kind of link that connects somehow their lives. Through unique pathways in life and different experiences, come to the same conclusion.
Your words are more than familiar to me. I'm happy for that 14 billion years journey.
...Reality is definitely subjective. I do like my reality this very moment.
Yes indeed! Perhaps I should have titled it differently, letting the observer make up his/her own mind, but I am in the camp of "no free will" in the philosophical debate on the issue and there is now significant scientific evidence to suggest that free will is indeed an illusion!