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Q: Do I have free will? ( No Answer,   12 Comments )
Subject: Do I have free will?
Category: Science > Social Sciences
Asked by: eddwo-ga
List Price: $20.00
Posted: 05 Apr 2004 04:19 PDT
Expires: 05 May 2004 04:19 PDT
Question ID: 325337
How can I know if I have free will. Free will is usually defined as
the ability to make a consious decision internally and not be
constrained by exteral factors. But unless I can precisely recreate
the conditions where I made a choice and choose the opposite path how
can I know if the choice was ever truely there to begin with and was
not predermined by genes, chemical balance, brain structure or simply
random chance?
To recreate the conditions of a decision I would need to have the same
molecular, atomic possibly even quantum state within my brain which is
effectively impossible.
There are many situations where the brains consious interpretation of
events differs from reality. Our internal monologue tends to deny how
animalistic we are. We may find someone attractive based on their
scent and pheromones but we would tend to rationalize it as "a great
Perhaps our concept of free will is only a rationalisation of random
chance. A way to keep our internal story consistent and logical.

If the concept of free will is false can a person truely be
responsible for committing a crime?

Request for Question Clarification by tutuzdad-ga on 05 Apr 2004 13:14 PDT
If I answer your question and say you DO NOT have free will and claim
your $20, will you be satisfied, or would your reject my answer and
take your $20 back?

Be careful how you answer or you will answer your own question.


Request for Question Clarification by hedgie-ga on 09 Apr 2004 14:32 PDT
Hi edwo

This question can be discussed (at length) on several levels,

from contemplative (or mystical) mentioned by the sublime1

to summary of professional (metaphysical) philosopher's:

to one based on modern physics: (related to)  .

If, after your look at the above links, you would  want more analysis

based on physics worldview (and after looking at my other answers,

like this one )

you will narrow your question a bit in a clarification

invite me to  answer,

 I will answer your clarified question.


Request for Question Clarification by hedgie-ga on 09 Apr 2004 14:39 PDT

The  GA answer, I  wanted to refer to above, is this one
There is no answer at this time.

Subject: Re: Do I have free will?
From: poe-ga on 05 Apr 2004 05:04 PDT
Were you forced by an outside influence (person or happening) to post
this question, or did you do so of your own free will?
Subject: Re: Do I have free will?
From: eddwo-ga on 05 Apr 2004 07:08 PDT
I don't know. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but it might
have be caused by my genes, upbringing, recent reading material, or
just the cup of coffee I had at breakfast.

Is there a parallel universe where I thought about posting the
question but decided against it? If I were given the chance to relive
the past few hours could I choose to do it differently?
Subject: Re: Do I have free will?
From: tutuzdad-ga on 05 Apr 2004 07:28 PDT
Your question is one that has been endlessly debated without proof
that either side the argument exists. You probably won't find a
definitive answer to this question here. Your best bet is to state
which position you tend to believe and then ask for evidence which
supports that position. Both sides can probably be equally supported
with plausible explanations.

I would add this though. Realistically, free will does seem to exist -
but only once. In other words, you cannot realistically go back in
time and relive a moment and so the option of excersizing a diferent
option is not worthy of intelligent discussion. Therefore you HAD free
will with regard to this specific action ONE TIME and that action is
the path you freely CHOSE. You can contemplate your choices in
retrospect all you want, but the fact still remains that you made the
choice one time and one time is all you get. By suggesting that you
might choose differently if given the opportunity to back is time and
do it again (or recreate the circumstances, as you put it) is mixing
fantasy with reality and the logical with the illogical. The issue
cannot be debated intelligently using these different schools of

If you want to debate it as fantasy, why not go ahead and say you have
a magic wand or three wishes? If we do, then sure, whatever side you
choose is entirely possible because we can dream up a far-fethched
answer just as easily as we dreamed up the far-fetched question. If
you want to debate it on a logical level however, then free will is
most likley a probability, but still unable to be proven because we
cannot break from our logic and go back in time to find out.

An endless circle of debate.

Just my rant on the subject;
Subject: Re: Do I have free will?
From: poe-ga on 05 Apr 2004 07:48 PDT
Hi eddwo-ga,

I think you've just answered your own question.

You asked, "How can I know if I have free will?"

Your answer is, "I can't."
Subject: Re: Do I have free will?
From: probonopublico-ga on 05 Apr 2004 08:08 PDT
Free will isn't free.

It comes at a price.

And the price is determination.
Subject: Re: Do I have free will?
From: ipfan-ga on 05 Apr 2004 08:22 PDT
Remember: "If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice."

Rush, "Free Will,"
Subject: Re: Do I have free will?
From: sublime1-ga on 05 Apr 2004 08:44 PDT

You may be able to experience a subjective certainty, with
regard to this question, by downloading the Avatar Mini-Courses
and participating in the exercises contained therein. They are
available free from this page of the Stars Edge website:

Subject: Re: Do I have free will?
From: antispam-ga on 05 Apr 2004 13:06 PDT
I am assuming you understand certian desires are instinctual, and you
are asking if you have free will at all ever.  Therefore accepting
desires to eat, avoid pain, sexual preference, etc are excluded you
want to know if the classical definition of will exists in any context
in your presense.

Follow this line of reasoning:

If you are not sure, then you do not.
If that does not seem right, then you do.

No matter where you start in the process, it will lead to an equilibrium.  

Each individual is an imperfect copy of the real world.  Everything we
see touch smell experience is limited by our ability to measure the
real world.  Therefore our perception of the real world is forever
flawed, as well as our ability to observe ourselves.

Those that do not have the ability to see through thier eyes cannot
make judgements on visual light data.  I cannot see you make
decisions, therefore you are the only one that can truely answer this

Leading you further to the answer:  Those that do not have the ability
to decide, cannot understand the process.  Those that can make
decisions are consious of the effort.

Therefore you must decide that you have free will to have free will. 
Doing so will give you an understanding of what free will is.  If you
have not done these two things, you do not have free will.
Subject: Re: Do I have free will?
From: stephenvakil-ga on 05 Apr 2004 14:42 PDT
Regarding whether one can be held responsible for crimes.  I don't
know specifically what you mean by responsible, but even if we have no
free will, it is not illogical to deal with crimes in the same or
similar manner.

Think of a homemade butler robot that has gone awry and has begun
destroying your furniture.  Responding to this situation is not a
matter of whether the robot had any choice.  It is a matter of
correcting the problem.  Most likely you would isolate the robot until
you felt it was safe to let the robot roam free again.  During this
time,  you would most likely alter the programming, shut it down, or
any other number of actions designed to fix or delay the behavior.
Although the robot had no free will, it is still necessary to
Subject: Re: Do I have free will?
From: freedoms4tcom-ga on 19 Apr 2004 06:47 PDT
Five points occur;

1. Non-separation of memories in time-travel:

If you were given the chance to relive
the past few hours you would behave the same
because you would not know you were back in time;
your brain state and memories would be of that time again.

If you were back in time and your memories were privileged,
the conditions by definition would be different and
so would your choice.

How do you know you weren't given multiple chances
and chose the same one each time?

2. What do you define free choice as anyway?

-Freedom of the surrounding Universe?
Problem still applies regardless of "where" you are.
If you are free of the surrounding Universe, how come
you interact with it in every way otherwise, and why
does no other phenomena apart from parts of human brains do this?

-Infinite intelligence?
So what are you doing asking questions?

3. Blind Desires:

Why is free will, an apparently contradictory notion,
so important to you? Because you want it to be so, and,
having convinced yourself that it exists, no arguments
about it make sense. Wouldn't it make more sense that
there is no free will and the simple arguments are correct?

We ask questions about;
the physical Universe (too big to
get on a lab table, but some small observations can be made),
god (defiantly too big for any table), and
ourselves (often found on tables anyway).
Of those, we can examine ourselves; one of of three is better than nothing.

Isn't it enough that we are the most intelligent and dominate
species ever found anywhere?
We are animals that think we are gods.

4. Size matters:
We appear to be living in a deterministic Universe,
but that does not mean it is predictable, certainly not to us.
The Universe is a very big place, and so are the limitations of
our experience and our brains: I do not think there is free will,
but it does not matter because we might as well have it.
(ie, The illusion/reality/implications is/are sufficiently good/valid.)

5. Roulette:
Article in NewScientist point's out that will independent of
surrounding World would be like having a roulette wheel inside
your head: You would make decisions that are illogical, and that
would be a contradiction of sensible intelligence.

New Scientist's "Human Nature" feature
24 May 2003 (No2396) Pg39, Col2,
"Free will, but not as we know it" by Daniel Dennett,
director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at
Tufts University in Massachusetts.
Subheading "Was there a way out of this fatalism?"
(Which I brought because of the article by the Dalai Lama in it.)


The Greeks had an idea of randomness; sometimes the atoms just swerved:
The idea of interdeterminism, a sort of exemption from causation.
But it'd be like having a roulette wheel inside your head:
That wouldn't make you free or responsible for your actions.

Many philosophers think there's no incompatibility between
determinism and freedom. It's a mistake to suppose
determinism and inevitability imply each other.

Inevitability means unavoidability.
In a purely deterministic World, "avoiders" can evolve.
('Goes on to observe this in the "Life" virtual computer world.)

Many contemporary philosophers think that we should learn to live without
illusions. (Free will, god, afterlife, visitations, etc.)
Isn't it enough that we live in a world we appreciate as beautiful
without ignoring it to chase an impossible dream?

I think spiritual advancement means changing Human Nature, perhaps by
teaching children how to avoid many of the holes that there are for
us to fall into in life. What that is, is less clear at this point.
Subject: Re: Do I have free will?
From: jasminecorp-ga on 24 Apr 2004 14:54 PDT
Being a computer programmer I have comparied human brain's working vs
computer. Computers react consistantly the same way to a given set of
conditions because they are programmed like that.

But human brain can be given the very same set of conditions yet human
brain can make a decision either way. There are many external things
that can influence a human brain but in all those conditions human
brain is capable of making a decision that doesn't depend on the
present state of that perticular human being.

When God created Adam and Eve He gave free will to Adam and Eve. He
gave a command that you should not eat the fruit of the tree. The
command was there and pressure was there and devil presented them with
another choice and they took a decision that they are going to eat the

They chose one from two contradicting choices. Choice was wrong and
clearly had consequences.

In the same way God gives a person choice to choose Jesus God's son or
reject Him. Choice is his or her's. That choice will determine the
destination beyond the life on earth.

Vinod Isaac
Subject: Re: Do I have free will?
From: stimucrank-ga on 02 Jun 2004 21:03 PDT
A determinist will argue that there is no such thing as free will.
They will argue that all events are the result of causes and that
because cause and effect obey given, see it rules free will is

Someone who believes in free will also believes in causation. This is
because they believe that there will can cause of something. However,
someone who believes in free will believes that causation functions
differently. Cause and effect obey different rules in this case.

Both a determinist and someone who believes in free will believe in
causation. They just believe in different models of causation

A determinist believes that cause and effect follows rules that cannot
change and that cannot include free will. Someone who believes in free
will obviously believes that the will somehow is included in the cause
effect relationship.

The question, do I have free will? Presupposes the question is free
will possible? This from my above comments asks the question, what is
the nature of the cause effect relationship? The answer to this
question will also be an answer to your question.

Those who claim to have an adequate description of the cause effect
relationship are often scientists. However, scientists only have
empirical evidence to support their claims about the nature of the
cause effect relationship. Empirical evidence has been proved to be
wrong on many occasions therefore it is not infallible.

Certainly if you claim to know the answer to the question, do I have
free will? You must also know the true nature of the cause effect
relationship. I disagree with some of the comments made above in that
there is no possible end answer to this question. I believe that the
nature of the cause effect relationship can be discovered, it may not
have yet but it can. Certainly just because we have not answered it
yet does not mean that it is not possible and nothing in the above
comments demonstrates to me that it is not possible.

Just my thoughts

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