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I'm leaning towards "free will" being an illusion. Convince me otherwise.

So after listening to Sam Harris' thoughts on free will, I tend to agree with the logic that states humans and indeed all sentient life having no completely independent free will to make their own decisions. Our thoughts are dictated by the current state and development of our brains and our current external conditions, the causes of which can be regressed back indefinitely and completely out of our control. I believe Stephen Hawking alluded to as much when he theorized that the Big Bang set off random movement of matter that determines the path of everything that followed.

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ssjtin 4 Dec 29

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To me, Sam's thoughts on this subject are highly philosophical and theoretical. I'm no expert in this field (actually, neither is he), but if I decide to drink another glass of wine instead of shooting my neighbour, to me that exemplifies free will.

My thoughts, not yours...


You posted this question. That's a proof of free will.

Robert Anton Wilson once wrote a dialogue between Pavlov's Dog and Schrodinger's Cat on this subject...

DOG: I have twenty proofs that we're not free.
CAT: I have one proof that we are.
DOG: What's that?
CAT: Who asks, "What's that?"


Wish I could vote, but there are only two options. So in regards to this poll there is an illusion that the question posed can only be one of two options.


What do we mean when we speak of "free will"? The word "free" has different meanings or senses. Meanings of words do matter,because most words have more than one dictionary meaning. We have to know just what it is we're talking about, before we can discuss it profitably.

Excellent point. This is very important to clarify. It would be simpler to dispose of the word "free" here and simply paint the scenarios.

Number 1: Of course we can make decisions at will, we decide what movie to watch, what to eat, who we want to communicate with, and so forth. Those decisions are made somewhere inside our brains, and then it appears in our conscious mind as "hey, I made a free choice!". However our brain chemistry, brain development, external environment, family upbringing, social influences, all of these things ultimately dictate the choice our brain makes, and they are all completely out of our control. And if one of those factors is seemingly in our control, the causative factors allowing that control to occur can always be regressed back to an origin that is again outside of our control. In the end, everything we ultimately do is a victim to circumstance.

Scenario 2: Much simpler, at any point in time, we have some innate ability to make a completely free choice independent of everything that has ever happened to us.

To believe in scenario 2, I think we would have to agree with the following two ideas;

a) regardless of the tumour pressing on his amygdala and stimulating his anxiety and fight-or-flight reflex, mass murderer Charles Whitman is completely responsible for his actions and could have chosen not to commit those acts.

b)if a time machine did exist, and I rewound time to the moment just before Mrs X decided which movie to watch, she would make varied decisions each time. Because she is completely free to make any choice she wants irrespective of all other factors, it follows that the results would be different.


Free Will exists in the moment, for sure. "Do you want fries with that?" for example. But as your life moves on, your choices tend to get more restricted, either by previous choices you have made (example: having a baby) or physical limitations (not skiing anymore because of bad knees).
Someone not able to use free will usually feels terrible (why we use incarceration as punishment).
To deny free will exists would lead to terrible hopelessness.....unless you believed everything was part of Gawds Plan, i guess........
And may I say I grinned a lot while reading this thread?!

I like your thinking. The one thing I'd like to point out is that to deny "free will" in the context of this discussion is different to the denial of free will in the context of incarceration.

My conscious mind tells me I chose Pepsi over Coke, but in reality I was always going to choose Pepsi. Yet even though I'm leaning towards the "free will illusion" side of the fence, it doesn't cause hopelessness for me. If it's true, it's just another reality that has no consequence except ones we assign to it.

Just like; we are made of stardust, in 7 years or so no single atom in our body right now will still be with us, and so on.


If, by "free will", you mean choices are uncaused, no. If the principle of causation operates everywhere in the universe all the time, then every choice we make is the result of casaul factors , e.g. genetics, neural activity in the brain, external and internal events and how they effect us, all the things we've learned,etc.

If,on the other hand, you mean free in the sense of not being coerced or manipulated, or making a conscious choice, then yes, we have free will.



Do I believe in free will? I have no choice.


Some people do not want to except the premise of not having free will due to the fact that they prefer the illusion of possessing it

That’s a good one


I can't vote, I still have my training wheels on for this one.


And to take the extreme example, a brain tumour pressing on certain parts of the brain causing someone to commit murder. In the case of true free will, you must believe that person should have the ability to reason and think outside of just what is happening in their brain, which is outside of their control.

You make perfect sense

do that person kills every one within their reach?

Charles Whitman, the famous bell tower sniper, killed 16 people including his mother and wife. After his death a rather large tumour was found in his brain, possibly pressing on his amygdala. However the link between his actions and the tumour were never proven. @GipsyOfNewSpain

@ssjtin Do the Link to his rifle ever disproved? ...and we are discussing tumor but not weapon of choice of distraction... here is your nra at work servicing us. With all due respect to the medical establishment.



I find myself agreeing with you. Where the two sides need to find common ground is where in the timeline does free will come into existence. Presumably most of us believe the big bang set matter into motion, and the formation of stars, planets, plants, trees, wind, ocean, primitive life forms all just happen, no free will. Then more advanced life forms, do people think these animals have free will? Chimpanzees? Or just humans?

I find that the belief that just humans have free will is a somewhat egocentric driven view.

Excellent point. I agree with that. It is absolutely true that not only mammals have the ability to think, All living matter thinks or responds in favor of the unit itself. Meeting people who believe they are the superior species, allowed to rule by providence, make me avoid them in the future


Assuming we mean Free Will regarding the human mind>
I would agree with the concept of everything is result of the previous events and since the Big Bang, Bounce, bubble etc, each event indeed triggered the next adjusting to the new variables existing.
However, we as a homosapien, have a conscious which consist of predetermined events also. But the odd thing I find is that when we talk to our self, we do carry on a conversation, The mind believes it exist in this illusion and it has free will to do what ever it wishes to do But will we get the results expected, maybe not

EMC2 Level 8 Dec 29, 2017

Sam Harris likens the concept to that which states we are all made of stardust. It's true, and of course we don't feel like we are stardust and it has no effect on our lives , it's just truth. Even if you accept that free will is an illusion, it simply doesn't matter and it's not an excuse to shift responsibility for your actions.


Genetic determinism (which I believe in ) may sound bad, but the alternative -that our lives are ruled entirely by the circumstances surrounding us sounds pretty depressing to me.


It makes sense that once things were set into motion they would follow a certain and, if one could comprehend everything, predictable path. A good point was made here though, does that mean we are not responsible for our actions? I guess it was determined at the point of the big bang I would write all this.....and this too....


does that mean im also not responsible for my actions since i didn't have the free will to choose not to do things 😉

You still get to make decisions and you are responsible for them on a personal and societal level. But on a grander scale, that can never be a decision made in a vacuum. Every mental and physical faculty you use to make that decision is out of your control, your up bringing, your parents, the way you brain reacts to events and stimuli.


If there is no free will, you won't get to choose an answer, no matter the argument.

skado Level 9 Dec 29, 2017

There has to be true free will.


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