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Free Will?

Do you agree with the claim from Sam Harris that free will doesn’t exist? Is our decision-making process determined by a combination of our genetics and up-bringing? Let’s discuss.

jonevanmoore 4 Apr 13

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There are so many levels on which to understand this question, I've heard answers ranging from the socio-political-economical to the cosmic (i.e., time doesn't exist ergo no free will). I don't remember which reason Sam Harris uses... for myself, I've recently been impressed by Lee Smolin's reasoning that if time exists, free will must exist... and vice versa... in which case I would agree that even with our genetics, our biology and our current socio-politico-economic climate, we do have MOMENTS in which we can exercise choice... however I'm still not entirely convinced that time does exist, so there's that.


A an example of socio-economic factors and their effect on Freewill. I did Aid work in Africa for 15 years, much of that in the field of HIV/AIDS. This was one scenario which I came across.

A poor, desperate woman with starving children is approached by a man infected with HIV. He asks to have sex with her and in exchange he will give her food for her children. Does she have sex with him, knowing that she may well die a few years down the line? Or does she say 'no' and take the risk her children will die today? It blurs the lines of Freewill.


I like the idea of Freewill, but it is tied to social-economic factors as well as many other variable factors in life. Also, I don't believe that Prophets and religious texts which predict the future can be correct if we have Freewill. A predetermined future and Freewill are not compatable ideas.


There isn’t yet a provable answer to this question. A persons answer informs you about their own mentality, not so much the universe at large. Those who think the universe is finite tend to believe in a more deterministic reality. Those who think it infinite tend to lend more credence to notions of free will.


Only a sociopath truly has freewill.


Who is this Will person and why does everyone want to free him?


Conditional/habitual responses don't preclude moments of true free will.

Just because we don't use it and ride along on neurochemical autopilot doesn't imply there won't be moments of choice.

Perhaps it's as mundane as choosing which ice cream, perhaps it's as monumental as quitting work, getting divorced and moving across the globe.

I've read his work, but there are still outlier moments of radical free will that are outside our default.


I still haven’t figured out exactly what they mean by free will. I get the feeling it has an esoteric meaning rather than just the generic sense of being able to choose which breakfast item you pick from the menu. It seems like a semantics game to me.

skado Level 9 Apr 14, 2018
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