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Sat 19 Sep 09 #1 
Sammi
Contributor


Hey guys! I'm taking this class called Philosophy Through Film and today we were talking about whether we have free will in our decisions or not. So.....I'm posing the question to you, people of Facta! I have to go to another class soon, so i'll post what I think later. But please let me know what you think! You can take the side of Libertarians, determinists, or anything else! My class had a really good discussion about it and it kind of got me going, so let's hear it!

Free Will: We have the choice between different possible options and choose for ourselves the path we take. (Note: People who believe this (Libertarians) believe that most, not always all, of our choices our free, while some are not.)

Determinism: Determinists believe that while some options may seem possible, in reality they aren't and people are forced to take the only possible option. (Note: Determinism is not the same as PREdeterminism which states that our lives our planned out by some being.)

Have fun with this one!


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Sat 19 Sep 09 #2 
Sammi
Contributor

Alright, here's what I think:

I think that maybe I am a bit of a determinist, but I'm not necessarily sure it's a bad thing. I used to think that it was all about free will because I wanted to believe that my decisions were my own and therefore I had maybe a bigger hand in shaping the world around me, but I think that determinists can still believe that too. I think that it's not as though some divine being is up in the sky making me do things or that he can control me as he wishes. What I do believe is that there's a reason for things to happen the way they do. I do do things that I want and enjoy doing and I do some things that I probably shouldn't have done, but they happen in order for other things to happen. If anything else had happened, the world would be an entirely different place. I think that there needs to be a balance on the Earth and between people that no one can really see or measure, but if it were tipped, bad things could happen, so people need to do things in order to keep the balance. It's not that they're supposed to do something, it's just that when it comes to their decisions, only one choice will keep the balance most perfectly and that's the one they choose.

And as for saying that no one is responsible for their actions if they HAVE to do things, well I guess I'd have to say that maybe they just have to be put on trial and possibly go to jail in order for that balance to remain. It's not blaming them for their actions, it's just what has to happen.


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Sat 19 Sep 09 #3 
scmwns

I would have to go with free will. I don't think most things on the earth are in balance; as a matter of fact, just about any system that humans can affect and which can be studied exhibits imbalances ranging from mild to extreme. I would think determinism, unless it is a destructive force, would tend to alleviate or repair damage to systems. Of course, there's always the argument that it is doing exactly that but on a scale unrecognizable to us; ie, it views us as an infection but is taking it's own, sweet time to eradicate us. On the other hand, free will is a marvelous option for ruining just about everything; weather, the oceans, society, genetics, economics and so on. That's why I believe in free will, because we're surrounded by the results of our bad decisions rather than the results of any logical and self-repairing system, which I imagine is what determinism would be. It's interesting, though to read such research as was done by the Planck Institute, showing brain activity in subjects related to arriving at a decision a full seven seconds before they consciously made a decision. Open to interpretation, however.


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Sat 19 Sep 09 #4 
kevg
The Grumpinator

This is really a loaded question because it presumes we all start from the same standpoint. A kid from the slums who has little or no parental direction is going to take the direction to escape , by whatever means is available. Is that free will or determinism ?? Lack of a foreseeable alternative channels us into actions we may not take if an informed choice is available. Similarly a "rich kid" will take an option to escape what they see as a humdrum life. Sometimes the excitement of crime.
Whilst I am sure there are guiding factors built into our psyche I see it much more in terms of our environment and parental direction. Can we really compare the psyche of a child from the slums of Bombay to that of a Paris Hilton ??


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Sun 20 Sep 09 #5 
JMK
Editor

Just because there are different factors influencing our decisions does not mean we have any less freedom to make that decision. Sure logic will point us in the direction of a particular choice and that will definitely be influenced by past events, but we are still free to make that decision. You just need to look at how many bad decisions are made to know that.

There is some interesting research coming out now about wisdom and decision making. It points to human beings not being the logical rational beings we would like to think we are. Instead we are incredibly irrational and illogical. Many of our major life decisions (where we live, who we marry etc) are made with our hearts (figuratively speaking) not our heads. But we definitely had the free will to make them.


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Mon 21 Sep 09 #6 
jmaxg
Contributor

Ya see, it's all about this....

I wanna travel down a path of choice, but there is a big, burly guy blocking my way.

Now, I could take another path, in which case is it free will, or I could just hit him with a four-b-two and kick him in the nuts, also free will.

NOW, my decision to hit with four-b-two and kick him in the balls may now be considered as NOT free will, as indeed my decision NOT to take the other path is also not free will, all because this humongous bastard was there in the first place and he blocked me forcing a decision based on him either way.

BUT ON THE OTHER HAND, if I'd just gone to Burger King, like I originally planned, this conversation would not be taking place.

I offer you your moment of zen.

:-)


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Fri 25 Sep 09 #7 
Possum
Contributor

So the movie "Free Will(y)" was really a deeply philosophical movie, and not just a cute film about trying to rescue a killer whale?


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Fri 25 Sep 09 #8 
jmaxg
Contributor

I thought "Free Willy" was about a philanthropic gigolo!

Oops!


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Fri 25 Sep 09 #9 
Sammi
Contributor

BAHAHAHHAHAHA!

So besides the question of Free Willy I think we've got some pretty good points on here. I'll add more later (I'm going home today :) ) to bring up points disputing both sides. We've had class for three or four weeks now and we're still on this subject so it's obviously very broad and of course, we'll never know who's right, but it's very very interesting to think about I think.


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Tue 29 Sep 09 #10 
Sammi
Contributor

Right! So here are some points made against determinism:

If we have no choice in the paths we take, then how can we punish someone? Or by the same token, how can we reward them? If we punish someone, for example, we are saying that they SHOULD have done otherwise. So doesn't that imply that we COULD have done otherwise? Should we really punish/reward for something they didn't really choose to do?

Also, what about deliberation? Before making decisions we deliberate, so doesn't that kind of mean we HAVE a choice? Why would we sit there and deliberate if there's only one path we can take?

Now, you all know my point of view and I dispute all of these claims, but I had to put them out there ^_^


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Tue 29 Sep 09 #11 
Possum
Contributor

I completely agree. Nothing is predetermined (except for fixed lottery drawings). Otherwise, like you said, how can you punish a criminal for doing what he was predetermined to do?


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Tue 29 Sep 09 #12 
Sammi
Contributor

Unless the path of him not being punished was impossible.... in which case that's determinism. All paths but one are impossible.


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Tue 29 Sep 09 #13 
Possum
Contributor

Who would do the determining, if there is determinism? Don't say G-d; he just put us here and he lets us go about our lives.


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Tue 29 Sep 09 #14 
Sammi
Contributor

Here's how my philosophy teacher reasoned for determinism:

1. Every event has a cause (as stated by the Principle of Universal Causality)
2. Human Actions are events.
3. Therefore human actions are caused
4. In other words, all human actions are determined.

Makes more sense than any way I could have put it ^.^


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Tue 29 Sep 09 #15 
Sammi
Contributor

No one determines it. it's just that nothing else can happen. there's only one path we can take. Think about it. Have you ever taken more than one path? That is, have you ever made two condradictory decisions at once? have you ever chosen to be asleep and awake? Have you ever been at home and at work?


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Tue 29 Sep 09 #16 
Sammi
Contributor

And even the others that aren't so obviously contradictory.... you only took one path. Not both. You can have pizza or salad or both. But you can have just pizza and just salad.


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Wed 30 Sep 09 #17 
JMK
Editor

Don't quite see the reasoning behind that. Sure you only choose to take one path but who says you could not just as easily have chosen the other path. That is where the free will comes in, the freedom to choose which path to take and accept the consequences of that choice. My choice may be influenced by other events - if it is a very cold day I may choose pizza instead of salad - but the choice is still mine to make.


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Wed 30 Sep 09 #18 
Sammi
Contributor

But you can't really say you COULD have made a different decision because you didn't.


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Wed 30 Sep 09 #19 
JMK
Editor

The essence of it comes down to whether that choice was mine to make or made for me. If so, as Possum asks, who determined it?


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Wed 30 Sep 09 #20 
Sammi
Contributor

No one!


Here's another thing about determinism:
Determinism could also be that we will always choose a path that is in our best interests. Its still determinism because We're only going to pick that path and the others, while they may seem possible, won't ever happen because we will always take that one path that's in our best interests. We don't have a choice between pizza and salad, really because its in our best interest to pick pizza which will warm us up. If we'll ALWAYS make our decisions that way, it's not free will, really.


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Wed 30 Sep 09 #21 
JMK
Editor

But who determines what is in our best interests - we do. An outsider viewing us making a decision may think that logically that is completely the wrong decision to make but we do it anyway. Plenty of times people make decisions which weren't actually in their best interests.


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Wed 30 Sep 09 #22 
Sammi
Contributor

Somehow it was. That's what I think, at least. If I joined the soccer team just because my parents wanted me too, it's still in my best interest to make them happy even if I hate haaaaaate soccer. We punish criminals because it's in our best interest to get them off the streets. We deliberate because it's in our best interests psychologically to understand where our decisions are coming from.

There is always some factor which puts that path just over the others. Also, I'm talking about best interest at that point. Someone may choose to copy someone's test in class because it's in their best interest to pass, even if it's not in their best interest to get caught.


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Wed 30 Sep 09 #23 
JMK
Editor

Sounds a bit like a "have your cake and eat it too" type of argument.

Who says it is in your best interests?


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Wed 30 Sep 09 #24 
Sammi
Contributor

I do based on external circumstances. Other events, experiences, and all that.


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Wed 30 Sep 09 #25 
JMK
Editor

So it is your choice.


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Wed 30 Sep 09 #26 
Sammi
Contributor

Nope. I don't decide it's in my best interest. It just is. Because based on everything else that happened to me before that, it's what's in my best interest, so it's what I'll do.


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Wed 30 Sep 09 #27 
JMK
Editor

So all decisions we make are in our best interests? I don't think so somehow.


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Wed 30 Sep 09 #28 
Sammi
Contributor

I'd say give me an example, but you can't really....There are a million billion causal factors that could affect what's in your best interest. I mean they could be for reasons we don't even know....Really old memories or something we heard in passing or we subconsciously associate with something else....


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Wed 30 Sep 09 #29 
kevg
The Grumpinator

there is always the old standby, "it's Gods will" which is just about what your philosophy teacher is saying I think. We all make decisions which at the time seem for the best, if they don't turn out well some bright spark comes along and says "why did you do that ?". It seemed right at the time is the only proper answer for whatever criteria is used. Why must it be either/or ?? Is the world black and white ?? Mine has some strange shades in it, as you can imagine.


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Wed 30 Sep 09 #30 
JMK
Editor

Rather not start imagining anything to do with how your mind works. :-)


Don't think you can have an each way bet on this one though. Either we are completely free to make our own decisions or they are always determined for us. If the latter is the case then why bother to even think about the decision. Just put the choices in a hat and draw one out. If it is pre-determined we will somehow be drawn to the one that is in our best interests.


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Wed 30 Sep 09 #31 
kevg
The Grumpinator

My best interests are to buy a big bike but I haven't got any money. So I might have to steal one. Which does that come under ?? It's free will to steal it but pre-determined cos I've got no money.


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Wed 30 Sep 09 #32 
Sammi
Contributor

Ugh....not PREdeterminism....that's not

If you put it in a hat and I pick it I do it cause I picked it and I said I would and that's the way the game works. Or (like if it says kill kev or something) I don't do it because of other factors that make it more in my interests not to do it.

:D I've got answers to everything, lol.


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Wed 30 Sep 09 #33 
JMK
Editor

I think the prisons and cemeteries are full of people who did not make a decision that was in their best interests.


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Wed 30 Sep 09 #34 
Sammi
Contributor

There are lots of unhappy people everywhere. Unfortunately....but without sadness there can't be happiness right? Without good, no bad....People take the paths they take because there are no others possible and because that's what's in their best interests. Unfortunately, other people are choosing paths at the same time and not all of them can end happy. It's sad, but true.


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Wed 30 Sep 09 #35 
Doctor Factenstein
Evil Genius

So, whatever decision you make it's in your best interest? "Everything is for the best in the best of all possible worlds". You should read Candide, Sammi - because you're starting to sound like Dr. Pangloss.

You're arguing that you make a decision based on the information you have and that, ultimately, there's only one option you could have...so it's determined. However, there are plenty of choices we make where two possibilities are equally beneficial to us or equally practical.

I'm about to go and buy some lunch. Should I have a mexican chicken baguette or a chicken and bacon baguette? Shall I follow that up with a maple and pecan biscuit cake or a caramel shortbread? Both of these choices have two equally viable options.

There are certainly decisions that we make that do not turn out for the best for us. It's a nice reassuring thought to have this idea that everything happens for a reason but does it really stand up to scrutiny? What if the decision you made was to hop on to a plane and that plane was hijacked? Is that for the best?

Your teacher's reasoning is more than a little flawed, I'm afraid:
1. Every event has a cause (as stated by the Principle of Universal Causality)
2. Human Actions are events.
3. Therefore human actions are caused
4. In other words, all human actions are determined.


The main flaw is that it uses the Principle of Universal Causality as the starting point. This isn't, however, a fundamental law - it's a philosophical theory. You can't prove the Principle of Universal Causality so you shouldn't start off with the assumption that it's correct and use it to prove other things.

In short, your teacher has used a determinist theory to prove determinism.


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Wed 30 Sep 09 #36 
Sammi
Contributor

Haha. I'm glad someone made that point. The PUC is very flawed. Like for example, what caused the beginning of the universe? What caused that? what created energy if it can't be created or destroyed? I don't really like this reasoning at all, but it doesn't make me believe in determinism less.

As for the decisions, like I said before. There are a million reasons why you something is in your better interest than another. You can really make up your own example of something because there is a lifetime of causal factors which go into the one decision made.


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Wed 30 Sep 09 #37 
Doctor Factenstein
Evil Genius

But isn't that just a rather glib argument? Aren't you basically saying that the reasons why you make a decision, the things which inform your free will, are actually causal factors? Isn't it then just a matter of semantics?

For example, I actually got to the shop and decided against either of the chicken options - going for smoked ham instead. Why? Well, I'm friendly with the staff in the shop and they mentioned that they had some smoked ham that they'd cooked in-store that morning. It wasn't generally on sale but...as it was me. So, I decided that I'd change my mind and go for the smoked ham. It looked good.

Now, you can say that there were several causal factors. The fact that I had no real preference when going into the shop, the smell of the ham, my relationship with the staff and so on... You could say that because of these causal factors, there was no real decision but that my choice of ham was inevitable.

Alternatively, you could say that these were the factors which lead to my decision. You could say that they were the reasons behind my decision - but the decision was still mine.

The question then is whether the decision was informed by the factors or enforced. The truth, of course, is that we don't know, can't know and don't need to know. Whether we choose to believe one way or another...well, that's just up to us.


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Wed 30 Sep 09 #38 
scmwns

I was in a car once with someone who believed in determinism. He switched to the oncoming lane on a blind hill and said nothing would happen if it wasn't his time to go. Pure dumbassery. As soon as he pulled over, I figured it was my time to go.


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