I know this has been discussed before, but I have read Sam Harris' book Free Will and Michael Shermer's book The Believing Brain, and I must say that I agree with both authors. Studies show that our brains make a decision on an unconscious level three tenths of a second and sometimes more before we even consciously know we're going to act. To take a short quote from Shermer's book: "The neural activity that precedes the intention to act is inaccessible to our conscious mind, so we experience a sense of free will. But it is an illusion, caused by the fact that we cannot identify the cause of the awareness of our intention to act".

Tags: Free, Harris, Michael, Sam, Shermer, Will

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James I really like what you have to say...."out of which he has emerged only by chance. His destiny is nowhere spelled out, nor is his duty. The kingdom above or the darkness below; it is for him to choose." (My emphasis.) Chance determines everything, from birth to death. Go ahead and will all you want, but life is what happens to us while we are planning our future."

Someone some ten thousand years ago, even much farther back in time, survived to have children, and one or more of his children survived to have children, and on down the hundreds and thousands of years, someone from that first ancestor always managing to survive, and it culminated in you and any children and grandchildren you might have. You've won a lottery with greater odds against than any cash lottery in the world, all of them combined. It's awesome. Neither you nor I had anything to do with all that. We had no choice, pure chance, and it has set each of us on our various life courses.

I think the disagreements about free will are mostly about the definition of it, and the value judgements involved in that.

What do you mean by your will not being free?  By what is it constrained?

What do you mean by your will not being free?  By what is it constrained?

Meaning you couldn't have, of your own accord, done otherwise than you did.

Or to put it in present tense: you don't have the ability to choose between more than one viable option, in which that choice was "up to you".

In a deterministic universe only one option is ever "viable". In an indeterministic universe any acausal events that change a trajectory can never be "up to you".

That is an exotic notion of freedom.  It has nothing in common with freedom as we otherwise understand it.  Such a notion of "freedom" should be prefaced with a caveat "the freedom referred to here is a kind of transcendent, supernatural freedom". 

That is an exotic notion of freedom.  It has nothing in common with freedom as we otherwise understand it.  Such a notion of "freedom" should be prefaced with a caveat "the freedom referred to here is a kind of transcendent, supernatural freedom". 

It's the freedom many people (including many atheists) "feel" they possess. But yes, it's an absurd kind of "freedom" that needs to be addressed. I don't think it's tied to being transcendent or supernatural...rather just simply "illogical" freedom. That would be the caveat: "the freedom referred to here is illogical". 

But then again that is why there are hard determinists and hard incompatibilists that point out the logical absurdity of such a freedom. And also point out what it means that we don't possess this extraordinary ability.

We are constrained by events that precede our very existence.

;-)

As you are defining freedom, it's the freedom to not be yourself.  It's a contradiction. 

That's why the concept of "free will" is a mis-statement.  The "freedom" conceived of has nothing to do with our usual concept of freedom. 

Well that's why there is no such "freedom" (why free will doesn't exist). It's like saying "I have the freedom to be a self-contradiction". :)

Is that what they're talking about? "Religious freedom"?

Again, if your will is not free, by what are you constrained???

We are constrained by events (either entirely causal or some acausal) that precede our very existence. :)

Does evidence or faith tell you so?

Logical evidence.

  • Logic tells me that an event either comes about by a cause, or it doesn't come about by a cause (is acausal). There is no other logical possibility.
  • Logic tells me that thinking and acting are both events.
  • Logic also shows that a cause cannot have multiple possibilities. Cause X cannot both be the cause of Y and not the cause of Y (of Z instead) as that's a self-contradiction.
  • Logic tells me that all causal events stem to back before we are even born.
  • Logic also shows that an acausal event would have no temporal or spatial determinacy, so would be entirely out of our control.
  • and so on...

The use of deduction and induction is opposite of "faith". 

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