"I think therefore I am." Descarte's most basic tenet of free will. But how "free" is it?The more I study this and make observations of the people around me, the more I am convinced that free will is nothing more than an illusion.

 

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." - Arthur C. Clarke.

 

Now let me rephrase Clarke's third law in context of this discussion:

 

"Any sufficiently complex memoryplex is indistinguishable from free will."

 

Note the phrase memoryplex, not memeplex. I'm referring here to our collective memories from the earliest retained memory right up to this instant. That instant has now passed (a few milliseconds ago) and as you continue to read, those instants are similarly passing into your collective memoryplex.

 

If our decisions are based on what we know (assuming that we're not mentally ill) and what we know is the memories we have formed, then free will simply isn't.

 

I've thought about this for some time now and I'm only summarising here, but if this is correct, it has frightening implications. For instance, what you've just read, based on what you already know, has influenced you - and you have no choice in what you're about to do: reply, ignore, digest, etc... everything is based on your experience to date plus this last few dozen words of argument.

 

So how "free" is your will?

Tags: free will

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Replies to This Discussion

Actually, Calvinism and Reformed Theology are the most consistent of Christian dogmas (not saying that I believe it). Everyone ever born or who ever will be born is tainted by the sin of the first human, Adam, and there is nothing you can do to redeem yourself, no matter how hard you try. Only those who accept forgiveness of sin through Jesus will be saved from eternal judgement. One catch, no one can accept forgiveness of their own free will, because no one has free will. God has chosen who will accept forgiveness, only he knows who has been chosen and only those who are already chosen will escape eternal judgement. The only thing you can do is hope and trust that you are one of those he has chosen. Everything else is meaningless because there is no free will.

Actually, Calvinism and Reformed Theology are the most consistent of Christian dogmas (not saying that I believe it).

 

Lol~ I see you are relatively new on here~ don't worry, we typically give people the benefit of the doubt when discussing these things.  Besides, I think you 'signed' a statement of atheist authenticity lol.

 

As per your post, that sounds like an almost nihilistic version of religion~ I kinda like it!

I agree, for me Reformed Theology was the last stage of my Christianity and brought me directly to atheism. If it is God who decides, what difference does it make if I decide to be an atheist?

The closest thing to expressing my view of free will is in 'The Matrix': We are not here to make the choice, we have already made the choice, we just need to understand why we made the choice.

It is all the baggage that we have accumulated in our lives, what we have learned, as well the effects of our genetic/nutritional/environmental background and exposure that all come together to let us know what decisions we will make. The problem lies when someone or some ideology tries to make that decision for us, there in lies the rub. I am good at going with the flow though and choose my battles.

PB, 

 

It's not just you.

to elaborate on my last post, most people have this notion that adults operate differently than children, thus adding accountability to their actions later in life.  I would content this is incorrect, and that the human mind, while it does develop different capacities and states of awareness later in life, functions on the same fundamental level in regards to our actions~ the only difference being that adults are able to articulate and rationalize their motives better.

When a child acts up, we do not treat them as though they are a bad person~ we accept it is either through ignorance (which is unlikely, as they are immersed in society and the proper way to interact in most situations) emotionality (which corresponds to many crimes and domestic disputes) lack of discipline or bad parenting (which would seem to correlate [in a number of occasions {this can be intertwined with environmental factors}]with those individuals who live lifestyles that are inherently crime based).  There is a rare occasion of children acting up who have emotional issues, that may be a combination of several previously mentioned factors, and that are treated in a more extreme way than your typical disciplinary actions. 

The issues that effect children encompass pretty much all motives in adult crime as well~ and yet we treat them differently.  Why is that?  I would say its because we have been taught that as free willed individuals we are responsible for our actions, but as children we don't exhibit the same depth of thought and foresight that we gain later in life~ however, many if not most of our actions aren't based on such a level of thought~ we act upon them and then rationalize, or rationalize in an attempt to satisfy our emotional urges.  It has been shown (and I think if you look at political discourse it is a perfect example) that adults, especially when in a collective, will act like children.  Maybe its because in a collective the need for the illusion of individual responsibility wanes, I would have to think further, but considering the interactions of humanity as a whole, it would seem that as a species we are no more mature or rational than 10 year old children.

What I'm trying to say is, not having free will doesn't effect whether a person is responsible or not.  Its not about responsibility at all~ its about addressing the issues of the actions themselves, and treating the root cause of those actions.  Our legal system in the US doesn't do that (to almost any extent) but merely removes the person for a predetermined period of time.  What we should be doing is evaluating offenders and removing them, but not from a functioning society.  Prison colonies with regulated social standards and therapy directed at the root issues of the offenders would be a much more productive (and humane) way of treating these issues~ if a child hits or beats up another, time-out is not nearly as effective at solving the issue as treating why they did it to begin with.  That is what our penal system does~ it gives offenders a time out (or a game-over).  

I digress, my ideas on reforming the penal system are unrelated in the most part; I hope, however, that I clarified why the lack of "free will" would not effect the operation of a society or justice system.

@ Park: A few things during this discussion have popped into my mind regarding things you have said.

 

1. considering the interactions of humanity as a whole, it would seem that as a species we are no more mature or rational than 10 year old children.

 

Amen, brother.

 

2. my ideas on reforming the penal system are unrelated in the most part

 

I disagree. I think you really agree with me here, that removing the notion of free will from our belief system would have many effects, some more dramatic than others, and the penal system might very well be one of those areas that are effected most dramatically.

 

3. You had said earlier at some point that we need to concentrate less on the parts of the arguments which we analyze the crap out of (I'm paraphrasing), and more on winning converts over to our side. I think this was a good statement, and I think that all the wrangling we do with these issues really won't amount to much if we don't put it into action. We need to become better organized, as atheists in general and especially as the ones who feel the most outrage over the injustices which pervade our society and the globe because of just how poorly people understand what the hell is going on, and just how poorly people behave (accordingly with point #1).

 

4. I think that we need to start having a serious discussion about just what can and should be done (as well as what cannot and should not). I think we need to become more political. And I think this means changing the way people think at the top of society. And this is where I think philosophy plays its most important role. Which is why this is a separate point from the last one, because you recently also said something about how "it doesn't need to be philosophical...". Ethics and politics are essentially philosophical. Not sure exactly what you meant to say, because your statement itself was philosophical. But it would be nice to discuss these things at greater length and depth. Just letting you know where my mind is at. Actions are better than words, so unless we can put all these words into action we are really just futzing around. This point (and any of them really) might just as well be directed at anyone listening. I think there is a lot of work to be done.

I agree that you and I agree!

Let me clarify~ when I said that it didn't need to be philosophical, I was referring to the implication of free will on the penal system.  Whether we have it or not (the latter being my conclusion) it doesn't need to effect the way we treat those who work outside the bounds of the paradigmatic "Norm" because it isn't whether they could have chosen to do what they did~ it is the mere fact that they did it that causes reproach.

I would love to continue these discussions more.  I've been toying with a concept over the last two weeks to enhance understanding when it comes to debating people.  Instead of attacking the arguments, infiltrate the emotional attachment of the believer.  What I'd like to do is get a somewhat comprehensive list of the real things that made people lose their religion (I, in my short life, have never been religious) and find a way to directly use those, instead of the mere rationalizations, which are a symptom of something larger, not the problem itself.  

Let me know where you think we should take this.  Perhaps the backwater of the forum, so that we attract less attention?  Another idea, maybe?  This is something that I would actually like to play out.

[pardon my almost sinister tactics, I feel weird even typing out how to manipulate people into believing an understanding things]

a somewhat comprehensive list of the real things that made people lose their religion (I, in my short life, have never been religious) and find a way to directly use those, instead of the mere rationalizations, which are a symptom of something larger, not the problem itself

 

Interesting... I've considered an even more sinister plan. Open a Bible bookstore. The Bible bookstore where I live keeps three cashiers busy at all times. There is Christmas commerce happening there year round. Take an every day object, a hammer or a lamp or a door stop, stick a picture of a cross or fish or Jesus on it... and it magically increases in value ten fold!

 

I am weary of trying to polish these turds... Lets use em as fertilizer instead.

Hear, hear!
I will start a group for these discussions, that way the people involved will be limited so it won't..... dilute the content, so to speak.

Yes, a group, that was going to be my suggestion. Let me know when it has formed. It is hilarious that we should feel manipulative or sinister trying to organize to get people informed. Would love to see more people get involved, assuming the contribution is of decent quality of course.

 

it isn't whether they could have chosen to do what they did~ it is the mere fact that they did it that causes reproach

 

a good formulation

 

As for attacking the arguments vs. attacking the emotional attachment to the beliefs, this is an excellent thought. It would of course entail a healthy mix of both, but I think this makes for an excellent starting point. To come right out at the beginning and say that this is a first point of contention and then to use that as the primary tool throughout... And along these lines, I have some good thoughts already at hand. My background is in psychology, sociology, and philosophy, so this is an issue I have thought long and hard on (hehe, I said hard on). But I'll take these ideas to our group.

 

I haven't ever been religious myself. I have been an ardent atheist from at least age 12, and always remember just being skeptical of the whole business. Must have been the fairy tales and mythology I read a lot as a boy (and where's the difference?).

I started a group called "reforming counter apologetics" and its waiting approval.  What I see in current debates is that the rationalizations are merely superficial to ones belief~ even if you did knock one down, another takes its place.  When the topic is dealing with beliefs, beliefs are challenged; that immediately puts people on the defensive.  If the discussion is not so much challenging as say... hm...  almost like the work a therapist does to help a victim of a traumatic experience.  it reminds me of Good Will Hunting, "its not your fault.  its not your fault..."  It might end up being, instead of counter arguments, sharing personal experiences that are formulated in a way that draws the target in and then end with a decisive rational.  open the person up, draw them in, have them empathize then BAM here is a solution to the problem of being cosmically alone.  Thats, in my opinion, more likely the new wave of counter apologetics~ mental guerrilla warfare.

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