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Dangerous Philosophy: The Illusion of Free Will

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posted on Dec, 4 2013 @ 04:19 PM
There are several philosophical pillars upon which Western society is built on, pillars which I believe are not all too stable. Western thought has progressed off of these unstable pillars and weak foundations, and I have made it my undertaking to identify these pillars. Read on, and risk having the foundation of your views taken out from underneath you. Choose to stop reading, and be forever enshrouded in curiosity and/or ignorance.

Part 1 had to do with our conception of Nothingness and how our potentially faulty conception of Nothingness could destroy the foundations of science and logic. Part two is about the illusion of free will.

After centuries of debate the problem of free will still remains unresolved with no end in sight. I cannot say one side is definitively right, but I do believe that our evidence almost exclusively points towards the deterministic side being right. Despite not being able to know with certainty that there is no free will, I think we may have sufficient evidence to believe that it does not exist. Here is why.

The basic argument against free will is the notion of cause and effect. Everything we do can be traced back to a string of events that caused us to act in a certain way. Despite our hope that free will exists, it seems that people act according to situational influences and not according to free will.

However, the basic argument is certainly not a strong enough argument to throw away the possibility of free will; I will delve into quantum mechanics to do this.

Basic Math of Quantum Mechanics

A recent theory of quantum mechanics called Many-Worlds Theory, introduced by a Princeton graduate student named Hugh Everett, explains that the existence of parallel universes fits perfectly with the fundamental mathematical equations of quantum mechanics (namely Schrodinger's Equation). This theory is superior to other theories of quantum mechanics such as Bohr’s theory of Waveform Collapse in that it explains the mysterious workings of subatomic particles without straying from any fundamental equations. The controversial result of Many-Worlds Theory is that all possible futures exist and will happen.

Cat lives in one world, dies in another

If you accept Many-Worlds Theory it serves as a short term solution to the problem of free will. Here is my argument in standard form that explains how:

Premise 1) In order for humans to possess free will, there can only be a single future.

Premise 2) In Many Worlds Theory there are multiple (possibly infinite) futures.

Conclusion 1) Since Many-Worlds Theory has multiple futures, based on Many Worlds Theory there can be no free will.

Premise 3) Many Worlds Theory is currently the most plausible explanation of quantum mechanics because it does not stray from the fundamental mathematical equations.

Premise 4) The mathematics of quantum mechanics has never failed experimentally.

Premise 5) Since the mathematics of quantum mechanics has never failed experimentally, this is the most appropriate theory to use in describing the true nature of reality.

Conclusion 2) The most plausible answer to the problem of free will is that there is no free will.

*Just a few notes on my argument, the term “single-future” has a wider meaning than normal in the context of this argument. If free will exists there could be parallel universes as long as one of the universes is the actual universe. This distinction of elevating the importance of one universe over others leaves room for the existence of free will. However, if the idea of actual and non-actual universes is incorporated into the mathematics of Many-Worlds Theory it causes waveform collapses which is exactly what we are trying to avoid. Therefore, there can be no actual future that is more actual than any other future, and therefore there is no room for free will.

*Another consideration is I am not entirely sure whether Many Worlds Theory supports Determinism, or whether it is a separate stance from both Free Will and Determinism. The question here is whether Determinism requires a single future just as free will does, but I leave open the possibility of an extreme form of Determinism where all possibilities happen and have been pre-determined.

Hugh Everett

Because this is a deductive argument, if you accept these premises it guarantees that the conclusion is true. Admittedly these conclusions don’t give us certainty that there is no free will, but I would say it provides us with overwhelming evidence. Since we have overwhelming evidence and not certainty, and since there is a chance that some future experiment will disprove quantum mechanics, I classify this as a short term solution. If future experiments continue to confirm the Many Worlds Theory, it may then serve as a long term solution to the problem of free will.

However, even if we one day accept with certainty that there is no such thing as free will, there are still significant obstacles we have to overcome in order for this idea to gain widespread acceptance. The implications of us not having free will are so monumental that it seems impossible that people would drop the notion of free will on a large scale. If you think about it, our entire lives are structured around the assumption that we have free will. Without free will, people don’t have the ability to make choices themselves. Without the ability to make a choice, a person cannot have any moral responsibility for their actions. Our law system is entirely based on the assumption of free will, and if we can justify all of our actions through past causes our sense of moral responsibility disappears and it would be impossible to attribute fault to anyone for their crimes.

Result of no moral responsibility

So the obstacle that we have to overcome in order to achieve widespread acceptance of the illusion of free will is the destruction of the pillar upon which the United States government, and most Western governments are based on. Perhaps this is why the debate on free will still rages… because no matter how convincing the Deterministic side is, it is still nearly impossible for us in a practical sense to give up our notion of free will unless we tear down the structure of Western government and rebuild it without a sense of free will. But from a practical sense, it seems much more dangerous to have a government based off of Determinism than a government based off on free will, so the practical implications of accepting Determinism also seem to be working against it.

Now say you accept that free will is in fact an illusion. Will you live your life any differently? I would argue no… I think you would still live your life based on the illusion of free will because it is easier to accept our society’s assumption of free will and get on with our lives than it is to act on our belief in Determinism.

edit on 4-12-2013 by Wang Tang because: ATS

edit on 4-12-2013 by Wang Tang because: can't center align pictures

edit on 4-12-2013 by Wang Tang because: oh well

posted on Dec, 4 2013 @ 04:42 PM
A very thought provoking concept there.

Though my answer would be;
We have free will up until the point we choose which path (universe) we want to be on.
This choice is made in the ether (for the lack of a better word), before we are born into a physical body.

The choice we already know the outcome of... So in effect, we have free will, the will to choose which life experience we live out.

Therefor free will does exist, but just not in the life we live as we perceive it, even though, we, ourselves, made the choice.

Once we get behind that concept, humans can move on with their life decisions knowing they chose that path for a reason and all they have to do is see how it plays out.
This should eliminate a lot of wasted energy on regrets, because ultimately, you chose that option before you were presented with it.

It would also nullify the common psychological issues that arise when a person feels they have no free will, no choice of their own; So why does anything matter mentality?
Because they will know that they did indeed make the decision for a certain reason, and it is now their task to understand why.

I will end this post with a quote from The Matrix.

Neo: But if you already know, how can I make a choice?
The Oracle: Because you didn't come here to make the choice, you've already made it. You're here to try to understand *why* you made it. I thought you'd have figured that out by now.

edit on 4/12/2013 by Sovaka because: Grammar

posted on Dec, 4 2013 @ 04:51 PM
reply to post by Sovaka

But if we are making this choice before we are born, then what is it exactly that is making this choice? It can't be our self since we would not be alive yet.

edit: nice Matrix quote!
edit on 4-12-2013 by Wang Tang because: ATS

posted on Dec, 4 2013 @ 04:58 PM
I feel that life is pre written and free will is how we act or react to it, so far anyway.
cheers 1%

posted on Dec, 4 2013 @ 05:04 PM
We can never know the answer to this question. So the question becomes:

Do you want to live in a rigid deterministic universe? Or do you want to live in a universe where you have free will?

posted on Dec, 4 2013 @ 05:12 PM
reply to post by Wang Tang

It's our consciousness (or soul) that is making the choice.

In physics and the world of sub atomic energy, there is a rule that cannot be broken.
That rule is the "Conservation of energy".
Basically it states that energy can only be changed from one form to another and it cannot be destroyed or created.

Therefor we in our physical bodies, carry an ethereal energy which is our life essence; soul or consciousness.
When our physical bodies degrade to a point where it can no longer contain this energy, it has to release it.

Since our consciousness is a form of energy, it cannot be destroyed and since it is an isolated system, it cannot be changed.

Therefor while our consciousness remains, we remain awake and present.
So in essence there is life after death.
There is a whole other philosophical debate in this area so I will [snip] my post regarding that portion.

In short, once we have had our fill of our afterlife, we choose then to relive a life path.
We plan out and decide which path our life will take and then we find a empty body to occupy (baby in a womb).
Once we occupy said body, we then imprint on it our chosen path for that life.
Through that process, we choose to only imprint certain knowledge and memory.
Due this to humans brain capacity, I don't know... But for some reason, we choose to forget everything except whats been imprinted.
Until we are released from the physical body.

posted on Dec, 4 2013 @ 05:21 PM
reply to post by Wang Tang

"The basic argument against free will is the notion of cause and effect. Everything we do can be traced back to a string of events that caused us to act in a certain way. Despite our hope that free will exists, it seems that people act according to situational influences and not according to free will."

that's where you got lost my friend, that's also the reason why our world is very backwards right now, because everyone thinks, from childhood conditioning, that anything and everything around us causes us to do anything, when in fact it is us that chooses the effect.

when we're dealing with our culture it has been ingrained for millenia, that when something happens around or to us, that we must react in some way and usually a way that is detrimental to all involved. in reality it is us that chooses to feel or act the way we do. we choose remorse, anger, resentment, frustration, racism, brutality, and so on, we also have the choice to not feel much at all about it. we can choose happiness, sadness, excitement and so forth, all depending on how we as individuals have chosen to act. our free will lies in how we choose to interact with everything around us.

when someone does something to us, it is very much us that decides how we will deal with it. you can tell me i'm ugly, fat, an idiot, anything really and it is me that chooses to hurt or not, not you.

edit on 4-12-2013 by OceanSpray because: sp

posted on Dec, 4 2013 @ 05:24 PM
reply to post by Painterz

The post wasn't about railroading ones belief into a path of a rigid deterministic world.

It was about understanding our lives, the choices we make the consequences that result.

Understanding whether or not Free Will exists in the current context in which we believe, alters only how we perceive life itself.
If our belief in Free Will ultimately doesn't change but just on when the choice is made, won't effect your life perceptions.
It will however, give you a greater understanding of life and the choices you have made.

If anything, it should give you a greater appreciation of life.

What it will do however, is prevent psychotic breaks that occur around the issue of when all hope is lost.
Especially when that hope is lost due to a decision you feel you didn't make or had no say in the outcome.

posted on Dec, 4 2013 @ 05:29 PM
Ok, let's assume that you are correct. For what it's worth, I've been working on a novel concept based around a multi-versal view that basically follows along your lines of reasoning. So, I can follow.

I say it matters this far: We can accept that everything in this universe may be pre-determined because there are multiple worlds, realities in you will that will play out all potential possibilities. We can even believe it, but because we are essentially anchored in time/space in this one reality, for all practical purposes and intents, it doesn't actually matter for us.

You can tell yourself all you want that no matter how you think you are choosing the other possibilities will be played out somewhere else, so whatever choice you make was the one you were always destined to make ... but in the end, you still have to make a choice because it is not given to you to know with any certainty which possibility was your predestined one.

And you can tell yourself or even believe that what you choose to do was always going to be that way, but since every single possibility is going to be played in some other parallel, there is no way to tell for sure which of the available options open to you is the one you will pick, so the choice as far as you are concerned from your vantage point in our anchored time/space is still a free one.

posted on Dec, 4 2013 @ 05:33 PM
reply to post by OceanSpray

To an extent yes... But based in reality and is proved in your post... Those decisions are made from 'Cause and Effect'.
Which in turn effect the cause of the decision in the first place because of life experiences.
Your choice is influenced by a cause that happened in the past due to an effect from a choice that was made.
Ad infinitum.

Therefor you can argue that 'Free Will' in itself is a condition of 'Cause and Effect'.

However the ambiguity arrives when you take into account human life experience and learning.
We say that Free Will exists because we can choose whether or not to get Angry, Upset or Vengeful et c.
But since we have learned in the past of our life, that a similar chosen choice of being Angry has lead to nothing but pain.
Therefor to reduce the pain felt with the "choice" we have to make, we take the path of least resistance.
Therefor our Free Will Choice was the result of Cause and Effect of the previous choice and then in fact; the choice being made, was not made of Free Will.

However, that isn't to say, that in the face of the same decision, you don't choose the path of most resistance.
Hence the illusion of Free Will as stated in the OP.

Which then comes back to my OP.

posted on Dec, 4 2013 @ 05:36 PM

Wang Tang
Now say you accept that free will is in fact an illusion. Will you live your life any differently? I would argue no… I think you would still live your life based on the illusion of free will because it is easier to accept our society’s assumption of free will and get on with our lives than it is to act on our belief in Determinism.

How can a deterministic being "accept" a belief? Implies the ability to choose to not accept.
How can a deterministic being "act" on a belief"? Implies the ability to choose to not act.
How can a deterministic being "change" a belief? Implies the ability to choose to not believe.
edit on 4-12-2013 by BardingTheBard because: (no reason given)

posted on Dec, 4 2013 @ 05:44 PM
reply to post by Sovaka

Cause and Effect and Free Will are two different things.

Yes, your choices are influenced by the circumstances surrounding the decisions you have to make. And the decisions are shaped by the circumstances the lead up to those moments. But do the circumstances force your hand?

How much is influence analogous to actual force?

People are fond of saying "You leave me no choice." It's nice and dramatic, but there is always a choice or three. The question is whether or not you are [I]willing to take those other options.

posted on Dec, 4 2013 @ 05:44 PM
reply to post by Sovaka

you seem confused so i'll see my way out but it was fun interacting, no disrespect of course as i hope you find what you're looking for because i have.

posted on Dec, 4 2013 @ 05:45 PM
reply to post by ketsuko

I will argue that point because I feel you are still approaching the matter from the third dimension only.
When you take the fifth dimension into account, it means the choice has been made already.
You are but a branch in a stream.

The principle behind Parallel universes or the multiverse theory is that any and all choices that could ever possibly be made have already been made.
The Universe has computed every possible scenario.

Your choice to use a fork to eat tonight's Chinese food over the chopsticks has played out; Even though you haven't experienced it yet.
Although a rather insignificant choice in the grand scheme of your life path, its a choice none the less and the result has been calculated.

But your post also comes down to a singular consciousness existence where you believe that you only get one shot at this life.
When you start thinking about the fifth dimension and the multiverse theories, you have to throw any preconceived concepts you have about life and consciousness out the window.
You can't apply a static third dimension principle to a fifth dimension scenario... they are incompatible.

So if you can consider that your consciousness is unending and that you make choices to live a life path...
You can then start to grasp the finite existence of your life and what "choices" you have.
At the end of this life, you may wonder; What would have happened if I chose to take this job over that job?
So you then have the choice of going back and reliving that outcome so that you can experience that choice.

If you must...
Don't look at it as you only get one chance, one choice, so make it count.
Look at it like even though you have to make a singular choice now, you can still experience the other after this line has played out.
Because even though you didn't get to make the other choice, the fifth dimension principle has already played out.
And in that moment in that life, the choice has played out... You just don't get to witness or experience it yet.

Finally, to throw a spanner in your noodle.
Who's to say you haven't already experienced that other choice and this time round, you made the opposite choice because from the previous experience, you wanted to know what this choice led you to.
edit on 4/12/2013 by Sovaka because: Grammar and Spelling.

posted on Dec, 4 2013 @ 05:49 PM
reply to post by OceanSpray

As have I...

My state of "confusion" as I perceive it, is another's lack of foresight and ability to understand or accept what they face.

As you say, no disrespect is intended as we have all chosen our current paths for a reason and that reason will be revealed to us when we have decided.

posted on Dec, 4 2013 @ 05:55 PM
reply to post by Wang Tang

Premise 1) In order for humans to possess free will, there can only be a single future.

I'm not sure why you are coming to this conclusion, as there is no inherent connection between those two concepts (if, for example, Many Worlds was valid, the act of making a free willed choice would be the thing that determined which of the two possible universes you would continue in.)

The bigger problem, though, is that there is no evidence for the Many Worlds theory, which competes with the Copenhagen Interpretation for an explanation as to why things work differently on a quantum level, but I think that the real issue is that we don't sufficiently understand the quantum world to the point where we can't dismiss quantum phenomenon as issues of observation or comprehension. Things get spooky at that level, but they may just be spooky because we lack the technology to make accurate observations of what's really going on.

posted on Dec, 4 2013 @ 06:00 PM
reply to post by Sovaka

But that's my point.

There may very well be multiple universes and all our choices may be determined already, but because we are mired as we are in space/time, it doesn't matter to us. We perceive that we have freewill.

We do not perceive that the choice has been made already; therefore, it might as well not have been made for all that we know or feel or all the difference it makes to us.

Until we can change our experience of reality, what we think we know or believe doesn't matter. Tomorrow is still tomorrow and might as well be unknown or unwritten. We can simply lie there in bed waiting for predestiny to come along and move us, and it won't. Of course, that would be destined too, and you chose to do it for all that you (or anyone else for that matter) can perceive anything else.

Until it actually means something and we can break out of our limited perception of one reality to see the others and understand the full scope of what we're talking about ... I still am perceiving that I freely chose to write this post even though it was already written that I would do so in the grand multi-universal sceme of things. I can certainly speculate on what it might mean in another world had I chosen to do x over y, but because I cannot perceive those realities except as mental exercises, I am still limited to the here and now of this reality.
edit on 4-12-2013 by ketsuko because: (no reason given)

posted on Dec, 4 2013 @ 06:08 PM
reply to post by ketsuko

Of course.

I didn't mean to imply that you haven't freely made your choices.

What I am saying is that you have already made your decisions, you just have to understand why.
So that isn't to say your future isn't what you make it... It is...
It was just made before you experience it... by you.

Never feel like your future isn't what you make it... It is.
It always has been.

Even in the fifth dimension... All the choices you have made, were your own.

In the context of now... The Free Will choice is merely oneself fulfilling what you have already decided.

posted on Dec, 4 2013 @ 06:26 PM
reply to post by Wang Tang

Look at the primary controlling, demanding factor in all our lives......the almighty dollar. You cant even really own a dog without it literally and so to speak. Even if we decide not to kill ourselves for it, it nonetheless requires enough of our attention to be primary. It doesn't contemplate any moral conundrums.

posted on Dec, 4 2013 @ 07:13 PM
If 'free' will is an illusion and there is only one future (in 3d), who's call is the outcome? Are all the counter-intuitive acts and atrocities in man's past supposed to have happened? Suppose a person doesn't push, due to negligence, the button to keep the widget from exploding and kills 50,000 others? Should the pusher be held accountable for it's actions?
With 'free' will, individuals are held culpable for their actions as per the customs of their society. Individuals are also likely to conform to the mores of their peers and create cohesion in the larger group identity.

Is free will omnipresent in the polyverse? Perhaps is it found here and there like light matter and not almost everywhere as is dark matter.

Advance thoughts are hard to share with base oration.

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