Free Will


Thought I would make a thread as there is not enough philosophy around here…

Do we have free will? What does free will even mean? Does this even matter? Should the answer to this question have implications on ethics and morality?


I think we have free will but ultimately it doesn’t matter because we only ever experience one universe of choices and events.

Our free will is influenced and diluted by our influences but not determined by them.

I still believe man ultimately makes his own choices, and nothing is predetermined.

If I didn’t believe in free will I really wouldn’t see a reason to exist.


On the subject of determinism, I do believe we decide to decide what we do.


Same. I’d of offed myself by now.


I don’t think we have any free will, if free will is the ability to freely make a choice between two or more possible actions. I’d like to believe that we’re endowed with a special something that gives us free will, but I don’t buy it even though it would be a useful way to look at the world. Obviously free will existing or not has implications in ethics, primarily answering the question of who has responsibility for committing an action, and how that person ought to be punished.



Just because your actions are determined in a metaphysical sense, doesn’t mean experientially there is such a thing as free will. You decide to watch tv because you wanted to watch tv, you experienced making a conscious decision to watch it, but that doesn’t mean the decision was a product of factors beyond your control.


They make us memorize this over boot camp;

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.

At any moment, if you have the will of a great man, you can decide to change your trajectory in life. You are bound by no restraints if you choose to not be. Great men go about changing things as they see fit and leading their people to greatness. A philosophical void coupled with abject apathy towards the prospects of one’s individual humanity is self-propagating.


It is demonstrable that we all have free will or freedom of choice that we can follow and use.

Since it is demonstrable in what some would call the scientific method of productivity, free will is thus proven and confirmed.

Those who choose to respond are proving they have free will by showing their ability to choose to respond to a post, or not.


Choosing to respond or not to my previous post shows that you have a free will.

That will of course is subject to the laws of nature and physics.

I may have the free willed desire to fly, but am subject to gravity and in such cases cannot do what I will to do.


Sure, but I disagree that those factors take away our free will. I accept they erode it and influence it, you’re certainly subconsciously influenced by multiple things and factors, but that doesn’t change what I see as free will.


I feel this doesn’t really address my point though. You may have the strongest will ever, you may let nobody or thing influence your decision making, but you still could ultimately influenced by unconscious processes and experiences. I think to disagree with this is only possible if you take a strict Cartesian Dualist perspective where the ‘I’ is some abstract immaterial self ungoverned by the laws of nature, which I think is a dumb analysis of consciousness.


Damn, that’s beautiful.


Not exactly, no. That decision is essentially determined by a variety of factors that came before it.

A rock when hit does not move of its own free will. It is subject to the laws of physics. Likewise, our brains are subject to those same laws.

I don’t have the study on me atm (I’m on my phone), but its been shown that decisions are formulated in the unconscious part of the brain prior to being performed.


So do you agree that free will is something experiential, and not something concrete? If I decide to kill someone, in a phenomenological (meaning in terms of what I experience, rather than what can be said to be objectively happening) sense I have consciously made that decision, but in a metaphysical sense that decision was determined by a complex web of factors: my biology, my genetics, my life experiences and my personality and it’s reaction to whatever thing that person did; in metaphysical terms the decision was not made in a vacuum, but conditioned by a wide range of factors that are beyond our comprehension. This doesn’t mean that we can’t talk about free will in a phenomenological sense though.


Ultimately, your experiences help to define you. At some point having a traumatic childhood becomes who you are when you become a compassionate father to counteract that upbringing rather than an outside force. Similarly, a process such as one’s British Culture helps to define the individual as well. Being British automatically makes you look at things differently, but it is not a solid slate for every issue and every individual. Rather, it can be thought as a guide which impacts your thoughts. That being said I would not view culture necessarily as an “outside force” as if you accept your culture and tradition it becomes an internal force. On the other hand, if you reject some aspect of culture, then the great man would work towards changing or modernizing it despite the external force telling him otherwise.


Don’t get me wrong I agree, we should totally strive to not let ourselves succumb to the will of others and ‘be ourselves’; but when speculating philosophically it seems to me that what actually constitutes my ‘self’ is not a single concrete entity but a complex chemical and biological process that is constantly evolving, and is ultimately the complete product of my life experiences. There is no abstract, immaterial, ‘person in my head’ that acts in a vacuum. On a metaphysical level I think the idea of ‘being yourself’ is pretty meaningless.


I take a hard deterministic line. Mental states are brain states. Brain states are biological states. And biological states are physical states. Seeing as the physical world is deterministic, why would we assume that humans are different to everything else in the physical world?


Sure, but I still think that complex being of factors and influences is ultimately controlled by a “me”.

I still think we drive the car, even if we don’t control what we are driving and the conditions on the road, and if sometimes the steering wheel pushes itself in a certain direction.



What I’m basically saying is that I don’t think the two ideas presented here are mutually exclusive or incompatible.


Just because we may be predictable based on the laws of physics, I don’t think that means we don’t have free will.