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Is there such a thing as free will?

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I know this is an age old question, but I would like to hear your views on this, as intellectual IB students.

Also depending on what answer you come to is this good or bad?

 

So, if you have ever thought about it, do we actually have any control over the actions that we do. Our thoughts are just chemical reactions in our brain, caused by stimuli. When you are conscious of the a thought, the chemical reaction has already happened.

 

So the question turns to do you have control of these chemical reactions? A chemical reaction needs to be started by something so how could you be creating these reactions just by shear force of will, which would also be an chemical reaction.

 

This purely biological approach might seem to some kinda depressing, since it would mean our lives are purely deterministic, since it is dependent on external stimuli, which are dependent on other stimuli. 

 

Longish story short, we only have the illusion of control, but in actuality have none.

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I think there definitely is such a thing as free will.

 

Based on your conclusion that "our lives are purely deterministic," because of their "dependence on external stimuli (and so forth)," I have arrived at a point where basic chemical reactions aren't the sole commanding force in our lives.

Certainly there is no doubt that we do not control all of the external stimuli, we can simply influence them and lead to alteration. However, one can definitely control their exposure to these stimuli. Surely, all stimuli aren't a result of our active thoughts. Most accidents are most definitely not a result of anyone's thoughts (or as you like to refer to them, chemical reactions in the brain), they are based on a plethora of factors (most of them uncontrollable) and chance/probability/luck.

Obviously you can argue that your presence itself in the area of the accident is a result of your thought, but is it really? Out of the thousands, possibly a million, of people present nearby, you happening to be there at an exact spot, at an exact time, under certain exact conditions and experiencing one of the most unlikeliest of events on the entire planet, can not just be simplified down to having a chemical reaction prompting you to be there.

 

Take your birth for example, certain people will argue that the conditions of your birth determine your future to the type of jobs you get, your annual income, your family size in the future, your access to opportunities and tons of other things. But you still see, that everyday there are more and more people lifting themselves out of abject poverty against all the odds in the world. How could they do that when they do not have the external stimuli to even think about ideas like progress, growth, affluence, change, etc. etc. Also the sheer complexity of the exposure to external stimuli we experience everyday is beyond epic proportions. Browsing a news website like BBC for 5 minutes alone would expose you to hundreds of different ideas, thoughts, opinions, facts, objects, situations and more.  (No, I'm not sponsored by anyone.) 

 

Thoughts?

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Having free will means that you are simple able to do what you want without constraint. As an ordinary person, I have free will because I can act on my own discretion. I choose the things I do because I know I want to have those things done. 

 

I study chemical engineering but I wouldn't relate free will with the complexities of our anatomies. Obviously we cannot control all the chemical reactions that occur in our brains, but we naturally develop them in a sense those reactions occur in a way that is consistent with our behaviour, desires, and all our little idiosyncrasies. In this sense, I don't think taking full control of your bodily processes is strictly classified in having free will.

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Interesting responses,

How about the thought of just having an illusion of control, sure like CkyBlue said our thoughts go with our wants and desires, but don't the reactions that enable us to interpret these happen before we are aware of them, like thoughts they are controlling how you act and you are only left with an illusion that you made a choice, when in reality the path of reactions that would lead to you feeling those emotions/feelings/thoughts, were set into action by stimuli. And yes like Excalibre said we get massive amounts of stimuli through out the day, but again out brain will interpret all of them without our "consent" in a certain way and the chain of events leading from one thing to another will continue without our control. Sure they may seem random but, that's what makes the illusion of control even stronger. 

 

What I'm trying to get at is how can we control reactions when they happen before we are aware of them, the reaction happens then the thought. If there is an external mechanism that is controlling the reactions like a soul, how would you justify you being in control of that?

 

EDIT:

From some quick googling I found this video. In breast the guy talks about a materialist stance, which represents quite well the argument I was trying to make. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bDkLUBdvOkw

Edited by Cthrek

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Sorry to be pedantic but there needs to be a difference between free will (willing whatever we want) and freedom (being free of political constraints). 

 

I don't think the idea of free will makes much sense but it also doesn't matter that it doesn't. I think it's compatible with determinism but I'm not sure on the specifics just yet. 

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I do not believe that free will exists personally, but general relativity opens another can of worms in this debate.

 

Two observers moving in relative motion to one another cannot agree on the distance between objects, the time between events or (most pertinent to this discussion) the exact chronology of some events.

 

This means that we can't simply divide the universe into past, present and future because some action I take could be in someone's past and my future. If that's the case, did I really have free will in that moment? 

 

Now on as small a scale as earth, the difference is fractions upon fractions of a second, but it does exist.

Edited by crossroads1112

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Two observers moving in relative motion to one another cannot agree on the distance between objects, the time between events or (most pertinent to this discussion) the exact chronology of some events. This means that we can't simply divide the universe into past, present and future because some action I take could be in someone's past and my future. If that's the case, did I really have free will in that moment?

 

crossroads1112, what you said makes no sense to me. You're right in saying that "we can't simply divide the universe into past, present, and future". However, the reason that you've given for it makes absolutely no sense: "because some action [you] take could be in someone's past and [your] future"? Firstly, how is it possible that the action that you're taking at the present moment be something part of your future? Logically, that's impossible! Secondly, how is it possible that the action you're taking at the present moment be in my past? Shouldn't it be part of my present as well? Of course, you could mean that your action at the present time could be in someone's past, in which case that someone is a person from future generation (like your grandchild for example). But that is common sense, not something specifically claimed by Einstein's relativity. You then asked a rhetorical question at the end about whether you "really have free will in that moment". That also makes no sense, because relativity has nothing to do with the question of free will.

 

Now, the true reason for why "we can't simply divide the universe into past, present, and future" is because Einstein's relativity (which has been thoroughly tested) claims that there is no absolute universal time, so it's impossible to establish a universal chronology of events. Two objects belonging to two different inertial frames of references will have time flowing at two completely different rates. Let's say that there are two observers Alice and Bob moving relative to each other. Then just by looking at their time records, it's not possible to claim that an action by Alice happens at the same time as some action by Bob. This is because their clocks are not synchronized, as stated by the principle of special relativity. Each frame of reference has its own past, present, and future, because each frame of reference has its own time-line (or world-line, to be exact). Special theory of relativity just tells us that there's no universal time-line for all observers. So to sum it up, the action that you take at the present moment is part of your future-self's past, and your past-self's future. However, it's not possible for Bob (who is at a different frame of reference) to decide whether your current action is in his past, present, or future.

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