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Does how you view Free Will matter? - Free Will, Power, and Change

Tourmaline

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The debate about free will is endless. Do we have free will? Do we not? It is ultimately an unprovable question, but our minds will still futilely attempt to answer it. We can prove both determinism and indeterminism.

My conclusion is simple. We both do and do not have free will. Determinism and indeterminism are both correct. Yay! Will you now radically change your life? Does that change how you’re going to behave and act?

Of course not.

I file it away in the bucket titled Absurd Human Phenomenology.

More important is, What happens when someone acts like they do not have free will compared to if they do have free will? The following are two scenarios to illustrate the case:

-

Bob is driving along the road. It is about 2pm in the middle of summer. Nothing seems to go right for him. He is hit by misfortune time and time again. Just this year alone, first his car was rear ended and totaled in the middle of winter. He had just finished paying it off and the insurance gave him less than half of what he paid for it. Then his ex-wife, who was always nagging him and incessantly complaining, left him, taking half of what little he had and worse, leaving him even more alone. What friends he had remaining hardly returned his calls, and he rarely did more than watch whatever was on tv while sitting on the couch drinking a couple of beers each night.

He had driven this path a countless number of times over the years, although this was likely to be the last. His mind wandered off and he thought to himself, “How could this happen to me?”. “I did everything I was supposed to do. My parents told me to get a safe reliable job, so I became an accountant. Everyone deserves a good car they would say, and the salesman said ‘there’s nothing like buying a new car’, and so I did. They said “happy wife, happy life”, and so I always did what my wife asked.”

He hated when he would get like this and start having these thoughts. He simply didn’t understand why things had played out as they did. Half of his life had gone by, and he barely had anything to show for it. Why is the world so unfair? What did he do to deserve this? When was he going to catch his lucky break? He felt hopeless, powerless, for anything to become different. And now he had been laid off, through no fault of his own, and felt like he had to start all over from square one. Bob pulled into his driveway, remembering that it was Monday night and so surely a game would be on, and headed inside.

-

David woke up, 1 minute before his alarm was to go off. The sun was shining, the birds were chirping, he knew it was going to be a beautiful day. He saw a couple of texts from his parents and friends waiting, and smiled at the thought. His parents were always so worried about him, but that was okay. They had wanted him to study engineering, but he really couldn’t stand numbers. He liked talking to people and so became a salesman instead. The paychecks were unreliable, but it paid the bills well enough and he enjoyed getting to work every day. He had a pretty nice ride too. Not the flashiest, but by being in the sales industry he knew people in car sales and got a great deal on something not too big, but not too small either. Best of all he was able to pay for it in cash, so he didn’t have to worry about payments each month.

He got out of bed and greeted his dog Zeus. Zeus was a Great Dane, a tall and handsome dog, but oh boy did he have some energy. To help with that, David would take him for a run each morning. He grabbed his windbreaker as it was still a bit chilly this early in the morning, and headed outside. He knew his neighborhood pretty well, taking a different route for his jog with Zeus each morning. He pondered about where he wanted to go and started off. “Let’s swing by the basketball courts today” he thought.

Life for David was good. As he continued jogging, he began wondering to himself when he would find the girl he was looking for. He had had several girlfriends in the past, and even though he always had fun, the relationships had tended to end as quickly as they started when he would realize they weren’t right for him. Still, he kept the image of the kind of girl he was looking for in his mind. He figured he would have to find her eventually, he need only try. Although he was not yet 35, he had gone through plenty of ups and downs over the years, but he always kept his chin up and looked for ways to work with what he had to get what he wanted next. Suddenly, Zeus barked as a basketball rolled by his nose. They had arrived at the basketball courts, and David took a moment to pause and enjoy the makeshift game.

-

Two tiny slices of life, of two people with two different mentalities. The take away is this, those that act like they do not have free will, that their life is controlled by fortune, that tend to follow what they’re told to do, end up living life feeling powerless and with little capacity for change. Those that act like they do have free will, that their life is in their hands, tend to do what they want to do for themselves, and end up living life feeling powerful and with great capacity for change. Now you will find examples of the opposite of course, but they are the exception and not the rule.

Do we actually have free will or not? Who really knows?

But ultimately, acting like we do have free will is required if one wishes to have power over their life and feel like they have the ability to change not only their life, but the world, for the better.
 

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Tourmaline

Tourmaline

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@Bubbles I'm quite familiar with Sam Harris. I love what he does in general, have spent some time listening to his Waking Up podcasts. He's part of the Intellectual Dark Web, and is a liberal that's been rejected by the far left despite being one of the best thought leaders on the left.

You can play his experiment with any object. Name a car. Why did you name that car?

Therefore determinism is true.

Now take two cars and create a new car out of them. No one can predict what you will come up with, no computer model can account for it.

Therefore indeterminism is true.

Determinism cannot account for human creativity.

Reality is that both are true right? You are both subject to the laws of causality and have creativity at once.

The difference is those that give into causality more, versus those that give into their own creativity more.

Those that give into their creativity, which ultimately is more based on themselves and their own will, they in effect have more free will than those that do not employ creativity. Bob does not go by creativity, is led by causality, and does not act with free will. David goes by his creativity, influences his causality, and acts with free will.
 

Kak

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Locus of control is an interesting study that comes up from time to time on the forum and has a lot to do with free will vs deterministic views.

I read somewhere the average millionaire entrepreneur has an EXTREMELY high chance of being of internal locus.

In contrast, most prisoners and deadbeats of society have an external locus. This is not to say that there can't be deadbeats of internal or millionaires of external... but there is a massive correlation.

As I became more and more of an entrepreneur over the years I have gotten even more strongly internal.

@Bubbles the only thing that Harris’ video proves is that our minds are limited in capability. I sincerely hope you aren’t going through life believing free will doesn’t exist based on this type of reasoning.

Even so, maybe I'm wrong. It is impossible to prove if we have free will or not using the types of arguments Harris uses... He will always have some way to refute the free will out of something. I will however keep pushing by what I at least feel is choice and so far I have gotten some pretty great results that I am happy with.

I will leave you with the following:

Claiming we don't have free will when we do is incredibly detrimental to the person making the claim.

In contrast, claiming we have free will when we don't isn't.

That difference alone supports claims of free will.
 
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Sheens

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Claiming we don't have free will when we do is incredibly detrimental to the person making the claim.

In contrast, claiming we have free will when we don't isn't.

That difference alone supports claims of free will.
This!!! Thank you @Kak, it deserves to be read again and again!!

As a day to day example, there will always be an aspect in life or love that is uncontrollable and we may struggle to wrestle into an internal locus mindset.

In those cases, how about going back to the basics?

Find one thing to control.

Control if the next ten minutes are spent completely focused on helping someone else, listing the things to be grateful for, getting physically out of that space for a walk or focused breathing, choosing water over a drink or sweetened crap...

And if that thing you can first control is your emotional response, then you may be in the 1% or setting yourself up for it!
 
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AlexandreGoulart

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I suspect that people who choose "no free will", opposed to those who choose otherwise, may have the inclination to put the blame on others or have difficult to take responsibility over their own lives. Having another instance to put the blame on (be that God, chance or whatever) alleviates the pressure from being the cause themselves when things go wrong.
It's just an opinion, based on the examples I bumped with along my life. The hypothesis is left to be investigated with a broader sample.

I go with Tourmaline's theory: we have a limited domain of free will, that expands as we get more knowledge and power.
 
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Tourmaline

Tourmaline

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In a sense then @Kak, free will more or less boils down to how it causes one to have an external or internal locus of control.

Harris' arguments cannot prove that he exists, let alone much else! The mind starts off knowing nothing, and ultimately cannot fully prove anything it thinks it logically knows.

I suspect that people who choose "no free will", opposed to those who choose otherwise, may have the inclination to put the blame on others or have difficult to take responsibility over their own lives. Having another instance to put the blame on (be that God, chance or whatever) alleviates the pressure from being the cause themselves when things go wrong.
It's just an opinion, based on the examples I bumped with along my life. The hypothesis is left to be investigated with a broader sample.

I go with Tourmaline's theory: we have a limited domain of free will, that expands as we get more knowledge and power.
It is a natural consequence. If your will is not free, then other forces are naturally to blame. You blame society, your friends, your parents, your country, etc, etc...everything but yourself as it had not choice in the matter according to this limiting belief.

One line I like is, "Free will is a skill". As the greater one's awareness and control over their mind, then the greater is the ability for their will to act freely and in accordance with itself.
 

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Determinism cannot account for human creativity
Not yet but that wont stop the reductionists from trying!

I haven't been terribly convinced by anything experimentwise i've read that says it "disproves" freewill to date. All very much open to interpretation.

Brain activity neural correlates before a consciouse decision is made don't tell me anything about free will when we still havent solved the hard problem of consciousness and grapple with things like the the "modular theory of mind"

To pose an even more abstract qyestion , what if we have no self in the sense its believed by buddhists , could we still have free will? Then what is it thats imposing will? And upon what?
 

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If you believe that your decisions come 100% from something inside you then you will be less likely to place emphasis on environmental factors or chance and their roles in your life.
 

Brian Suh

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The debate about free will is endless. Do we have free will? Do we not? It is ultimately an unprovable question, but our minds will still futilely attempt to answer it. We can prove both determinism and indeterminism.

My conclusion is simple. We both do and do not have free will. Determinism and indeterminism are both correct. Yay! Will you now radically change your life? Does that change how you’re going to behave and act?

Of course not.

I file it away in the bucket titled Absurd Human Phenomenology.

More important is, What happens when someone acts like they do not have free will compared to if they do have free will? The following are two scenarios to illustrate the case:

-

Bob is driving along the road. It is about 2pm in the middle of summer. Nothing seems to go right for him. He is hit by misfortune time and time again. Just this year alone, first his car was rear ended and totaled in the middle of winter. He had just finished paying it off and the insurance gave him less than half of what he paid for it. Then his ex-wife, who was always nagging him and incessantly complaining, left him, taking half of what little he had and worse, leaving him even more alone. What friends he had remaining hardly returned his calls, and he rarely did more than watch whatever was on tv while sitting on the couch drinking a couple of beers each night.

He had driven this path a countless number of times over the years, although this was likely to be the last. His mind wandered off and he thought to himself, “How could this happen to me?”. “I did everything I was supposed to do. My parents told me to get a safe reliable job, so I became an accountant. Everyone deserves a good car they would say, and the salesman said ‘there’s nothing like buying a new car’, and so I did. They said “happy wife, happy life”, and so I always did what my wife asked.”

He hated when he would get like this and start having these thoughts. He simply didn’t understand why things had played out as they did. Half of his life had gone by, and he barely had anything to show for it. Why is the world so unfair? What did he do to deserve this? When was he going to catch his lucky break? He felt hopeless, powerless, for anything to become different. And now he had been laid off, through no fault of his own, and felt like he had to start all over from square one. Bob pulled into his driveway, remembering that it was Monday night and so surely a game would be on, and headed inside.

-

David woke up, 1 minute before his alarm was to go off. The sun was shining, the birds were chirping, he knew it was going to be a beautiful day. He saw a couple of texts from his parents and friends waiting, and smiled at the thought. His parents were always so worried about him, but that was okay. They had wanted him to study engineering, but he really couldn’t stand numbers. He liked talking to people and so became a salesman instead. The paychecks were unreliable, but it paid the bills well enough and he enjoyed getting to work every day. He had a pretty nice ride too. Not the flashiest, but by being in the sales industry he knew people in car sales and got a great deal on something not too big, but not too small either. Best of all he was able to pay for it in cash, so he didn’t have to worry about payments each month.

He got out of bed and greeted his dog Zeus. Zeus was a Great Dane, a tall and handsome dog, but oh boy did he have some energy. To help with that, David would take him for a run each morning. He grabbed his windbreaker as it was still a bit chilly this early in the morning, and headed outside. He knew his neighborhood pretty well, taking a different route for his jog with Zeus each morning. He pondered about where he wanted to go and started off. “Let’s swing by the basketball courts today” he thought.

Life for David was good. As he continued jogging, he began wondering to himself when he would find the girl he was looking for. He had had several girlfriends in the past, and even though he always had fun, the relationships had tended to end as quickly as they started when he would realize they weren’t right for him. Still, he kept the image of the kind of girl he was looking for in his mind. He figured he would have to find her eventually, he need only try. Although he was not yet 35, he had gone through plenty of ups and downs over the years, but he always kept his chin up and looked for ways to work with what he had to get what he wanted next. Suddenly, Zeus barked as a basketball rolled by his nose. They had arrived at the basketball courts, and David took a moment to pause and enjoy the makeshift game.

-

Two tiny slices of life, of two people with two different mentalities. The take away is this, those that act like they do not have free will, that their life is controlled by fortune, that tend to follow what they’re told to do, end up living life feeling powerless and with little capacity for change. Those that act like they do have free will, that their life is in their hands, tend to do what they want to do for themselves, and end up living life feeling powerful and with great capacity for change. Now you will find examples of the opposite of course, but they are the exception and not the rule.

Do we actually have free will or not? Who really knows?

But ultimately, acting like we do have free will is required if one wishes to have power over their life and feel like they have the ability to change not only their life, but the world, for the better.
as with most things in life its in the middle. Right now I am on the run of eating clean and staying fit for 7 years. I used to be fat and eat terrible terrrible food everyday. When I was fat and eating bad food, i thought it would be impossible for me to turn fit like my friends. Fast forward now and now I am one of the most fittest person I know (i know it sounds like im bragging but its to show you how much you can really F*cking change if you put effort into something for over half a decade) and now it seems impossible for me to go back to my fat ways. It can still happen but the habits I put in place make it almost impossible.

I believe adding the idea of momentum to this equation is a HUGE aspect. If you are born poor you will most likely remain poor. This will get a lot of hate like my other thread but look at the stats. Why? Thats all you see. Hopelessness. Crime. Poverty. You dont know anything else. The movie blind side illustrates this when the football player goes to a upscale neighborhood to become a star but self sabotages himself. Does he change? yes. but it takes a LOT of work and usually from a second hand source. You can definetly do it on your own but the effects of one's environment can be so strong. This is why people like MLK or other strong leaders are so revered. Because they STOOD UP to the momentum of society. Do you know how hard that is? It's like a fish swimming AGAINST the stream while the other fishes are going with it. They say "what are you doing?" but the fish keeps swimming against the river in hopes of a better life.
 

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WillHurtDontCare

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Honest question... Why is that bad? How can that hurt a person?
This is a worthwhile question and we could have a full thread dedicated to it.

Warning:
This was a bit of a rant (not in terms of anger but in terms of coherence) and I hit some writer's block, so these ideas might seem incomplete. I'll get back to these points when more come to me.

I originally meant the idea one way, though I'll explain a different perspective. Both with have pros & cons. And you don't necessarily pick one, but apply them with nuance according to different situations.

Original Idea

The sense in which I originally meant it was that external influences play a big role in your life. Having positive people around you to provide positive peer pressure (assuming that they understand you & your goals) will provide a spur towards better things. @Kak you for example mentioned @Vigilante told you to fight Wells Fargo over scammers & an escrow account, which you did and won. So in this case an external source gave your will some extra fire. He didn't fully control you obviously, but he exerted some influence which affected your decision. Conclusion: your choices are influenced by people around you.

Continuing with chance, I don't think that many of the people that ended up on this forum planned to be here. I stumbled upon it years ago on some reddit thread where guys were talking about where to meet girls. The idea here is that chance plays a big role in your life, and that you don't choose exactly how your life will unfold, but rather you will choose how you will act as things unfold. Conclusion: your choices are influenced by what chance sends your way.

Different Perspective

You can assume that you're plugged into the Matrix and that everything is a byproduct of your imagination & that you can't entirely be sure that anything outside is real. This sounds absurd, because it is absurd, but some smart people believe it. Whether or not it is true is superfluous & unverifiable (if you have evidence to the contrary please let me know), what matters is whether or not this is a useful way to think.

This perspective can be useful for situations when you find yourself replaying fights in your head with other people. It could be worth your girlfriend, a business partner, parents, whoever. With that Matrix perspective, you can realize that you aren't actually fighting with those people, but you're fighting with yourself. You are reliving those fights to prove something to yourself, to address some purely internal turmoil.

The point of this perspective isn't to radically isolate yourself or dehumanize others (which could happen) but to focus on yourself rather than external circumstances (what the other person did doesn't really matter, I am reliving this fight because I am a masochist and I want to keep the righteous indignation going, etc).
 

WillHurtDontCare

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One of the more interesting ideas that I had heard recently was the idea of "Free Won't" which means that we aren't free in our impulses but we are free in what we say no to.
 
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One of the more interesting ideas that I had heard recently was the idea of "Free Won't" which means that we aren't free in our impulses but we are free in what we say no to.
Interesting way to put it! Hadn't heard of this before.

Reminds me of Schopenhauer, who said something like "man can do what he wants, but cannot want what he wants".
Schopenhauer is fun. Of course he did not exactly seem to like the will, it was more a burden to human existence than something great about being human. Suppose that ties in well with him being a pessimist and all.
 

spreng

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I've found that I'm able to separate belief from knowing, with free-will there are 3 philosophical schools of thought.

-Free will exists
-Free will does not exist
-free will does not exist but act as it does

You can logically understand that all actions have a root cause and predisposed actions, while our own in essence, were an effect of previous actions. I've found that it allows me greater empathy in understanding a person's failures arn't their fault. Yet, I've found that I don't actually "feel" this towards myself when I react emotionally to my accomplishments or failures. It certainly compels me to work hard, for I do actually feel like my accomplishments and failures are my own.

It's also a misnomer that the belief of free will connotes lazy behavior or excuses. Who's to say that you can't take that and say you were destined for greatness?

Also, Judith Butler has a great paper on how to have accountability in a logical framework where we have no free will.
 
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Tourmaline

Tourmaline

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I've found that I'm able to separate belief from knowing, with free-will there are 3 philosophical schools of thought.

-Free will exists
-Free will does not exist
-free will does not exist but act as it does

You can logically understand that all actions have a root cause and predisposed actions, while our own in essence, were an effect of previous actions. I've found that it allows me greater empathy in understanding a person's failures arn't their fault. Yet, I've found that I don't actually "feel" this towards myself when I react emotionally to my accomplishments or failures. It certainly compels me to work hard, for I do actually feel like my accomplishments and failures are my own.

It's also a misnomer that the belief of free will connotes lazy behavior or excuses. Who's to say that you can't take that and say you were destined for greatness?

Also, Judith Butler has a great paper on how to have accountability in a logical framework where we have no free will.
I would put forth that we know that our accomplishments and failures are our own doing to a significant degree, even if we cannot quite exactly logically prove this is so.

None of this would matter if believing that your fate is already written and that you are destined for greatness were the norm for those that believe in no free will, but that is more so the exception than the rule!
 

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