Essentially if all things have a cause (quantum counts) then everything we do and/or are is hypothetically possible to trace back to either the Big Bang or a consequence thereof. This means that we are not people making decitions but physical reactions in a biological framework.

What are the implications of this if true?
Is it true?
How would it be falsifiable?
What are the contrasts to the deterministic view?

Tags: determinism, fate, philosophy

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Replies to This Discussion

I'm a determinist. I don't tout predetermination, preordination, or anything preceded with "pre." The future hasn't happened yet. As others have pointed out, quantum events might interrupt deterministic chains. But the response to such an interruption would be determined by Newtonian/Einsteinian physical laws, and doesn't in any way salvage free will.

The words "parlor trick" seems to imply a magician...God? I often describe God as a magical sorcerer, but only to make fun of the concept of God.

Citing complexity doesn't help the argument for free will. Any complex situation can, in principle, be analyzed down to simple components. Of course, it's difficult or impossible to do such an analysis, but even if we could, it would just make clear the determinism of nature.

Science—actual science by scientists—has demonstrated that choice are made in the preconscious mind, not in the conscious mind. That alone should tell you that there is no free will because no conscious thought or deliberation is involved. You aren't free because the conscious "you" has to live with decisions made unconsciously.

Even if, on the quantum level, events are not deterministic, if a quantum event has an effect on the gross Newtonian/Einsteinian level, that effect enters a deterministic world.

The biggest problem with the idea of free will though is this: what in the world does "will" mean? Probably the most potent meaning is embodied in movies like Poltergeist, Firestarter, or Carrie, where someone can make something happen remotely due to the strength of their thoughts or intentions.

We also use the word "will" in "will power," but there it's just a synonym for stick-to-it-iveness, grit, or determination. But that isn't what we mean by the "will" in "free will," either.

People are set on defending free will, a concept in search of a meaning.

Hello, Isaac. Chaos is mathematical, yes. I think of many of its implications, though. I feel as though in western culture a linear perception is deeply engrained in us while some aspects of chaos theory reveal some very different aspects to it all. And for myself I do feel that an element of randomness allows beings like us, if we are to be considered machines, to be spontaneous, which is where I think free will might be a real thing. If we were linear programmed machines we would have very limited courses. True and false, yes and no, left and right. As extremely complex "machines" imbued with random elements I feel that we can choose to lash out in any conceivable direction. I am not sure if that translates for you or if it eludes to how free will becomes possible but maybe it at least better shows you my line of thought on it.

All chaos theory means is that a seemingly innocuous action in one place can set off a chain of events with a seemingly (or measurably) greater consequence, in at least temporary apparent conflict with the notion that entropy rules the universe. But entropy is a global concept having no implications for local interactions. It's a trend.

And once again I remind you: randomness doesn't give us free will any more than determinism does. For "will" to have meaning, you need to believe in spiritual entities (souls) having miraculous powers to override the laws that govern everything else. If you believe the world is material in nature, not spiritual, then you're kind of stuck with physical laws.

I guess, I have a concern with the difference between 'what we think' and 'what is'. If what we 'think' is in one to one relationship with 'what is', I could understand a claim to certainty, but it seems clear that we do not. So I hold the door open to 'free will', and even the existence of some transendental conscience, but I could be just waiting for a toe to cut off sometime during the wait...LOL

Okay, define "will." programs with simple instructions and no random variables can lead to complex and beautiful patterns.

There's no better example than such fractals as The Mandelbrot Set.

Mike doesn't seem to get that randomness doesn't get him anywhere. He has yet to define "will" for us as well.

The notion of metaphysical freedom is unfortunately not clear.  Philosophers have been arguing this point for thousands of years. 


Epicurus believed that we were created from tiny "atoms" that behaved in regular and lawful ways, but were capable of the occasional "swerve" ie. acting on their own.


This is a quote from "Metaphysics The Elements" by Bruce Aune:


"According to him (Arthur Eddington) the fundamental laws governing the behavior of basic physical entities are irreducibly statistical and certain quantum transition involving those entities are inherently unpredictable and therefore undetermined by antecedent causes or conditions." (p. 188)


"According to the conception of metaphysical freedom, espoused by many contemporary philosophers, it is only when people act as "unmoved movers" that they truly act freely." (p.189)

Here's a rather tongue-in-cheek look at this idea. I read a while ago.


its a good read.

 Some deterministic ideas might be falsifiable if there was some deterministic model of prediction for human behavior, if given a set of controlled conditions, and pre-conditions such as mental state, genetics, memories, etc.  That particular model of behavior could be falsifiable, but determinism could not be falsifiable.  It could be argued under most conditions that there was some unobservable affector/s that causes any action.  It might require knowledge and observation of every force in existence to disprove determinism, similar to another theory this community is well aware of.

The problem isn't disproving or proving determinism, the problem is that the whole notion of "free will" doesn't really make sense. Given that there are only two alternatives (three, if you are religious), it's hard to figure out what free will even means. The two alternatives are that our actions happen with necessity driven by the same laws that have water boiling and planets circling around suns. Or else the randomized world of quantum mechanics is responsible. No actual meaningful freedom there. Religious people can introduce the soul, but it's even more problematic (how does a spirit cause worldly things to move, for example. Answer: with the help of God.)

Brain science has established that our subconscious makes decisions a fraction of a second before we are aware of them. We aren't in control of our subconscious. No free will there, either.

There literally is nowhere for free will to be hiding, unless you have some idea where that might be.

Basically, if you want to believe in free will, believe in God. Me, I don't believe in free will.

I agree with you here. I actualy wonder  if  free will is even something we would want, as it implies being able to make purely random decisions divorced from all past experiences, thoughts, feelings and actions, such a world would likely be pure anarchy and one where it would be entirely impossible to have any expectations about what anyone will ever do. It would be the type of world where a devoted father could come home feeling happy and calm  and then the next second murder he's children, not because he was stressed, angry , scared or even because the voices told him to etc , he would do it for no reason at all, because that is what free will implies


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