A deep thought occurred to me the other day when someone less educated then myself got on my nerves. Do people truly have free will? I'm not entirely sure if this is fitting for the site, but I can tie it into religion ans science in a few moments, bear with me.

When someone makes a decision, what determines that thought? What made me type what I just typed? In theory, everything I think, decide to do, act upon, and so on, is all predetermined, to an extent. The extent I speak of is this; the moment right before someone makes a decisions, the brain is about to take into play a ton of variables, then come to a conclusion for that decision. It can't be altered, and even before you actual make that decision, it's predefined before it's completed, again, this could be only split seconds. Although "predetermined" as I'll use loosely, nobody can predict it, it's not like a fortune telling ability, it's simply set in stone, at least moments before the decision is made.

Let's say a boy at the age of 10 gets picked on at the park by a bully. He then has to "decide" what to do; does he hit the bully back? Does he wait until he gets pushed a few more times? Does he think to himself that he should run? Whatever it is he chooses, it's already been decided, at least at that split second moment before the thought process even starts. He doesn't know what he'll do yet, but It's all a large formula of how he was raised, what he's seen, what people told him, the possibility of a similar situation in the past, what he ate that day, how is his mood on this day, so on. Now you may say, his mood is a variable, true, and not true. That mood, is determined by the decisions made, or acts upon him, which he then responded to in a "predefined" way. It's as if every single thing we say, do, and think, is already made up for us, to this short extent, but indeed to an extent none the less. If the kid hits the bully, he was always going to, no amount of recreating the scenario will change that, it's just how it was going to turn out.

If someone flames this topic, I will act upon that flaming in a "predefined" way. I'm already programed to react how I will, I can't change that. From what I know, from the way I think, it's all who I am, but there is no free will, because every bit of thought I do is not my own, it's a compilation of my life events and how I reacted, which was all decided for me beforehand, starting from my first "decision".

Let's take a look at hatred, and touch on religion. We all dislike stupid people, ignorant people, and people who refuse to change, even when evidence is thrown in front of them. Ever argued with someone, had straight proof you were right, but they wouldn't change? It's not their fault they can't, they're acting upon the situation the way they always will, the way every event in their life prior to that moment has led them to do. Everything from the test in 3rd grade, the father yelling about it, to the great present they got for Christmas the year before, and the sandwich they ate that morning. Every event upon us decides how we'll act in the future, and we can't change that.

If you say, "okay, knowing this, I'm going to do the opposite of whatever I would normally do" That exact thought, and the decision you made to do the opposite, that too has already been decided. The kind of person you are, due to prior events, is what made you decide to rebel. Your prior live events decided you would act that way to that situation. You can't decide anything.

If someone hits you in the face, you can't change that, you also can't change how you'll react to it. On this line of thought, our very lives are predetermined, even though random. It's complicated, and hard to explain, but if you follow me at all, you'll see how this could drive one insane. Now let's suppose that right as your hit, someone comes from behind, picks you up, and stands up for you. Awesome, you're probably not going to strike back, the situation is handled, you'll take a new approach to the situation. Well, although that person is an outside source, and altering what would happen, your still programmed to react to the new situation as you would any other, in the same sense, you can't escape how you'll react to anything.

To further this, the typing of this by me, is not my choice. I can claim it a choice, and I can close the window right now before submitting it, but doing so is only a reaction based on my prior events, which are also based on prior events, all going down to the day of my birth, and perhaps my genetics. In a sense, it's almost like organized chaos. Nobody knows what will happen to me, but there is in fact something that will happen, and when it does, I have no say in how I react to it, nor could it have been any different.

On that note, I ask for everyone to consider this. The next time you find someone annoying, or think you hate someone, or feel like someone is an idiot for their beliefs, or lack of, remember that it's not their choice, every thought they'll ever make is predetermined, they can't act any other way than is already laid out for them, to an extent. People such as ourselves can coach them, and train them in new ways, but if they don't except, that's just how they are, they're not choosing to be that way, weather themselves or you think they are or not. I believe with an understanding of the above, we can see how we're all equal in a sense, nobody is superior, nobody is worse, we're all as equally unimportant, or important, whichever you choose to believe, it doesn't matter, again, it's not like you have a choice in which you pick :)

Any thoughts? Contributions? Articles/Videos on the matter? I'm interested to see what others have to say, from any point of view possible. I don't really take a definite side on this, I'm more interested in seeing both, and any evidence either side has to offer. I'm open to altering anything I don't know, since this is not a 100% thought in my mind, I do not know it, thus I'm open to bend either way, with proper persuasion.

Tags: Free, People, Predetermined, Thoughts, Will

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I think that I understand what you're getting at.
Though, taking responsibility for our actions is probably a very big portion of that giant hypothetical equation that puts things into action. With your reasoning, we just keep adding different variables and such to the entire equation as we live. That's a very interesting thought, but I don't know if my genetics would allow me to relinquish being in control of myself, or at least the belief that I am. I like thinking about this though. There really can't be an answer.
The mystery of it really is intriguing. I would argue on my line of thought that, if one takes control, that is indeed an action, one that is determined in the same way as the action they need to take responsibility for in the first place. It's a mind twisting thought, but taking responsibility is technically no different then deciding if you should yell at someone when you're upset, in the end, it's all just a decision. Thanks for your input, I'm really looking forward to hearing what others have to think. I will note that movies such as The Matrix and many others have hinted at this, but they didn't dive deep enough for me to feel satisfied.
Well... this shall be an interesting thread to follow, I can tell already.

First of all, nothing can be "predetermined" without a determiner behind the determination; a decider to decide. The word "determine" is a verb, and therefore an action. It also implies a mind behind that action. Unless you believe in a god, gods, or some sort of mysticism, you cannot also say that life is "predetermined".

Again, nothing was "decided", even the fact that you exist. Here's an excerpt from Chris Hitchen's book, God is Not Great, in regards to the first vertebrae:

"The earliest known vertebrate (or "chordate") located in the Burgess shale is a two-inch and rather elegant creature named, after an adjoining mountain and also for its sinuous beauty, Pikia gracilens. It was originally and wrongly classified as a worm (one must never forget how recent most of our knowledge really is), but in its segments, muscularity, and dorsal-rod flexibility it is a necessary ancestor that yet demands no worship. Millions of other life forms perished before the Cambrian period was over, but this little prototype survived. To quote Gould: Wind the tape of time back to Burgess times, and let it play again. If Pikia does not survive in the replay, we are wiped out of future history—all of us, from shark to robin to orangutan."

There were a multitude of other possibilities that might've been the dominate life-form; the Pikia did not necessarily survive because it was the strongest, either. As it was stated above, Pikia "demands no worship"; in other words, it was not extraordinary. Maybe it survived because it hid under rocks, or because it happened upon a better feeding area than its competitors. The point is, it didn't survive because of predetermined causes. It survived because it survived; each of its decisions held its survival in the balance, though the creature probably was not aware of this. Should it go right or should it go left? Going left might've put it in harms way, after all. None of its previous life experiences had anything to do with its choices, but only random chance. And none of its past experiences would have necessarily led it in either direction. Don't forget the minute decisions of our day, including whether we choose to drink the Coke or the Dr Pepper, assuming we like one as much as the other.

Moving forward to where you're standing in front of a bully, the same is true except in a more complicated way. it's true, you might act as you typically would. Someone might be able to say you will probably run away, since you've always run away in the past. We could analyze your childhood and see all the reasons you'd likely flee. But, unexpectedly, you swing at the bully and shock everyone, including yourself. From then on, you have a new sense of confidence and fearlessness. This was definitely not instilled in you since [hypothetically] you were abused by your father and any retaliation on your part only meant more pain. Besides, you take after your mother and she's very conservative and soft-spoken. But, despite everything, you decide to take a completely different road from your family from then on; you move away from your small town (where all your kinfolk have been for the past 200 years).

The reason why human psychology is so infinitely interesting is because humans don't always act in predictable fashions, even if they mostly do. There are some that break the mold and defy our formulas. You may insist that there are still factors that determine our actions, but these factors are not irresistible. Besides, you leave out a lot of variables.

In a way, this idea you have that we have no choice in any matter could be a very defeating concept for anyone attempting to improve themselves. "Oh, woe is me, I was born in these conditions and therefore cannot do any better! I might as well not try." You might argue that this very reaction could be because of this person's upbringing, environment and circumstance, but... this attitude very much reflects the attitude of the religious. Brainwashing and innuendo are very powerful forces, as we can all attest to. If you tell someone they have no free will, they may stop trying to exercise it. Obviously, some would rebel against that idea.

For a lot of us on this site, it is despite our upbringing and circumstance that we are atheist. It is because we made a decision, somewhere along the line, to search out the inconsistencies in what we were brought up to believe. I was determined to be a devout Christian my entire life, and all my life experiences up to 24 only supported this outcome.

Anyway, this is a philosophical question. I absolutely do not believe in predetermination in any fashion, unless we're talking about our actual plans. Obviously, even plans can be thwarted. I believe that a person is responsible for their decisions and blaming their actions on things that happened in the past or their genetics is a cop-out, and it's dangerous to do so. It is our choice how we react; we can allow our emotions to rule us or we can count to ten and breathe, then calmly decide what to do next. The thing is, it is completely a choice what we decide and, since we make inconsistent decisions, we prove it to ourselves as we begin to see our own pattern of behavior changing.

It's late. This is very incoherent now to me. Oh well...
Editing the post tomorrow for proper grammar and updated structure, keep the opinions rolling.
I'll reflect on the above tomorrow when I have time to properly analyze it, thanks for the insight.
Assuming there is some part of you with the ability to make undetermined decisions, is assuming that this part is some how removed from all other matter and energy in the universe. We are organic machines, why assume anything more?

When it comes to the ethical question of "will this reasoning change people for the worse." I'd have to say, for some maybe it will, but that doesn't make it any less true. When it comes down to it though, regardless of philosophy, we are humans, we will act as humans, and hopefully for most of us that means acting humanely.

I call myself an optimistic pessimist; I try to make the best to enjoy my pointless existence. The only other options would be delusion or misery. The former I can't seem to work out, and the latter I'd like to avoid.
The answer as to our thoughts and decisions? Well, in order to think at all, we need energy, which we get from food. Of course, all the energy we get from food comes from the sun. Therefore, the sun did it! With some help from the Earth.

Of course, that just means the Universe did it, since that's where all the matter/energy comes from anyway. and of course that just means the Big Bang did it, since that's when the rules of the universe were set to begin with. Gah, my head hurts.

Yes, this is totally an answer. No really, I swear...<_<...>_>...o_0
A few comments:

The term "choice" presupposes determinism and can only exist to the degree that determinism is true. The reason is that the opposite of determinism is randomness, and randomness can's support the idea that agents make choices, nor can it support any version of responsibility. The reason is that randomness implies that actions are independent of the agents making them.

Given a deterministic choice, free will, whatever one means by that, must also presuppose determinism. If it does not, your definitions are self contradictory.

While I agree with pretty much everything you say about causality, I think you are mistaken when you attempt to distinguish between a person and his decisions. Those are the same thing. Agents are their bodies, and making a decision means evaluating environmental input and memories using your brain and producing actions in response to that. "Free will" will in practice be a fudge factor, by which we can attribute more or less responsibility to other agents depending on how much of the cause for something they did originates from the agent itself. That is, when X shoots Y, it might be regarded as insane if it happens randomly on the street, but in wartime, or self defense, X may have his possible choices limited by other agents, so the same action can be judged acceptable due to the context forcing X to act in certain ways.

Either way, people are what they are and do what they do, but that's no reason to not assign responsibility to them. They still affect other agents, and that's what matters. When we believe we have identified an agent behaving in an unacceptable manner - we should react, because it might be a danger to us next.

I think the proper way to view idiots is that, while nobody has decided to exist, we all exist, and by that very fact will be made responsible for everything we do by other agents. Your idiot detector is a tool for protecting yourself and your property. IMO you should embrace it, and avoid idiots. We're certainly not equal, which should be obvious... the command of a president can do far more damage/good than the word of a bum, and our decisions are personal - a result of our experiences and physiology. A result of you being you.

Anyway, saying things like "I have no say in how I react to it" is self contradictory. The very fact that you react IS you having a say in how to react. You are your body.
It's been a few months, looks like it's time for another round of free will versus determinism. Cool.

You might want to check out a previous thread started back in June that went on for 18 pages or so. Although given the evasiveness that cropped up it may not be as enlightening as it could have been.

Also, the Point of Inquiry podcast had an episode with Tom Clark discussing Scientific Naturalism and the Illusion of Free Will. One of the major points made is that while innumerable factors influence our decisions, we ourselves are one of those influences. So, as I understand it, while we may not be totally in control of our decisions, neither are we helplessly carried along by the tide of influencing agents.
You know, I understand what you're saying and have heard that line of reasoning before, but I just don't believe that influences on our biology and psychology are that definite, nor do they allow for only one possible outcome. We can't claim to have absolute free will as I can't choose to fly away from danger or fit through the key hole when I lock myself out of my house, but within the given parameters of life, even with influences that make our decisions nearly entirely predictable we still have to make those decisions. I just don't see the influence as so absolute as you describe it.
I'm open to either side of this I might add, I'm simply sharing one side so that I can hear the other, believe me, I take no solid stance on either side.

That being said, as a direct response to, "we still have to make those decisions", what is a decision? What determines the outcome of that thought process? Can you ever make a decision, then claim that it isn't what you WOULD have picked? You can't change the past, and if you do pick something, that's just how it is, and it's how it was always going to be. Everyone keeps saying we can make decisions, but again, the topic is, decisions are predetermined to an extent. They're not predetermined as in, you can look into the future and read into what will happen, but they are in the sense that split seconds before you even start to think, the decisions result is already defined, you just don't know it yet. What it is going to be, is what it is going to be, your "decisions" isn't much of a decision at all, at least on the lines of thought above. We do have to make decisions throughout life, but it's not like we really have a choice at the result of them.
In addition to the thread that Dave pointed out, there was this blog which stemmed quite a debate, which also wasn't necessarily all that progressive at all points. I'll take this excerpt from a point where I was attempting to summarize an explanation of consciousness that I think came out decently.

Consciousness and mind should not be used interchangeably. One is a state of being, the other is an abstract entity. That would be like using fluidic and water interchangeably. Yes water is fluidic, but fluidic is not water.

Consciousness is a coping mechanism evolved to aid the animal in dealing with scenarios that simple physical attributes could not. The progression of its evolution increased exponentially in humans, as it was our defining attribute in enhancing survivability. Self awareness, i.e. consciousness, is an unimaginably complex condition. However it is essentially a process that uses information to identify one self as a unit, and react as a unit. The defining difference between a conscious organism, and an unconscious one, is this use of a self referencing information system. In animals, the hub, and processor, for all information from the environment is the brain. The brain exists in such a way that information it receives effect it both immediately and indefinitely. Causing immediate reaction to environment, as well as conditioning towards all later events. While the brain is supplied with a constant stream of information, and always has more then it can process, it is constantly processing, and constantly reacting, as well as relating to information that has effected it previously. Consciousness is merely a state of existence that the brain can be in, it is not its own separate entity.
I think you raise some great points here. Especially in the sense that humans can analyze their own behavior while animals don't appear to. If a dog is beaten, it will forever cower before a raised hand (or at least it will do so for a long time, until it has enough positive experiences to compensate for the negative). It's true, the same dog may someday snap and attack, but it was never as a result of reflection or any conscious decision. It was merely reacting fairly thoughtlessly; its survival instincts were at the forefront and not active critical thinking.

Another interesting thing to consider is the way in which humans have evolved/progressed. Our species seems to be more problem-solving than other species. We all started out basically the same, but the variety of life is a testament to the endless possibilities. For one thing, just look at the difference between us and our cousins, the chimpanzees. We have a common ancestor, who had common experiences and common genes, yet we all went down a profoundly different path. And why? Because of each animal and group's free-will choices to act one way or another. The fact that the chimps are still running around in the jungle while we're tucked away inside a water-proof, climate-controlled structure shows that, somewhere along the line, "brother" primates made different decisions about how they were going to cope with their environment. One chose to stay in the trees, the other piled some sticks together and threw some leaves on top until it had something that could provide shelter on the ground.

Whoever our ancestors were at that divergent point, for some reason that can't necessarily be blamed on past experiences or genetics, started thinking and problem-solving instead of just being content to use their teeth and opposable thumb-toes as their only means of survival. IDEAS are what step outside of the concept of "predetermination". All preexisting conditions cannot lead inevitably to the creation a light bulb, or an automobile, or the internet. Even someone's inquisitive intellect does not necessitate certain products of their mind, only that something might be created, if the person gets around to it or maintains an interest in a particular project. All we can posit it that this person will probably come up with something, but whatever that is has only to do with his acquired interests... and those interests are not predetermined. But, even the most promising mind can fail to produce, and those reasons may have nothing to do with ancestral traits or past experiences.

We can all predict behavior but never be certain of it. Instead of using the word "predetermined" a better phrase would be "probable outcome".

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