I don't understand why the 'free will' thing keeps popping back up again and again. Either you don't have it or you do and it will not change the way you behave. If you suddenly learned that you do not possess 'free will' will you just out of a window???? Are you not going to put bad people in prison????? Or are you going to just continue doing what you have been doing???? What would the universe look like if it was not predictable or only predictable to a variable degree? Can you imagine such a universe? 

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I have my personal take on the issue, but whatever the actual answer may be (if a definitive answer exists), it doesn't really alter reality as I've experienced it over the last twenty-nine years.  For me, it comes down to shaping my broader perspective, and also a curiosity about how the universe works. 

Deciding to jump out a window because I don't have free will... would be an exercise of free will, wouldn't it?

I know that sounds like something snarky and wiseass to say but I can't see that anyone has satisfactorily answered such objections in the past.

Not necessarily.  The decision to jump would be determined by a set of logic and mechanics intrinsic to the jumper.  There is a decision process that occurs in the jumper, but that process is almost certainly causal and deterministic in nature.

Even computers can make decisions despite the apparent absence of will.

Personally, I'm a compatibilist of sorts, so I would recognize the act of jumping as an act of free will. buuuuuut... that doesn't necessarily mean I think hard determinists are wrong.  It's more a difference in perspective than a difference in underlying principles, if that makes any sort of sense.

What matters is that it *feels* like we have free will.  Whether or not all, some, or none of our perceived free decisions are actually so is irrelevant to the human experience.  In fact, the question of whether we "truly" have free will or not is only relevant if we could rewind time and "try again".  Without free will, the same events would trigger the same responses; with free will, different responses are possible.  But since we can't rewind time, the whole issue is a non-issue.

Damned interesting point!

Most people find the idea or praise- and blame-worthiness motivating. Oh, we can praise or blame under determinism, but are those who are blamed WORTHY of the blame and are those who are praised WORTHY of the praise. If not, then from a moral/ethical standpoint, there is no substantive difference between the person who murders a child and the person who saves one.

How can there be REAL right and wrong, REAL good and evil, if people do what they do the way billiard balls behave on a pool table?

Non-issue? I don't think so. I think it has everything to do with whether there is any meaning in life.

"How can there be REAL right and wrong, REAL good and evil, if people do what they do the way billiard balls behave on a pool table?"

 It does not matter, we are going to say those things are right or wrong either way. If we live in a deterministic world then we can obviously have a sense of right and wrong and punish people. If we have free will we can do the same.

"I think it has everything to do with whether there is any meaning in life."

Either life has meaning or it does not. Your perception of the meaning of life has no effect on whether or not you actually possess free will. 

"If we have free will we can do the same." The word "can" which you use in itself implies freedom.

"Your perception of the meaning of life has no effect on whether or not you actually possess free will." But realizing realizing that good people and bad do what they do without being able to do otherwise, takes a lot of the meaning out of our behavior.

Why does life have to have any meaning to begin with? Let's assume you are trying to justify existence. You exist. We exist. The universe exists. The universe keeps on existing without having to find any justification for its doing so. If you are trying to justify what to do with the rest of your life, why? Just find any reasonable set of goals and pursue them. If you succeed at any - great. Find new goals then. As a Rush song goes "The point of a journey is not to arrive." Didn't realize that crazy verse had any application until now :) 

The question remains, can I do otherwise than I do? and if I can, in so doing am I somehow acting outside the same laws that apply to everything nonhuman? In other words, is a human being in daily life, making choices, creating miracles as he goes along, or is he simply doing what his neurological system has to do in order to obey the laws of nature?

The answer is important in terms of whether life has an ethical dimension.

Yes, will do what we do, but the question is will we do it with meaning.

Crap. Accidently deleted my own reply here. I was trying to cancel another reply I started. :(

Free will is a paradoxical quality that is possessed by humans that makes their choices unpredictable. One is able to choose to be good or evil and they are not the sum of their experiences and parts. 

"If I suddenly learned that I didn't have "free will"? I never believed in that nonsense to begin with. My behavior obviously won't change. That question is as bad (especially for this site) as asking me what I would do if I suddenly found out I didn't have a "soul"."

That is the point I am trying to make with the question. I am sorry for being unclear.

"I don't put people in prison, the instrumentalities  of the state do; they'll keep putting people in prison, "good" or "bad", regardless of whether not anybody believed in fictitious nonsense."
Ok maby this question was also poorly phrased. Will you stop punishing people you perceive as bad?
"Obviously I'm going to continue what I've been doing."
That was the point of the rhetorical questions i posted before hand. 
 It's already been found to be unpredictable in a "variable degree". The Laws of  Relativity (Galileo and NOT Einstein!) and Indeterminacy are pretty solid stuff.
LOL at the "Indeterminacy being pretty solid stuff"


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