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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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.

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"

Thanks! I accidently deleted that post a just before you replied. 

Actually I find humans pretty predictable with sufficient information. Not absolutely so of course, no more than I can absolutely predict any other system of sufficient complexity (I can't predict the weather all that well either :p), but I can do a pretty good job as people do. It's part of being a social species. Not the sum of our parts? I don't find any evidence to support such a claim. Good? Evil? Any objective definition of those terms that's generally accepted? Some people define homosexuality as "evil". People can "choose" not to be that way then? See the flaws in this definition? Why would anyone "choose" to be "evil"?  I understand your argument. It's part of the desire to see ourselves somehow apart or above the world around us, but we are very much involved, connected to, and dependent on it. We are the products of our physical composition and the natural laws that regulate the behavior of it. It's a happy dream though, and I'm just as guilty of immersing in it myself. :p

The Law of Indeterminacy (Heisenberg, et al.) is a well establish concept from physics. It forms a basis of quantum mechanics. 

I'm going to plagiarize Sam Harris here. At the neurological level, it seems clear that we are not in control of our minds, but that our minds are in control of us. If you were to trade places with a serial killer molecule for molecule, you'd be a serial killer. Nothing extra makes you different from a serial killer.

If we don't have free will then bad people aren't "bad people" but people who have, and may again do bad things. If that's the case one should not be allowed back into the situation where there is a chance they will repeat such an action not for the sake of punishment but for the sake of safety. Consequences are also a deterrent, and the tendency is that not being able to be in a situation to repeat some offence would be a consequence of a particular "bad" action.


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