A while back, I had a long chat with my niece, trying to explain what I believe is the inevitability of events and the consequent contradiction of the concept of free will.  She puttered off and posted on her page/site/whatever, what was probably a two hour conversation condensed into a short explanation.  I post that here to give the benefit of brevity to anyone who is interested.

"

I believe in fate… and so should you

Things could not be any way other than the way they are.

You made the decisions you did because you used all the rationale and information available to you at the time, so not only were they the right decisions, they were the only ones you ever could have made. 

You are a product of the nature and nurture you received as you developed. On a molecular level, chain reactions shaped your biology. On a psychological level, you were influenced by pre-existing family dynamics in your own household and those of your peers. These presets had a single, if complex, possible outcome.

Whatever happened in the past, it happened, and so here you are. Just like you are. It’s not your fault, it just turned out this way because of what went on millions and billions of years ago, setting off infinite generations of chain reactions.

If things are the way they are right now, then things in the future are going to be a certain way too - we just can’t see it. And that’s fate. :)

Thanks, Sophia

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Comment by Heather Spoonheim on September 10, 2012 at 6:58pm

This is all true - but you can still benefit from looking both ways before crossing the street.

Comment by Strega on September 10, 2012 at 7:27pm

Well there it is - your chemical/neurological/predetermined personality found that reading the above triggered you to post me a caution about looking both ways (I do this anyway, incidentally,  because I can never remember which side of the road the country I happen to be in drives),  And because of your cautionary comment, I might be inspired to do exactly that - check both ways.  And so you might well have saved my life.  The theory here is that you were pre-programmed to post what you posted, and I am pre-programmed to either follow your advice or not.  And soon, I shall find out which it is to be :)

Comment by Ward Cressin on September 11, 2012 at 4:30am

To me, fate / determinism looks like a belief. It has benefits in that there is no god in it. It also provides absolute absolution since everything is "pre-programmed".

But that ignores emergent complexity as well as some other things.

I wanted to write more because I'm not sure when I'll be back but it's late and I can't focus as well right now.

Comment by Strega on September 11, 2012 at 9:32am

Other than with my niece,I have not had the opportunity to discuss or receive the benefit of any other persons thoughts on this, so I would welcome the opportunity to hear what you have to say.

You must have heard people say, "if I could go back in time to THEN, I would do it differently".  My most common reply to that is, "no you wouldn't, because without the benefit of hindsight, you would do exactly as you did because the factors were the way they were when you made that decision".

And that's what set me to thinking, and this philosophy is where I currently am.

Oh I know our ego's would dearly like the idea of Free Choice to matter.  And it doesn't alleviate us from struggling with decisions, and contemplating all the possible permutations.  It just means that the decision we end up with is the only one we were able to make under the circumstances present.

Belief doesn't really come into it.  It doesn't affect the way I behave, and doesn't require a commitment.  It's more of a bemused observation.  I'm not sure that complexity is going to make much of a difference, as complexity in any particular direction is just as subject to this predetermination. 

However, I am not suggesting that there is any purpose, or reason, or giant master-plan here.  It's all just consequential from the Big Bang forward, if that was the actual start.

Comment by Logicallunatic on September 13, 2012 at 1:08am

Hindsight bias in indeed blinding. How do you think random chance comes into all of this? I have no idea to be honest. There are simply different choices in a random world. As you say, whatever we choose is what we would have chosen anyway and dithering about what we could have or should have done is to miss the point. Maybe all of the chemical/neurological/pre-determinism simply boils down to "whatever happens happens."

Comment by Strega on September 14, 2012 at 4:12am

Thank you for your comments.  Great point about random chance.  However, the word "random" itself comes under scrutiny if you extrapolate this concept a little wider.  Is there such a thing?  Or is it just a complex series of unpredicted, yet conceptually predictable events that give rise to the appearance of randomness? 

Comment by Arcus on September 14, 2012 at 4:32am

People need to learn to differentiate between the terms "random" and "arbitrary". Randomness is a mathematical-statistical concept which can be measured, and it therefore most definitely exists. The driving force behind randomness is probability. 

I'm a free will believer, in the sense that we have real choices to make, but that the probability of choosing one action over the other is dependent on the complex parameter which is us.

Comment by Candide Schmyles on November 9, 2013 at 12:56pm

People make decisions and perform actions that have no evident rational or causality. Your niece shows a clever abstraction of the laws of thermodynamics, everything carries the information about its past. While theoretically correct in practice its not so simple. Perhaps the illusion of free choice creates free choice.

Comment by Doug Reardon on November 9, 2013 at 6:01pm

Just flip a coin before you make any decision (unless you think that muscle twitches, air currents, and gravitational influences are all predetermined too!) 

Comment by MikeLong on November 10, 2013 at 4:24am

"Perhaps the illusion of free choice creates free choice."

Sort of true. The illusion of free choice is where I live, so of course it's real to me - much more real than contemplating the probability of what I "choose" to do tomorrow being statistical inevitable.

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