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Free Will, Do We Have It?

I had a whole response written out, but we aren’t going to agree on this. I don’t buy almost anything you just wrote.

I don’t think anyone would argue that our past helps dictate our response to situations and/or choices. However, stating that we have no control is a stretch I disagree with. This also isn’t the first I’ve heard this belief. Ultimately, the outcome I find is choose to ‘agree to disagree’.

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Agreed, but it’s not just your past that dictates your choices. There are some very funny experiments where they can influence people to behave very irrationally by simple things such as subtle social pressures or having the person in a lab coat give the instructions. People who would NEVER “choose” to kill a person, do just that (or at least they think they are). Derren Brown is making a Netflix special with that premise, called Push.’

I was in that camp as well, but when you actually make the argument it doesn’t hold up. It still feels funny and goes against intuition so most people don’t like the idea.

I’m honestly curious, I didn’t think I was writing anything against free will, I was just stating things influence your decision. I’m surprised you disagree, but more than happy to drop it. I’m not trying to convince anyone, I just think it’s a fun thought experiment.

I guess I misunderstood you because I thought you were saying, essentially, that outside influence makes the decision for you. That it was more than just influence it was actually making the decision (unconscious I guess) for you.

Of course, influence, information, mood, etc… influence decision making.

Honestly, I was baffled.

Isn’t that just manipulation, though?

See, now I’m confused again…

I think that’s the main point. What people don’t realize, is HOW MUCH their decision making is being influenced.

At the end of the day, you still have to make a decision, though. You still have to decide to eat ham or to eat turkey regardless of any and all influences you have perceived and not perceived over your entire life.

Influence =/= decision

would love to continue guys but I gotta run, good discussion, thanks for entertaining my afternoon.

I can maybe come back and add some more later to your points

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Agreed. I have to get my kids, no choice there.

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Daniel Khaneman and Amos Tveresky also conducted similar experiments that prove people don’t always think logically. Specifically, around system 1 vs. system 2. People react to pressures, without thinking things through. I also don’t think many people are fully ‘present’ in life.

As an example for ‘pressure’, I have a heuristic I conform to where I don’t make decisions that cost more than $100 or have a contract tied to them, if I am forced to make it in that moment. The damn bug people are notorious for this. “If you agree today, then it will only cost you $100, because your neighbor is getting sprayed right now”.

Manipulation and understanding psychology doesn’t equate to inability to make decisions, imo.

I disagree. Plenty of people make the other choice.

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Bah, fuckrd this up. A big part of my response is in your quote haha (I think I fixed it?)

I think it’s easiest to think about these things with simpler animals. Dogs behave pretty predictably based on their limited ability to understand what will happen if they react in a certain way. Sheep are almost 100% predictable, even across a herd of sheep. The simpler the animal, the less variance it would seem.

That’s probably because the ability to choose a different option was an evolutionary advantage for some animals. I think you can see this where it goes a bit haywired and animals do shit like walk off cliffs.

Now, people have a lot of memory, have very good ability to learn (I see a squirrel ferreting stuff away, after a winter of no food, I can mimick it but a dog won’t catch on), and are more sophisticated in their decision making. This could produce a lot of variance in how they might react to something.

It would be really cool to see if given a scenario whether a person always chooses to do the same thing but we’d never be able to arrange this.

As stupid as it sounds, I think hypnotists to a good job of showing up some of this. They choose particular people and manipulate the situation to reduce variance and in the end, they can predict behavior like you could with a dog or sheep.

It could be that really, really fine grain selections give the illusion of free will, so you put 1000 people in the same situation and they all behave differently or they could actually have free will. I don’t think we’ll ever be able to tell and do you really want to know the answer?

I haven’t read anything in this thread besides this yet, so pardon me if this has already been convered, but my understanding of it has always been that God doesn’t necessarily know what choices we’ll make, rather he can see the endless choices we could make…

Like if our life choices were a tree, he could see us beginning at the bottom of the trunk, and the branches would be our choices - he could see us picking A or B, and if we picked A he can see A1 and A2, and everything beyond them, and if we picked B, he could see B1 and B2, and everything beyond them. So he doesn’t know what exactly we’ll pick, he just can see everything we could possibly choose from and the resulting consquences (good or bad) from every choice.

I personally believe he is omniscient, and that our lives are not preordained, but there are several different beliefs within the various Christian denominations.

EDIT: just read the rest of it. I see what people are saying and it’s not super closely related to this, so just consider this a reply to your first thought. It’s just my two cents.

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It’s interesting, both Christians and Atheists have a take on the ‘no choice’ philosophy and apply it to their respective beliefs. The Calvinist denomination is the ‘no choice’r of the Christian world.

I can’t reconcile these two positions. How can he simultaneously know everything, but not know something?

Thanks for pointing that out. I did contradict myself there. Honestly, I am still “young” in my faith and am still learning, but I’ll take back what I said and say that yes, God does know everything we are going to do then.

I don’t know if I think that means our lives are preordained…I thought that meant that God would have planned it all out and made the decisions prior to us having to make them, and therefore not letting us have a say. I guess I’d say the choices are still up to us, but he knows which one we’ll make?

I should look into that more. Thanks again for pointing that out - even if our beliefs are not the same I think it’s healthy to discuss them and for me to be questioned to make sure I can explain what I believe.

I just did a quick google and found this:


He explains it better than I.

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I can’t say decisively if we have free will or not, though I lean towards believing humans have free will. But, I will say that humanity tends to function under the assumption of free will. Really, I struggle to think about how society could exist without the notion of free will.

If there is no free will, and people truly believe that concept, doesn’t that just negate any motivation to make hard decisions? If there is no free will, people will always take the easy way out, because it isn’t their fault, they never had to choose anyway. A man who commits a crime isn’t truly guilty, because he had no choice but to commit the crime. The entire notion of “criminal intent” falls away when someone had no option but to commit to an action. Infidelity, lying, robbery, you name it, all the detrimental actions that can harm a society will now be explained away as a product of the society.

Without free will, there is no individual accountability. No one is good or bad, heroic or cowardly, moral or immoral, everyone is simply a slave to higher powers. I don’t see that ending well.

I think you are taking it too far by saying it’s a product of society.

If you can acknowledge that there are reasons why you (or people) do things, then at a minimum their free will choice is influenced. My argument is that for a person to make a different choice, something about them, the circumstances, all factors that led to that decision would have to be different. The factors that influence the decision create the answer to a decision, and for a decision to be different the circumstances would have to be different.

Those circumstances include society, but are so much more. Hormone levels, social circles, society, parenting…etc, all influence people, often to a point people underestimate.

This is often a misunderstanding of what free will encompasses. If you understand all of the things that influence your choices you don’t have to become a slave, you make it so more positive things influence your decisions.

You mention criminals, I think it makes me feel more compassion for criminals, because if I had their mind, grew up under the exact same circumstances, I would be in the same situation. Therefore, I have compassion for trying to help them change their circumstances so they don’t make those choices.

Watch any mentalist perform and see how easy they can manipulate people into making “choices” that they think are of their free will (picking a celebrity, or pick an object), but the choice they make is clearly a product of influence.

It’s not inability, people clearly make decisions. I’m saying that people who make that decision think they are making a choice of their free will, but they are being influenced to a point where there is no way they would make any other choice, so there wasn’t really a choice at all. For them to choose differently, something (their mind, the influences, the circumstances) would have to be different about that situation.

Honestly, the argument you’ve laid out here makes me believe free will is real, lol…

We obviously see influence very differently. I see influence as a set of variable that helps you make a decision. You seem to think it’s the only variable. As in, it makes the decision for you. Is that correct?

To use an analogy, I see influence as leading the horse to water, but the horse has to decide at that moment to drink. You seem to see influence as leading the horse to water and making him drink it.

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