T Nation

Free Will


Before starting, I should note that this question arose from a conversation between Tirib and myself and a few of the other members in a thread I no longer remember. I bring it up here now not to push a point (and not solely because Tirib just embarrassed me by reminding me I'd scooted out without answering his question how many months back), but because that earlier conversation led me to do something I normally do not have to do: To admit I could not explain the basis or origin for one of my core beliefs: that there exists and man possesses free will and the ability to determine the arc of his earthly existence.

So, my questions, if you are willing to tackle them, are these:

  1. Where does free will originate?

  2. How does one resolve the paradox of free will within a seemingly deterministic universe (if one is atheist), or its existence in a universe every subatomic particle of which has been created by an omniscient, omnipotent God?

And as a bonus, related offshoots and issues as well as attempts to answer why it exists at all are more than welcome.

I understand the question has been touched upon in this thread and that, and I apologize if I missed it, but at the time of this writing I cannot find a dedicated thread covering this particular topic.

So, have at it.


Free will does not originate from anywhere. It is merely an idea that our actions are driven by our own rational capacities.

One exhibits a free will just by choosing to act or not act.


According to physics, the universe either isn't deterministic, or it can never been observed to be deterministic. The scientific possibility of free will is there, though it's bounded.


Funny :slight_smile:


Free will is dead, long live free will!

Chance aside, if science and reason tell us anything at all, whatever we say, think, feel,
choose or do is utterly determined. And if it isnâ??t, the alternative is unthinkably worse.



The universe is not and cannot be scientifically determined.


Okay read the PDF. It's a bunch of gibberish. The in-ability to know is not contradictory to free will as the author for some unsupported reason assumes.

Like when he is talking about initial conditions being the same with Bush's decision to go to war. That very thought violates the uncertainty principal he's discussing in the rest of the paper. You cannot ever know any initial conditions exactly. It is entirely possible there are no exact initial conditions because particles are always partially unresolved. He's ignoring schrodinger's cat.


Succinct. I like it.


But wrong. "choosing" isn't a display of free will.


What is a display of free will?


Nothing that I've ever heard of. You thinking you chose something isn't proof of anything though.


In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.


Attempts to answer un-answerable questions usually result in a bit of gibberish. Like another mentioned Free Will is an idea. Perhaps I'm reaching, but I think his point is that one could never know 'any initial condition' and therefore all action is a reaction, hence 'pre-determined'. I believe the quantum events issue is used to demonstrate that if free will does indeed exist, it has little to do with the practical world. Schrodinger's cat is used to support determinism. As Einstein wrote to Schrodinger in 1950.....
"You are the only contemporary physicist, besides Laue, who sees that one cannot get around the assumption of reality, if only one is honest. Most of them simply do not see what sort of risky game they are playing with realityâ??reality as something independent of what is experimentally established. Their interpretation is, however, refuted most elegantly by your system of radioactive atom + amplifier + charge of gunpowder + cat in a box, in which the psi-function of the system contains both the cat alive and blown to bits. Nobody really doubts that the presence or absence of the cat is something independent of the act of observation."


I don't get it.


What is a god without his creation?


Einstein was wrong about a lot of things.

But quantum behavior makes a good case for Schrodinger. The possibility invalidates the bases of the guys whole argument.


I axiomatically define it that way.


I don't know that anything could prove free will.


Which is exactly my point.


Then how do you know it exists?