Sunday, December 24, 2006

More on Free Will

I've posted previous entries here about free will. Here is what I posted to a message board yesterday in reponse to someone asking if we have free will:

Most people will probably say that they believe in free will. But have they ever given serious thought to what it is? I've done some thinking about it over the years, and the more I think about it, the more convinced I become that it's an illusion. Why? Because it seems to me that free will means the capacity to choose otherwise. That is, if we look at any choice a person has made, we see that he could have made a different choice under the same exact circumstances and with the same conscious and unconscious motivations. I don't see how this can be the case.

A simplified example I've often used to illustrate this is as follows. Suppose it's a very hot day and you have a craving for ice cream when you happen upon an ice cream stand that offers only two flavors--chocolate and vanilla. You love chocolate ice cream and hate vanilla. You have no motivation not to fulfill your craving for ice cream or to forsake your love for chocolate and choose the vanilla ice cream you hate instead. It seems obvious to me that in this situation and with these motivations, you're going to choose chocolate ice cream and not vanilla, that there's no way you could choose otherwise under those circumstances, and, therefore, you are NOT free to chose or will otherwise.

To my way of thinking, every choice we make is a more or less complex variation of this scenario, and all our choices are equally unfree.

5 comments:

Aeryck said...

Not sure if you read the Dilbert Blog by Scott Adams, but he continually writes about the fact that humans do not have free will. He hits it from several angles, many humorous.

http://dilbertblog.typepad.com/the_dilbert_blog

Nagarjuna said...

Thanks, aeryck. I wasn't aware of Adams' blog or his interest in the issue of free will. I'll check him out.

Van said...

Nagarjuna said...
"But have they ever given serious thought to what it is?"

How could anyone choose to give thought, serious or otherwise, without the free will to choose? Then again, maybe they just chose to think of something else... oh, wait....

Do you really discount free will because people make use of facts and concepts to choose wisely?

I know, we didn't get any further 3 months ago either.

Merry Christmas Nags!

Nagarjuna said...

Van, I've never said we can't choose. What I've said is that it seems to me that our choices are determined by our internal and external circumstances and can't be other than they are when we make them. If people "make use of facts and concepts to choose wisely," it seems to me that they do so because they're aware of these facts and concepts and are determined, in more ways that one, to use them to arrive at the decisions they do.

I think my ice cream example gets to the heart of what I'm saying.

Happy Holidays and a great New Year to to you too, Van.

Tom said...

I sure this point has been discussed before, but if there isn't free will, Why then is there the illusion of free will? Why all the mental cogitation and bluster and mayhem?

How much more streamlined and speedy [and Darwinian fit] it would be to reach quick, anguish-free decisions without the burden of consciousness.