An atheist can't believe in free will

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This topic contains 54 replies, has 8 voices, and was last updated by  jakelafort 3 weeks, 6 days ago.

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  • #52185

    PopeBeanie
    Moderator

    @unseen What difference does it make, whether or not Free Will actually exists? Recently I’m thinking that all that matters in terms of how we think and behave is whether or not we believe in it. (And yes, I’m good with saying that what we believe in is also determined… just as are the external, environmental effects on our internal state. While I keep forgetting to include, that the internal state of our bodies also affect how we feel, and adjust behaviors.)

    #52186

    Unseen
    Participant

    Volition and causality are not opposed to each other. When we say that someone chose to do something, we are saying that they are casual agents that acted to produce an effect.

    Try to imagine what “volition” would even mean in a universe where causality was hit and miss. And what would an uncaused volitional act even be? It’s a nonsensical notion. “I punch Joe in the face but wasn’t csused in any way to do so because it was an act of free will.” That’s gobbledegook and anyone with a handful of functioning brain cells should be able to see that.

    #52187

    Davis
    Moderator

    There is a common concern that without free will there’s no accountability. Nonsense. We will go on holding people to account because we have to, in the sense that this is how we respond to acts that displease or enrage us. We respond in this way because we have to. Literally. We have no real choice but respond that way.

    That’s such a cop out. By that logic…you believe there is no such thing as free will…because you have to. Everything is “because you have to”. Everything. I have no reason to take anything you say seriously because “you have to”. I, of course, have no alternative, than to not have taken you seriously, because I had no choice. Make up your mind Unseen. Is all sense of freedom, choice, responsibility, fairness, entitlement etc an illusion or not? I have never, ever, ever heard a convincing argument explaining how one can be meaningful (not an illusion) and the others cannot. Wanting there to be such a thing as fairness or responsibility isn’t a reason to suddenly start believing in free will. You should simply stand by the statements you make, and all accompanying statements that should follow (to its logical conclusion).

    If you wanna act as though responsibility is a semi-meaningful concept, a descriptor of phenomena, as though it is something real or worse taking seriously, then you have to do the same with things like choice/free-will. Make up your mind.

    You are simply, using a really bad cop out, to have your cake and eat it too. If we can reduce a concept such as choice, to meaningless, because we live in an unavoidably mechanical world, determined solely by the events before it, negating agency/freedom/choice, then EVERYTHING is. Actions happen SOLELY because they must. If you talk about responsibility as though it is meaningful, so should you about free will.

    • This reply was modified 1 month, 2 weeks ago by  Davis.
    • This reply was modified 1 month, 2 weeks ago by  Davis.
    #52190

    Unseen
    Participant

    @unseen What difference does it make, whether or not Free Will actually exists? Recently I’m thinking that all that matters in terms of how we think and behave is whether or not we believe in it. (And yes, I’m good with saying that what we believe in is also determined… just as are the external, environmental effects on our internal state.)

    Yes, I’m always amazed at how steadfastly people want to hang onto a medieval prescientific notion like free will. Like my cat, who knocks salt shakers off tables because that’s her nature, you and I do what is in our own natures to do, which is based on a mix of what nature gave us and what we are exposed to along the way. And we do so inexorably because of who we are. We can still hold “bad” people to account based on our reaction to them and the experienced and foreseeable consequences of their behavior, which we respond to in a mix of from the gut and from the mind.

    How do we respond? As we do.

    #52191

    Davis
    Moderator

    I remember reading Sam Harris’s atrocious book on free will. In the first half he dismisses free will. In the second half he talks about how we “should” look at the world in a different way. And then advice about how to best live your life. He still stands by it. One half of his book talks about how we have no choice but to do what we do, and then the other half tells people what they “ought” to do, as though they have a choice. His inability to see how  cosmically absurd it is to seriously and meaningfully do both, in the same book, makes me want to cry for him on an intellectual level.

    None of this is any reason to say that free will, therefore should exit. But “no choice” and “ought to” do not belong in the same argument/book/idea/world.

    #52192

    Unseen
    Participant

    @ Davis

    Cop out? Me? You still haven’t told me if my cat has free will. She obviously has the ability to conceive and carry out an act. Is she responsible for it? Accountable? At what level of evolutionary development does free will begin to creep in?

    You’re stuck in medieval religion-based philosophy.

    Free will is nonsense. Therefore, nothing really hangs on proving it.

    #52193

    Unseen
    Participant

    I remember reading Sam Harris’s atrocious book on free will. In the first half he dismisses free will. In the second half he talks about how we “should” look at the world in a different way. And then advice about how to best live your life. He still stands by it. One half of his book talks about how we have no choice but to do what we do, and then the other half tells people what they “ought” to do, as though they have a choice. His inability to see how cosmically absurd it is to seriously and meaningfully do both, in the same book, makes me want to cry for him on an intellectual level.

    None of this is any reason to say that free will, therefore should exit. But “no choice” and “ought to” do not belong in the same argument/book/idea/world.

    It’s sad that you don’t see that there is no contradiction. I don’t know how to dumb it down even more for you, but we still make choices, including choices to influence others if we can, and that we choose to do so doesn’t in any way affirm free will. Show me how it does.

    Of course, as I’ve said time and time again, the core problem with the notion of free will is that it really makes no sense. Back in medieval times when science was little more than a glimmer in the minds of even the geniuses of the day, it could hold its own. But today, when we know that a human is a biochemical/bioelectric system, there isn’t room for dualistic ideas like free will.

    Where is “will”? Tell me, Davis. And can you do so without lapsing into a dualism of the ghost in the machine sort? I think any scientist who’s thought about it understands that the consciousness that feels like it’s in control is simply an epiphenomenon of the brain and nervous system. Do you disagree? Based on what?

    If we can have free will, then define it and explain how it works.

    #52194

    jakelafort
    Participant

    No contradiction in what Sudden Sam is saying.

    Only in a superficial way can it be seen as a contradiction.

    #52204

    Davis
    Moderator

    There is no superficiality about it. If one argues others have no choice to have done but what they have done, have no agency, it is absurd to then, in the same book, go on to try and influence their future choices/agency. The only way around that is magical thinking or special pleading.

    If we don’t have free will, we are not responsible for our actions nor does it make sense, within the same argument, to then try to influence others.

    If we DO have free will, then we are (at least to some extent) responsible for our actions and it makes sense, in the same argument to influence people’s choices.

    If it is the case that we “might as well” have free will or it is “as though” we have free will, then we “might as well” be responsible for our actions or it is “as if” we are responsible for them and we “might as well” in the same argument try to influence others choices.

    You are stuck within one of the three above realms. Pick one and stick to it. If you cannot, you do not have the intellectual maturity to deal with the full consequences of determinism. I would encourage you all (including Sam Harris) to properly grapple with this and avoid squirming your way through/out-of this. I have nothing more to say about this, and wish you the best in your existential exploration.

    #52205

    Unseen
    Participant

    If we don’t have free will, we are not responsible for our actions nor does it make sense, within the same argument, to then try to influence others.

    If we DO have free will, then we are (at least to some extent) responsible for our actions and it makes sense, in the same argument to influence people’s choices.

    “If God doesn’t exist to punish sinners after death, then people can sin and get away with it” is a kind of off-the-cuff summary of Kant’s reason for believing in God. Note that it’s not a proof. It doesn’t necessitate the existince of God but rather argues that we’re in a sorry state if He doesn’t exist.

    Your argument for free will similarly argues that if there’s no free will, we’re in a sorry state and, like Kant’s argument, it’s more a lament than a proof. Frankly, it’s not even an indication that free will might exist.

    We are responsible for what we do to the extent that we intend to do them. We don’t need to say “Joe had free will when he stabbed Bill,” to hold him to account. It’s enough to determine that Joe was conscious of what he was doing and the likely consequence(s) of his action to determine that Joe is not someone we want walking the streets.

    How do we escape the rather obvious fact that whatever we do must have a sufficient cause or else it’s a miracle? Unless there’s a third alternative, that pretty much sums up the possibilities, doesn’t it?

    I’ve been asking some questions you seem resolute in not answering: What is free will? How does it work? and Does my cat have it? (& if not why not?)

    Hard questions, I know. Do you need more time?

    • This reply was modified 1 month, 2 weeks ago by  Unseen.
    #52208

    jakelafort
    Participant

    Sorry, there is no contradiction in at once denying free will and influencing others. The influencer and the one influenced are the result of countless causal steps. So yes the mechanistic nature of the universe means it impossible to have free will. Sapolsky shows how our biology determines our everything.g Then again any chink in mechanics resulting in a lack of control is similarly incompatible with free will.

    Even so we do EXPERIENCE our lives. We can on a winter’s day wile away in felicity appurtent to apricity.

    Free will is a construct but it is the hardest one i know to defenestrate. It feels real. Feelings are tough to ignore. It is the last of my Mohicans. When i listened to Dennet and his tortured attempt to rationalize the indefensible it reminded me of the rationalization for god and an afterlife. Were it not for the personal stake in the answer to the fundamental question it would be a snap judgment to shoot it down.

    #52213

    PopeBeanie
    Moderator

    If one argues others have no choice to have done but what they have done, have no agency, it is absurd to then, in the same book, go on to try and influence their future choices/agency.

    Free will or not, it’s a given that Harris’ readers can be influenced by his advice. Sapolski’s too, or anyone’s here.

    I’m realizing that it doesn’t really matter whether we actually have free will or not, except that believing in it empowers us. Logic tells me it doesn’t exist, but feelings tell me it does. I see no reason to deny my feelings, while I’m happy to tell my logic to sit this one out.

    So sue me, atheists! And picky philosophers, et al.

    #52214

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    Logic tells me it doesn’t exist, but feelings tell me it does. I see no reason to deny my feelings, while I’m happy to tell my logic to sit this one out.

    What if the factors that compel us to act this way or that, are way below or outside our comprehension?  So we feel like we have free will, but are actually pushed around by forces we can never consciously understand.

    #52215

    Davis
    Moderator

    “Influence” on how people decide to live their lives, infers “choice”. Is choice meaningful or not Pope? If it is not, then influencing someone’s choice is not meaningful either. This is not rocket science.

    • This reply was modified 1 month, 2 weeks ago by  Davis.
    • This reply was modified 1 month, 2 weeks ago by  Davis.
    #52218

    _Robert_
    Participant

    Soo easy to forget we are just evolved viruses or amoebas of a sort when your entire existence is experienced by the brain of a great ape.  Do we have whatever free will that they have; or did it evolve along with our brains? So that each level of brain complexity has a corresponding level of free will.

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