Free will, Do we have it?

Use this forum to discuss the February 2022 Philosophy Book of the Month, Free Will, Do You Have It? by Albertus Kral
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AgentSmith
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Re: Free will, Do we have it?

Post by AgentSmith »

One person I met a long time ago said the following:

I choose (important for free will) according to my preferences. That's that.

If I were truly free, I should also choose my preferences. Makes sense.

Next question: What does choosing one's preferences look like?

Surely, if I select my preferences it can only mean I have a prior set of preferences that guide me or...(vide infra).

But that means to be free I must decide on these prior preferences...so on and so forth (ad infinitum).

The only way out of this infinite regress is to pick my preferences (what I like/dislike) at random.

A dilemma presents itself: infinite regress OR randomness!
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JackDaydream
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Re: Free will, Do we have it?

Post by JackDaydream »

@AgentSmith

Preferences are based on ways of seeing choices. For example, I am thinking right now, should I stay indoors today or go out. It appears as two clear choices, but it can probably be broken down to more, such as will I go out locally or further. Also, if I stay indoors there are various options like going into the back garden or even going back to bed. But the option of staying in or going out is my main decision, based on my framing of the situation.

Also, preferences come as part of a chain of events. For example, I might wish to work in some field of work but it may not be a preference which can be put into practice because I may not have the right qualifications or work experience. So, in that sense it is restriction of options based on past choices. In a way, it could be said that preferences were made in the past. With work, what each of us chooses to study creates a pathway for the future. However, it is hard to see the future and what is going to happen, so parts of the chain of causation seem like fumbling in the dark, even though choices made in the past and present are important branches in the creation of what preferences may be open in the future.
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RJG
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Re: Free will, Do we have it?

Post by RJG »

ernestm wrote:That is, evidence can substantiate various theories, but otherwise, evidence is worth virtually nothing in absolute terms.
Bingo. Experientially based (e.g. scientific) evidence is 'subjective' evidence and therefore cannot be trusted to yield 'objectivity' (objective truths).

To put it simply, we can't get objectivity from subjectivity.

******
AgentSmith wrote:One person I met a long time ago said the following:

I choose (important for free will) according to my preferences. That's that.

If I were truly free, I should also choose my preferences. Makes sense.

Next question: What does choosing one's preferences look like?

Surely, if I select my preferences it can only mean I have a prior set of preferences that guide me or...(vide infra).

But that means to be free I must decide on these prior preferences...so on and so forth (ad infinitum).

The only way out of this infinite regress is to pick my preferences (what I like/dislike) at random.

A dilemma presents itself: infinite regress OR randomness!
Kudos Agent, you nailed it, ...and hence the logical impossibility of free-will.
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Rende
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Re: Free will, Do we have it?

Post by Rende »

Like enistein said in the quote above i am translating his statement to me that being part of the world is like being world. And the world is the world. So this is maybe the most absulute can get.

I can tell wath my insight tells me. That we are living by choiches wich are somthing that is happening in the world so the choiches are real. If them are free an have no connection with the world. (Now here it is to investigate what freedom is if its somthing real or just a word to express). So if freedom is an absolute thing outside the world is somthing we dont know what is it and is not the freedom we know. (Maybe the last santence by intuition has somthing wrong to it)
The answer to a problem usually lies in the solution. The world is bigger than us. Life always finds a path.
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GrayArea
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Re: Free will, Do we have it?

Post by GrayArea »

AgentSmith wrote: February 5th, 2022, 8:33 am One person I met a long time ago said the following:

I choose (important for free will) according to my preferences. That's that.

If I were truly free, I should also choose my preferences. Makes sense.

Next question: What does choosing one's preferences look like?

Surely, if I select my preferences it can only mean I have a prior set of preferences that guide me or...(vide infra).

But that means to be free I must decide on these prior preferences...so on and so forth (ad infinitum).

The only way out of this infinite regress is to pick my preferences (what I like/dislike) at random.

A dilemma presents itself: infinite regress OR randomness!
We have preferences because we can. This simply solidifies our individuality.

Adding on, what if we don't choose our preferences? That does not have to mean our preferences are dependent on the reality around us. Perhaps, we simply are our preferences that we provide with an act of existence. Perhaps not. Again, the line can be blurry depending on how you look at the relationship between the self and reality.

My general opinion is that we don’t choose preferences. We define and encompass, through existing. It is in our definition.

Then, who or what defines our preferences and our “definition”? Ourselves, or reality? Can one distinguish them?


If you're curious, my own personal opinion on the matter can be found in my previous reply in this thread.
The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it.
anonymous66
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Re: Free will, Do we have it?

Post by anonymous66 »

I don't think it's controversial to say that most people believe we either have free will or we don't have free will. The author obviously believes that he has found another way to think about the issue. From the back cover "In this book, I present a third option, one that has never been presented before." I haven't finished the book, so I don't know if he has or can pull it off.
Good_Egg
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Re: Free will, Do we have it?

Post by Good_Egg »

AgentSmith wrote: February 5th, 2022, 8:33 am One person I met a long time ago said the following:

I choose (important for free will) according to my preferences. That's that.

If I were truly free, I should also choose my preferences. Makes sense.

Next question: What does choosing one's preferences look like?
There's a potential ambiguity in what we mean by preferences.

In one sense, our preferences are us defining ourselves by our past choices. If you've seen me many times drinking coffee, in social situations where I could have chosen tea, you'd be justified in concluding that I prefer coffee.

And if our host offers us a drink, that preference for coffee is something that the moment of choice inherits from the past. And of course we cannot choose our past; all choice takes place in the present moment.

I assert that I have freewill. In that moment of choice, I could choose tea if I have a reason to do so, a reason that in the heat of the moment outweighs in my mind my underlying preference for coffee.

Now you could say that if I do that then I am acting on a situation-specific preference for tea. But that's using the word preference as just another way of describing the choice process. Any choice can in that sense be described as a preference - to prefer A to B is for A to outweigh B in your choice process. And in that sense, "choosing one's preferences" is meaningless.

So no you can't (in either sense) choose your preferences, but that's not a restriction on your freedom to choose what you will in the present moment.
"For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God" - James 1:20
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Leontiskos
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Re: Free will, Do we have it?

Post by Leontiskos »

Good_Egg wrote: February 8th, 2022, 11:10 amSo no you can't (in either sense) choose your preferences, but that's not a restriction on your freedom to choose what you will in the present moment.
Good_Egg wrote: February 8th, 2022, 11:10 amIn one sense, our preferences are us defining ourselves by our past choices. If you've seen me many times drinking coffee, in social situations where I could have chosen tea, you'd be justified in concluding that I prefer coffee.

And if our host offers us a drink, that preference for coffee is something that the moment of choice inherits from the past. And of course we cannot choose our past; all choice takes place in the present moment.
It seems to me that on your view we have chosen our past and our preferences.

You say our preferences are a consequence of our past choices, and those past choices were freely chosen in a (bygone) present moment. This would mean that we choose our future preferences at the same time we make a choice in the present, and we chose our current preferences when we made our past choices.
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Good_Egg
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Re: Free will, Do we have it?

Post by Good_Egg »

Leontiskos wrote: February 9th, 2022, 8:23 pm You say our preferences are a consequence of our past choices, and those past choices were freely chosen in a (bygone) present moment.
In some cases, yes. I was using my preference for coffee as an example. I'm habituated to the stuff. There was a time when I could take or leave it, but now the morning is incomplete without a couple of mugs of strong and black. So in that instance, I'm aware that my preference has been largely created by my past choices.

And there's an element of that whenever we choose the comfortable and familiar.

But that doesn't rule out the possible existence of innate preferences. Or preferences formed in response to experiences that we didn't choose to have.
This would mean that we choose our future preferences at the same time we make a choice in the present, and we chose our current preferences when we made our past choices.
Imagine if you will a card game, in which each player periodically re-stocks their supply of cards by choosing one of a set of piles of cards to add to their hand. And in each pile, the top card is face-up and the rest are face-down.

Imagine you were to play such a game, and lose because you had in hand a card - say the king of clubs - which as it turned out you had no opportunity to play, thus preventing you from winning.

Imagine I ask you whether the king of clubs was a face-up card when you took it. Because if you chose it knowingly, then you're in a slightly different position - more culpable for your own loss, less the victim of sheer chance - than if you took it unknowingly as an unforeseen consequence of choosing that particular pile.

I think that's a meaningful distinction.

And so I think I ought to be wary of talking about choices in a way that blurs that distinction. Choosing to take the king of clubs and making a choice that led to taking the king of clubs are maybe not quite the same thing ?
"For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God" - James 1:20
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Leontiskos
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Re: Free will, Do we have it?

Post by Leontiskos »

Good_Egg wrote: February 10th, 2022, 10:33 amAnd so I think I ought to be wary of talking about choices in a way that blurs that distinction. Choosing to take the king of clubs and making a choice that led to taking the king of clubs are maybe not quite the same thing ?
True but I was focusing on the same sense that you focused on when you said, "In one sense, our preferences are us defining ourselves by our past choices." It is in that sense that we choose our preferences.

We do have preferences that would exist without any volitional acts on our part, such as our desire for food. Nevertheless, apparently the sense in which you were speaking about preferences does not undermine free will.
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Consul
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Re: Free will, Do we have it?

Post by Consul »

Free Will, by Derk Pereboom

"Summary: This Element provides a thorough overview of the free will debate as it currently stands. After distinguishing the main senses of the term 'free will' invoked in that debate, it proceeds to set out the prominent versions of the main positions, libertarianism, compatibilism, and free will skepticism, and then to discuss the main objections to these views. Particular attention is devoted to the controversy concerning whether the ability to do otherwise is required for moral responsibility and whether it is compatible with determinism, and to manipulation arguments against compatibilism. Two areas in which the free will debate has practical implications are discussed in detail, personal relationships and criminal justice."

This book is freely readable on and downloadable from the publisher's website:

https://www.cambridge.org/core/elements ... 0BE9426BED

(This Element is free online from 9th February - 23rd February)
"We may philosophize well or ill, but we must philosophize." – Wilfrid Sellars
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AgentSmith
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Re: Free will, Do we have it?

Post by AgentSmith »

Good_Egg wrote: February 8th, 2022, 11:10 am
AgentSmith wrote: February 5th, 2022, 8:33 am One person I met a long time ago said the following:

I choose (important for free will) according to my preferences. That's that.

If I were truly free, I should also choose my preferences. Makes sense.

Next question: What does choosing one's preferences look like?
There's a potential ambiguity in what we mean by preferences.

In one sense, our preferences are us defining ourselves by our past choices. If you've seen me many times drinking coffee, in social situations where I could have chosen tea, you'd be justified in concluding that I prefer coffee.

And if our host offers us a drink, that preference for coffee is something that the moment of choice inherits from the past. And of course we cannot choose our past; all choice takes place in the present moment.

I assert that I have freewill. In that moment of choice, I could choose tea if I have a reason to do so, a reason that in the heat of the moment outweighs in my mind my underlying preference for coffee.

Now you could say that if I do that then I am acting on a situation-specific preference for tea. But that's using the word preference as just another way of describing the choice process. Any choice can in that sense be described as a preference - to prefer A to B is for A to outweigh B in your choice process. And in that sense, "choosing one's preferences" is meaningless.

So no you can't (in either sense) choose your preferences, but that's not a restriction on your freedom to choose what you will in the present moment.
I must object. Preferences aren't meaningless.

First off, one did not choose them.

Second, if we can choose them, how might this be done without a preexistent preferences? The problem merely shifts to a next level ad nauseum, ad infinitum (infinite regress).

The only way out is to flip a fair/if you prefer a loaded coin. That reminds me of Batman's foe Two Face who makes decisions by flipping coins. Does Two Face beat determinism?
Philosophically lost
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Re: Free will, Do we have it?

Post by Philosophically lost »

Maybe some choices are made for no reason. But some choices definitely are made for reasons. And we should study the reasons for our choices because it shows us what we value in life.
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Re: Free will, Do we have it?

Post by LuckyR »

Philosophically lost wrote: February 14th, 2022, 2:44 pm Maybe some choices are made for no reason. But some choices definitely are made for reasons. And we should study the reasons for our choices because it shows us what we value in life.
Definitely some choices are made for no reason, this is often ignored by Determinists.
"As usual... it depends."
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Re: Free will, Do we have it?

Post by Sushan »

gad-fly wrote: February 2nd, 2022, 11:49 pm
Sushan wrote: February 2nd, 2022, 10:12 pm
When people make choices and we ask why, it strongly suggests that we believe there must be a reason for the choice made. It also suggests that we do not easily believe that the choice was simply made because the person wanted to make that specific choice without any reason at all. When we ask another person why, it opens a controversy because we believe we can make any choice we want. Most of us believe we have free will to do so. We should simply accept that the other person made the choice because they wanted it. That should be the end of the conversation; however, it seldom is. Why do we need a reason? Can’t we just accept that people make choices for no reason at all? After all, is that not the essence of free will? Free will does not require an explanation nor a reason, it means that the choices we make are free from any influences and are made without any reason. Yet we have a difficult time accepting that something is done for no reason at all.
(Location 131 of Kindle version)


Seemingly this is not an idea the author created all alone. Even Schopenhauer and Einstein had similar kind of thoughts.

Man does at all times only what he wills, and yet he does this necessarily. But this is because he already is what he wills.
                Schopenhauer - Chapter 5 of On the                  Freedom of the Will

A man can do as he will, but not will as he will.
             Albert Einstein - My View of the World               (1931)


What do all these sayings imply? Do we have free will, or not? Is it merely our inability to express the reason behind our actions in words, or do we just behave in a pre-planned, pre-determined manner, which is a result of our brain processes due to various reasons which are out of our control? Are we unable to will what we will, for real?
"Man does at all times only what he wills, and yet he does this necessarily."
Will realized as necessity, followed up by action.

"Do we have free will, or not?"
You have free will if you are a free agent. Period.

One can find excuse to shirk away from responsibility. blame it on one's brain, blame it on one's mom, blame it on politicians, blame it on God, and so on. Can one get away? Time will tell.
If we realize will as necessity, do we always will what is necessary for us? How many unnecessary things do we buy and do due to various reasons? If we could will only what is necessary how such a thing is possible?

Yes, people can give various excuses to get away from responsibility. But there are occasions that actually the responsibility lies on reasons beyond one's self.

Who is a free agent? Are you a free agent?
“There is only one thing a philosopher can be relied upon to do, and that is to contradict other philosophers”

– William James
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