On freedom of the will


Does this statement entail a contradiction, and if it does, what is it?

Our will is free/ uncaused but all phenomena/ manifestation of the will are caused

 

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About makagutu

As Onyango Makagutu I am Kenyan, as far as I am a man, I am a citizen of the world

76 thoughts on “On freedom of the will

  1. Is that by Alexander Pope? Sounds like Neoclassic poetry to me. Also, very confusing. The will is free until it’s used? “OK, folks, get your free will here! Free as long as you don’t manifest it into a conscious decision.” Wha….? Maybe I’m interpreting it wrong but to me, it seems like fodder for hamster-wheel spinning, circular, rhetorical arguments. Wills aren’t free. Cheap sometimes, but never free.

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  2. fojap says:

    I’m having a hard time parsing that sentence.
    “Our will is free
    uncaused but all phenomena
    manifestation of the will are caused”

    I’m getting hung up on “uncaused but all phenomena.” Does it say that our will is free and our will is also uncaused. So, the will is uncaused but manifestations of the will are caused. Am I understanding it correctly?

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    • makagutu says:

      In Schopenhauer’s philosophy the will is irrational, and uncaused.
      But the manifestations or what he calls phenomena of the will, that is our actions have causes.
      He desribes the will as— a mindless, aimless, non-rational urge at the foundation of our instinctual drives, and at the foundational being of everything

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      • fojap says:

        Well, I can’t read Schopenhauer in a couple of hours, but I came across this:

        Man can do what he wills but he cannot will what he wills.

        You may notice that there are so to say two levels of free will. On one hand you can do anything you will – and this is undeniably the freedom of mind – on the other hand however you can’t change your will. Your free will controls only the actions, there is no “free will no. 2” which would be responsible for controlling your “free will no. 1”. If you took some time to consider this sentence, maybe you would find a paradox in it. Isn’t the action of willing already an action? I mean, this is something you can do – you can will. Therefore if you can do what you will you can also will what you will but that’s contradictory to the second part of definition stating that you can’t will what you will. Hence the first part of the sentence would be correct only if the action of willing would not be actually an action and couldn’t be done; and if an action can’t be performed and if an action is not an action it means it does not exist. If it does not exist, compatibilism would be ripped of free will and would become a traditional determinism…

        Source

        To me, there’s a big problem in defining the will as “uncaused.” That doesn’t make it a contradiction. I’m just not convinced of the first part of the premise to begin with.

        Manifestations of the will are caused by what? The will?

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        • makagutu says:

          Manifestations of the will are caused by our environment, education, motives, desires and circumstances.

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          • And, thus, without those, there is no “will” to speak of. Wills do not exist outside of brains. To think so, and thinking so might be right, though I don’t think so, is to be a super-naturalist: wills are drifting about without bodies to “act” in until they attach themselves to our brains when we are born. Kinda like Scientology that is. Is there a “will” outside of our brain? To me, without a brain, one that’s been shaped and formed by it’s surroundings since conception, there is no will and there is no “I”.

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          • makagutu says:

            Now I am confused. No. There is no disembodied will as Kant suggested.
            To Schopenhauer, there is world as object- reality and world as experience – subjective. We appear both as object as subject. You feel you are moving your hand- subject and also feel your hand as a part of your body- object. This is confusing!

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          • I get more sense out of the theistic argument that “we” are not only our physical selves, but also spiritual in nature. I don’t believe this, but I get it. I’m quite confused by Schopenhauer here. Even though we have a subjective view of the objective world, that view is still generated by physical brains that were programmed by outside input to view the world subjectively as the “us” the programming formed. There can be no will to act, move, think, or be, even subjectively, without a physical brain manifesting it. We may not know all the biological mechanisms that teach developing brains the concept of “I am”, but an “I”, subjectively and objectively, doesn’t exist without a brain. Anyway, now I’m even more confused.

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          • makagutu says:

            I don’t see why you are confused. It is our brain that does is the seat of judgement. He doesn’t mention a disembodied brain or a separate I. He only says we experience ourselves both objectively and subjectively. Maybe I am the one confusing you by not correctly presenting his views

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          • I’m not THAT confused. It’s more of a figure of speech. There’s nothing free on any level, no matter how fancily worded the argument may be, IMO, in regards to the will. I think the theistic argument, though I disagree with it, is a better one. Schopenhauer, as I’m seeing it is arguing there’s both? Or not?

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          • makagutu says:

            When Kant wrote his philosophy, he argued there was a thing-in-itself a sort of essence to things. His philosophy allowed for the existence of a god or a disembodied something that controlled our actions.
            Schopenhauer writing after him disagreed with him. He argued that everything has a will. This will is without intellect. It is irrational.
            Our actions, which are manifestations of our will are caused. But this will which is manifested through our actions is uncaused, free and irrational.
            He wrote a book titled World as Will and Representation. That the world appears to as a will- reality and appearances- subjectively.
            The theistic argument is similar to the Kantian argument.

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          • Yeah. I gotta bring in the hamster wheel analogy. Not trying to break up any fun, and I mean no disrespect, but it is at this point where my interest is lost. Rhetorical word spinning. I see it as no different than apologetics, only the topic is different. Not putting it down for those who like rhetoric of this sort, but for me, personally, it’s wheel spinning for sake of spinning wheels. Me, being the wise-ass I am, prefer to find the satirical humor in such things. Any how, peace, love, and may the great Golden Boot forever shine his light on you. 🙂

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          • makagutu says:

            Hahaha.
            May the Golden Boot shine in all places seen and unseen

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          • Especially those unseen. 🙂

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          • carmen says:

            ‘Inspired’ – re: the hamster wheel analogy. THIS is what I remember from Philosophy class. I am sure, if there had been a thought bubble visible over my noggin, the letters, ‘wtf?’ would have been there most days. 🙂
            But I had to make a comment (no matter how inane) so I could keep up with this thread — I’m always hoping a lightbulb will come on. . .

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          • makagutu says:

            That light bulb moment will come with a damaged bulb all the time it is philosophy on offer

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          • Mine came in guise of a lightening bolt. Now it’s glued to my hand.

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          • makagutu says:

            You are unlucky my good friend, very unlucky

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          • Well said. I enjoy reading the comments too. Mak’s brilliant. It just gets to a point with me, loving hard sciences like I do, where the arguments all become the same, religious and non-religious, though the topics be different. At some point, either find your Higgs boson by spending energy looking for it, or go out and save the whales. Both are more productive, IMO. People greatly enjoy such things, however, and most, like Mak, are brilliant folks, so I enjoy reading and dropping in the occasional wise-ass comment to bring some levity to the spinning. 🙂

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          • makagutu says:

            Hard science is sometimes hard. Disputation on the other hand is quite easy but can be confusing as in this case.
            I think this is why some philosophers think those who have no formal training in it should not philosophize.
            Thanks for the compliments. I think most of the people who comment here make very brilliant contributions

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          • “I think this is why some philosophers think those who have no formal training in it should not philosophize.” I think those who have not studied the Bible correctly should not talk about it. I have studied philosophy. I took 3 undergraduate courses on it and one while working on an MA in Liberal Studies, albeit decades ago. It’s hamsters running in wheels. It’s intellectual masturbation and, is no different than religious apologetics. Actually it is unfair to criticize apologetics unless one has studied it at an appropriate theological college. These arguments are the same. Hamster wheels. Sorry brother. Philosophical BS is the same as religious BS. Masturbation.

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          • makagutu says:

            Come slowly Jeff. It wasn’t about you.
            I have seen that statement thrown around by philosophers and theologians.

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          • And also by us. There is no will without us. Our motives are us. Our desires, our education, our genetic make-up, our current physical and emotional state, our reasons, our beliefs, our values.

            All of the things that are said to influence us must first become us before they have any effect upon the environment. Without us, they are impotent to effect anything on their own.

            And, since they are in fact us, it is rather silly to suggest that they can compel us to do anything, since it is still just us doing the compelling. And that is called “free will”.

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          • makagutu says:

            Hello Marvin, many days I haven’t heard from you.
            I disagree with your conclusions. We are the willing subjects. So without a willing subject, there can be no motives and this applies to anything with a will.

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          • It’s simple. If all that compels you is some part of you, then it is not anything external forcing you to act against your will.

            For example, if you are hungry, then you want food, even if you choose to postpone eating until later. If you are really really hungry, then you may feel that you must eat right away, even though you’d prefer to be doing something else. In both cases it is you, yourself, and you alone, that are the cause of your deliberate choice.

            The hunger is you. It is as much a part of your will as your reasons for eating later. And so long as you are acting on your on behalf, according to your own choices, and not forced by someone else to act against your will, then you are acting of your own free will.

            Now, you are not free of causation. Nor should you be. But it is really you (either your own hunger or your own reasons) that is acting and choosing in every case.

            Life could not exist outside of reliable cause and effect. If gravity were not reliable, but sometimes pulled from below and a moment later pulled from above, then a yo-yo might find happiness, but not many living organisms.

            In fact, nothing as we know it could exist outside of reliable cause and effect. Atoms would not even hold together.

            And we call our faith in the reliability of cause and effect “determinism”.

            Therefore everything that has meaning obtained that meaning while in the context of a deterministic universe. And this includes the concept of free will. Free will has always presumed a deterministic universe, and it becomes meaningless nonsense without a deterministic universe.

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  3. What in life is not a contradiction, a dichotomy, a paradox? I can find very little outside of these concepts. Happy Sunday.

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  4. carmen says:

    I’ve heard this concept bandied about on christian blogs before. The old, “Ah, yes, but god(s) gave us all free will!” as an explanation for ‘letting’ us do what we want, but then what? Well, we know what. We’ll all get to go to that really, really hot spot . .. wherever that is. . if we don’t follow god(s)’ will. . .I don’t know about you, Mak, but it sounds like the old, “cover your ass” theory. Or in this case, cover god(s)’ ass. How absolutely silly.

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    • makagutu says:

      It is always better to cover one’s ass especially on a windy day.
      Schopenhauer’s philosophy fortunately have left no space for gods to act. That was Kant who had a thing- in- itself.

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  5. john zande says:

    It’s a closed circle?

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  6. I don’t see a contradiction if thoughts are a cause.

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    • makagutu says:

      Thoughts are caused by other impressions. Either from things we have seen, heard or touched, smelled

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      • So there is no original thought, no unique or undetermined thought?

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        • makagutu says:

          Unique there is. Original, undetermined thought? I would like an example

          Liked by 1 person

          • So you are saying that serendipitous discovery is determined thought? That engineering what mimics biology is determined? That apes picking up sharp rocks to use as tools is determined? That gun powder used as a weapon is determined? That germ theory is determined? that working to solve any problem is determined?

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          • makagutu says:

            Oh yes. you have said it engineering what mimics biology. It has its source in biology. All the examples you have given have causes. I may not know some of them but they certainly have. It was a unique idea to use gun powder as a weapon but it sure had been used elsewhere. So it was putting it to new use

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          • How is a new use not original? If new use is not original then by definition there is no possibility for original thought. I disagree that it is causal to see a material before using it for a new purpose. The first ape that used a rock to cut meat from the bone had nothing to copy. Likewise it is that we have original thought now by applying what we know about in new ways not yet thought of

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          • makagutu says:

            I think you have a point.

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          • makagutu says:

            I have thought about this and I think there is a case of equivocation on your part. To use a church as a library is a new use but not original in the sense it draws from experience. We have libraries and they are housed in buildings. To think we can think something not furnished to us by experience is in my view not correct.

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          • Then all tool use was copying? Even the first time it was done by humans? To build stone structures was copying? To go to the moon was copying? The way you define things there is no room for original thought. A nihilist would think you truly depressing

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          • makagutu says:

            Going to the moon was a big event. That I don’t deny. Original idea? Nay. Human beings were already flying places. There was already international flights. The moon became just another place.
            Even the first time it was done, they had to learn it from somewhere.
            My friends find me very depressing at times.

            Liked by 1 person

          • I can see why they do. You leave no room for human invention, no room for anything worth celebrating. It is in your philosophy that the atomic bomb should be invented by fiat rather than ideation. Okay, you leave no room for thought about what thought is. For you, everything is determined and nothing to do with us. What point then is there to this existence?

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          • makagutu says:

            You see my friend, you misunderstand me. I leave room for invention. I am only saying every invention is an idea given to us either by our environment mental or physical.
            Life my friend is absurd. We only live it by rebelling against the absurdity it presents us with. That is, all we do will in a matter of time be forgotten, destroyed or worthless. Maybe the only things that are eternal are ideas. They don’t seem to die.
            My friends find me depressing because they misunderstand me 🙂

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          • Your friends find you depressing… I want to spend weeks drinknig and talking with you

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          • makagutu says:

            I remember at some point in the past, one of the people who comment on this blog promised to help me get out of nihilism.

            Liked by 1 person

          • LOL, that was not me. I wonder now who it was?

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          • makagutu says:

            It couldn’t have been you.
            Were you trying to pray and failed? I am reading your latest post

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  7. I’m struggling to find any sense in that statement. Maybe it’s just me.

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  8. themodernidiot says:

    He was paid to say that 😉

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  9. niquesdawson says:

    No contradictions at all

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  10. Ruth says:

    My brain just exploded.

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  11. Causation is universal. Therefore, no rational definition of “free” can ever imply freedom from causation. Those who suggest freedom can exist outside of causation present a paradox, and all paradoxes are frauds.

    When we say “the bird is now free from its cage”, do we imply it is now free from causation? If so, what, if anything, happens when he flaps his wings?

    When we say a person acted of his own free will, do we mean he was free from causation? No. A will that is free from causation lacks the means to implement its intent, and becomes meaningless and irrelevant.

    So let’s stop this foolishness.

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