on freewill, again


Regular readers have met Marvin. In his new post, freewill in a deterministic universe, he repeats the same claims he made in this post.

Now as then, I ask him to define what he means by freewill. I, when referring to freewill, mean un-caused. I don’t expand the meaning of free to include not being in bondage for that meaning is not relevant in our present discussion.

Though this

Our purpose — to survive as individuals, societies, and species — motivates us to adapt ourselves to our environment, and to adapt our environment to us

tells us nothing about freewill, adaptation to the environment happens without motivation. You adapt or perish, no two ways about it.

I confess readily English isn’t my first language, but I have tried to make sense of

It is us walking, talking, and thinking. It is us performing the mental process of choosing for ourselves what we will do next. And it is our own reasons and feelings, our own beliefs and values, our own genetic dispositions and our own life experiences, which guide our choosing

and I have failed. Apart from Monty Python’s Silly walk

which requires a lot of conscious effort, or military parades where the general does the thinking for the entire company, your walking style is unconscious, in fact if someone tried to imitate it, you’d hardly know it was you they were trying to imitate. And the same applies to all the things listed above here, they tell us nothing on the discussion about freewill.

So when he writes,

Ordinary free will is simply us deciding for ourselves what we will do (free), without being forced by someone else to choose or act against our will (unfree). And that is a meaningful distinction

I can fully appreciate the difficulty Marvin has here. In one scenario, and it is what confuses most people, a person is coerced to act in a certain way and in another there is no coercion. It is important to note; we don’t know how the subject would have acted without coercion and this is peripheral to our discussion on freewill. The relevant question to the discussion is whether the actions of the one who wasn’t coerced were un-caused. This is the only relevant question, all others are not relevant to this discussion.

I disagree with Marvin when he writes

But the single fact of inevitability tells us nothing we can put to any practical use. If you tell me my choice will be inevitable, but cannot tell me what that inevitable choice will be, then you’ve told me nothing helpful.

By telling you the above, I have told you all you need to know. Had we known all the circumstances, we would tell you what you would do, but because of this limitation, the best we can do is at least to reassure you that the outcome is inevitable and if all things were kept constant, that outcome will be repeated all the time.

It is good to remember words have different applications. and such meanings should not be confused.

This discussion will continue as long as we continue to equivocate.

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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

150 thoughts on “on freewill, again

  1. Since there are no events that can be said to be “free of causation”, it would be a straw man to insist upon such an imaginary freedom when speaking of free will.

    Free will can never be freedom from causation, because nothing is.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Honestly Mak, I don’t even know what you’re arguing against. Those passages you quoted of Marvin’s are very unclear. My head hurts.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. keithnoback says:

    I think it helps to look at it from the other end (to borrow from the gastroenterologists). Does it make sense to say any choice is undetermined? If I felt like driving on the wrong side of the road today (I didn’t) and followed my impulse, does anyone really believe that my impulse simply popped into being? Or did it depend on the stuff that I know about driving, the rotten breakfast I had this AM, the presence of cars in the other lane, and on and on? My action was unpredictable, even by me, although it was thoroughly determined (by things that constitute me – so it is my choice), and therefore predictable in principle. That just comes along with causal closure.
    Sure, repeat the conditions in the minutest detail and you get the same result, but that’s tautological. And it is impossible. Time has moved on for me.
    There, all cleared up.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Right. Everything is determined.

      But it is also true that “the stuff that I know about driving” was you. And the feelings after “the rotten breakfast I had this AM” was also you. And your concern about not bumping into the “cars in the other lane” was also you.

      You chose to drive safely and you acted upon that choice yourself. That choice, too, was determined, of course. But it was determined by you.

      It was your own will to drive safely that caused you to pay attention to your speed, your steering, and to drive on the correct side of the road.

      That was your will and you were freely acting upon it.

      Now, suppose Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of the Boston Marathon bombers, had put a gun to your head at a stop light, hopped into your car, and told you to speed away from the police.

      It was not your will, but his that was controlling how you drove. You did not volunteer of your own will to aid in his escape. But you were forced to drive him where he wanted against your will.

      So the court would find you innocent because you were not acting of your own free will.

      Tsarnaev would be found guilty because he was acting of his own free will.

      One more thing. Inevitability was also true in both cases. The fact that you would be forced to drive the escape car for the criminal was inevitable. And so was Tsarnaev’s choice to set off bombs with his brother at the Boston Marathon.

      Which fact, (a) the location of free will or (b) the inevitability of events was more relevant?

      Is there any scenario at all where the fact of inevitability provides practical guidance as to what we should do?

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  4. “.. free will is simply us deciding for ourselves what we will do (free), without being forced by someone else to choose or act against our will (unfree)..” Interesting. At what age do humans gain “freedom” of will? 6 months? A year? At conception? Can one have a “freedom” of will without having a sense of self? Does one gain a sense of self by what one is taught about oneself, or is one born with a sense of who and what they are and are thus “free” to act as they will regardless of input from outside themselves? If we are not “free” to act upon our “will” at age 5 months, how can we ever be free to act on our “will”? When does a “will” become ours, free of our environment and genetic make-up? Never. This argument is akin to trying to make three separate hamsters run on three separate wheels in complete synchronicity without ever being able to succeed because it isn’t possible. There is no “freedom” of “will”. Word soup and circular sentence spinning aside, we’re not “free” to do as we will. Period. BTW, I LOVE this topic!!!!! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I understand your problem. You have this sense that all you need to do is convince someone that everything is caused, and every cause is caused, such that inevitability must certainly be true.

    But I begin where you leave off. I start with the presumption of deterministic inevitability. And I find meaningful free will right there in the middle of it all.

    It’s easy. All you have to do is discard the silly business of “freedom from causation”, and discover what freedom operationally means in a deterministic universe.

    All practical human concepts, including free will, must serve a useful purpose if they are to survive intellectual evolution.

    The idea of “acting of your own free will” always means that you are making choices for yourself and acting upon them. When you are forced to submit to someone else’s will, then your will is constrained, that is, no longer free.

    And that is a meaning that everyone understands. For example, consider Benjamin Libet’s now famous experiments where he showed that unconscious mental activity preceded a conscious awareness of choosing to squeeze your fist. He titled the report “Do We Have Free Will?”

    Now, suppose I were to ask, “Were his student subjects required to be part of the study as a class work assignment or did they choose to participate of their own free will?”

    Did you understand the question? If so then you understand the meaning of ordinary free will.

    It is not a magical or supernatural power. It is not “freedom from causation”, because each student would choose to participate or not based upon their own reasons, and these would deterministically cause their choice.

    In fact, every choice we make of our own free will also happens to be deterministically inevitable. But it is still us making that choice for our own reasons, and not a choice forced on us by someone else.

    The mental error is the presumption that freedom requires freedom from causation. Drop that bit of silliness and the paradox disappears.

    Liked by 1 person

    • makagutu says:

      Unfortunately you don’t understand my problem. My problem is I want you to give a concise definition of freewill as you understand it without recourse to circular arguments. That is my only problem

      Liked by 1 person

      • A “free” will is one that chooses for itself. An “unfree” will is one that is subordinate to the will of another.

        For example: Billy’s mom tells him he can’t go out and play until he puts on his coat. Billy puts on the heavy coat against his will. When Bill is an adult, he makes these decisions for himself and lives with the consequences.

        For example: Johnny is an atheist in the 5th grade. His teacher requires everyone to say the pledge of allegiance each morning, including the phrase “under God” that was added by Congress in 1954 (to piss off the Russian communists). The teacher tells Johnny that if he does not say those words he will be expelled from school. So Johnny says them, but he does not say them of his own free will, but only because he fears being expelled. (Until the ACLU sues the school and sets the teacher straight).

        For example: When one of the Boston Marathon bombers was trying to escape the police, he pulled a gun on a guy in a car and forced him to drive him away from the cops. Because the driver was not acting of his own free will, he was not guilty of aiding in the crime.

        So this idea of ordinary free will is meaningful and significant. Basically, free will is synonymous with “autonomy”. An autonomous person is usually an adult who is in charge of his or her own life.

        In NONE of these examples is anyone expected to be free from reliable cause and effect (determinism).

        Liked by 1 person

        • makagutu says:

          Marvin, I am afraid all your examples are irrelevant for they commit the fallacy of false dilemma; you imply it is either someone forcing you or you are free and this ignores several other causal factors like the physical environment, genetic make-up and mental environment which are all causes. In this case, I simply think you really don’t understand the philosophical debate around freewill

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          • Free will never implies “freedom from causation”, unless, of course, you’re a theologian. Are you a theologian?

            I’m not. So I never expect the word “free” to mean “freedom from causation” in any context. Why do you continue to use it in such an irrational way?

            And if you require “freedom from causation” in order to be free, then you are never free. And you will never have a context in which you can rationally use the word “free” or “freedom”.

            Perhaps that’s why you charge $4.98, instead of giving them out free, because they can never be free from a price (single constraint) unless they are also free from causation.

            It’s not a matter of English. It is a matter of rational concepts.

            Liked by 1 person

          • “Free will never implies “freedom from causation”, Then it isn’t free. And thus, the wheels of gibberish continue to spin. Where, oh where, will they land? Who knows, but spin ’em long enough, and the mire of nebulous definitions they create may just confuse, or bore, people enough, they’ll think something of substance is being said. However, it isn’t. Spin, spin, spin.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Okay, let me lay it out for you. There are three imaginary, impossible freedoms: freedom from causation, freedom from oneself, and freedom from reality.

            Do you agree that these are impossible?

            There is an ordinary freedom which is relevant and meaningful: freedom from an actual restraint. For example, being bound by ropes and then being set free. Or being bound by a cage or prison and being set free. Or being enslaved by someone wielding a whip and being freed from slavery. Or being forced at gun point to aid the escape of a criminal and then being freed from his coercion.

            Do you see the difference between an impossible freedom and a relevant and meaningful freedom?

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          • Like the song says, “I’m just sittin’ here watchin’ the wheels go round ‘n round.” Ya gotta exercise a little “freewill” ‘n chill out about this. We’re just havin’ fun, bro.

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          • Okay. By the way, does caramel ice cream go with Heineken or should I stick with the chips?

            Liked by 1 person

          • Not sure, but, like they say, the choice is yours to make. 😀 (Drum roll, please)

            Liked by 1 person

          • Forgot I had grocery store sushi too, so that was a nice lunch and nap.

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          • makagutu says:

            the only thing he never tells concisely is what he means by freewill

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          • Free will is when I choose for myself. Unfree will is when someone else chooses for me and forces me to choose or act against my will.

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          • Freewill: ‘Something that I can not give a precise definition to because, well, because it’s more fun not to give a precise definition to it. I don’t really have one, AND, wheel spinning is more fun. It’s good exercise, helps me lose weight, and keeps insects off my crops in summer.”

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          • makagutu says:

            whenever i think i should lose weight, I jump to conclusions

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          • makagutu says:

            I am no theologian, that should be readily obvious.
            I have asked you severally to simply define what you mean by freewill. I don’t want examples. I want a clear and concise definition, as for examples we will get there once we are agreed on a definition

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          • A “free” will is one that chooses for itself. An “unfree” will is one that is subordinate to the will of another.

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          • And we will never agree on a definition because you insist upon the theological definition, which is a spiritual ability to step out of causation, at least while making a decision.

            You prefer the theological definition because you enjoy attacking theologians. But you leave us atheists with no free will.

            Liked by 1 person

          • makagutu says:

            I noticed you are a compabitilist in the league of Dan Dennet. It is pointless trying to have a philosophical discussion on freewill with you

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          • Once we’ve said everything there’s not much left to say. That’s the way it goes.

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          • Mak: “In this case, I simply think you really don’t understand the philosophical debate around freewill.”

            But I do. The historical philosophical debate arises and resolves thusly:
            (a) Reliable cause and effect (determinism) implies a single, inevitable unfolding of all events.
            (b) Erroneous thinking, which separates us from causality as if we were its victim, leads to a false fear that we are no longer in control of our own choices or our own destiny.
            (c) This imaginary existential threat leads to a fruitless search for an escape from causality, through spiritualism (religious) or quantum uncertainty (secular).
            (d) The problem resolves when we realize that we are not victims of causality (like planets and other inanimate matter) but purposeful causal agents with an evolved neurological capability of imagining alternative futures and choosing the one which best suits our purposes and reasons.

            If I may wax poetic, we are causality. It runs in our veins and sparks between our neurons linking our purpose to our perceptions and our muscles. Our brains, where our purpose is integrated with our internal and external senses, imagine options, evaluates them, and chooses.

            Our choice is our will at that moment, and, assuming we are free to pursue our will (and not forced by someone else to pursue their will instead) then our will is free.

            Not free of causation, of course. If our will were free of causation then it could never reliably cause any effect! Such a will would be impotent and meaningless.

            If we are to cause effects then we need to acknowledge that we too are effects of prior causes. And we are, in fact, normally aware of the relevant prior causes of our choices.

            How we came to our choice is helpful information. The fact that our choice was deterministically inevitable is not useful. Deterministic inevitability applies equally to every choice we made, good or bad, for whatever reason, so it can teach us nothing of value.

            We are the final responsible cause of the direct results of our choices and actions. All prior causes had to get through us before they could become part of the inevitable.

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          • makagutu says:

            I honestly don’t know what you have said

            Liked by 1 person

          • Well, Mak, how does the idea that you are a robot with no control at all over what you will do next make you feel?

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  6. Ignostic Dave says:

    It seems to me that free will is best examined through a story metaphor. If you consider that what constitutes an individual is the sum of his parts and experiences, then there is no place to point to where a person is not being forced to take any given action (awareness of that forcing is not necessary). We are the sum of our species’ culture and genetics. However, if you cut existence into pieces, life into scenes, you can view it more as a story. Everything that happened in the last scene is now part of who you are, and you are now the person in this new scene. Anything you now do is *your* action (regardless of prior events which set you up to do this), and anything done to you is a forcing. Everything that happens in this scene becomes the new you in the next scene.
    It all depends on how thin you wish to slice life. I tend to go for big, fat chunks, where the individual can be viewed as the sum of all things. To me, it seems to be the most realistic position, and in a society that is highly individualistic and focussed on personal responsibility, the fairest way to look at it. If I were in a society where everyone shirked responsibility and figured someone else would take care of things, I would be on the other side of the fence.

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  7. This is either so deep or I’m so lost or both. My ADHD has me frozen but I appreciate your deep thoughts and always learn from your posts and the readers commentary as well 😎 Your English is excellent- this is just confusing in general. 🙈

    Liked by 2 people

  8. “The mental error is the presumption that freedom requires freedom from causation.” And thus, since our “wills” are NOT free of causation, they are not free. Beautifully said. Thanks. You’ve just stated the obvious: “Free” will does NOT exist.

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    • makagutu says:

      one wonders if he knows there is no freedom from causation, what is this freewill that he talks of

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    • inspired: “And thus, since our “wills” are NOT free of causation, they are not free.”

      Then NOTHING can be free, since nothing is free from causation. So if the word “free” is to continue to have useful meaning, it cannot be assumed that every time it is used it means “freedom from causation”, because that freedom does not exist in the real world.

      If I have a bird in a cage, and I “set it free”, what do I mean? Is the bird now free from causation? No. He is just free from the cage.

      To be meaningful, the word “free” only needs to refer to a single constraint.

      In the case of ordinary free will, that single constraint is “being forced to choose or act against your will by someone else”. When you are under coercion or duress, you are not free, but subject to someone else’s will.

      Free will only means “freedom from causation” to the theologian. The theologian believes in the supernatural. So if you’re going to introduce magic into the real world you’re free from rationality.

      Since you and I do not believe in the supernatural, our definition of freedom NEVER implies freedom from causation.

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      • koppieop says:

        Having reached the end of his interesting thread, I am going to get the cup of coffee that is waiting for me in the kitchen. But next to it are also three oranges ready to be squeezed. I’m compelled to make a choice, nevertheless I feel that I am exercising my free will.
        Is my question correct???

        .

        Liked by 1 person

  9. “Okay. By the way, does caramel ice cream go with Heineken or should I stick with the chips?” Oh, wait! When confronted with several food choices, I always pick the one my taste buds are, now hold onto your pants, PER-DETERMINED, to like!!! Hurray! Thus, I always pick chocolate ice cream over vanilla cause my taste buds like it more. I’ve nothing to do with them liking it more, however. They just do. Got nothin’ to do with freedom of da will. Oh, I suppose I COULD pick the one I dislike and choke it down, but, really, who’s gonna do that? And why? Now, I’m off to enjoy a few beers. Why? Cause my taste buds like beer more than wine. $Amen$

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Say, Mak, I’m startin’ a Freewill Apologetics School. Wanna sign up? Ya gotta be able to balance three spinning plates, two gerbils and a rabid dog all at the same time to be able to join, though. So, if you wanna sign up, start practicing. 🙂

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  11. Scottie says:

    I am so lost reading this post. I really tried, and I read all the comments which made me even more confused. Not your fault Mak, I just don’t have the education and the back ground to follow it. If you want to drop me an email to give me some pointers on it, I would really enjoy reading it. Thanks and hugs

    Liked by 1 person

    • “I am so lost reading this post.” That’s how you’re supposed to feel. Welcome to the world of Freewill Apologetics where the wheels never stop spinnin’ and the webs never stop being weaved. What kinda fun would this be if it actually made sense, huh? Hell, Christian Apologetics ain’t got nuttin’ on Freewill Apologetics when it comes to incensed practitioners and ever-changing dogmas of ultimate truths. Welcome aboard, Scottie. Just hang on tight or you’ll lose your hat, along with your mind, from the breeze made by all the spinning. $Amen$

      Liked by 1 person

      • Scottie says:

        Thank you, thanks you sir, I think I am getting it now. Many hugs

        Liked by 1 person

        • Check out Sam Harris’ little book called, Freewill. He comes at it from the POV of neuroscience and explains it clearly enough that even I understood it. It’s a quick read, which is stunning given the topic. He may have a few Youtube videos on it, too. BTW, Harris is of the scientific opinion, he’s a neuroscientist, that such a thing as freewill does not exist. He convinced me he’s right. Nothing like brain scans and controlled experiments for convincing me of a point.

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          • Better yet, take Richard Carrier’s on-line course through Secular Activism: http://secularactivism.org/

            When I took the course, Sam Harris’s book was one of several resources, and Richard had some issues with it, as did I. Richard also covers the legal aspects of free will with a couple of Supreme Court decisions. It’s a good course to get a broader perspective.

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          • makagutu says:

            ….and explains it clearly enough that even I understood it and how would you not? You are one of the intelligent people I have had the pleasure of knowing

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          • Thanks. I’ll send you a check for saying that with Holy Spirit express. 🙂

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          • makagutu says:

            give me some time, I should ensure there are no virgins in the neighbourhood.

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          • Will do. Oh, and remember, all actions that aren’t mentally or physically coerced or required of you at gun point, are free. Yeah. Right. Jeez, this soup gets murkier the longer it’s allowed to stew.

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          • makagutu says:

            the problem of compatibilism. it makes no sense having a discussion if even after pointing out an obvious fallacy, the same argument is repeated

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          • I appreciate the theological argument around this topic more, though I don’t agree with it, because at least it IS an argument with a picked stance and a POV. This compatible nonsense is simply wishy-washy, non-commitment-ism at its worse. All actions not coerced are free. Get the “F” outta here.

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          • makagutu says:

            At least with the theologian, you know where he is coming from. This compatibilism business and wheel spinning is not for me

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          • Me too. I mean no offense to Marvin. Seems like a bright nice fellow, but when folks are discussing “freewill” it is not meant as “freedom from coercion” or “freedom form gun point demands.” How free are we as physical beings, tied to our upbringing, genetics, and social situation to do as we wish? Free will implies, for me, a “power” of will or a “power” of self OVER the things which determine who and what we are, and this type of “freedom”, I strongly believe to be, and this is backed up by neuroscience more and more daily, to be a myth, a dream, an illusion which helps some maintain a sense of powerfulness when, in fact, they have little to no power at all. And thus, the wheels continue to spin and spin and spin.

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          • And yet I managed to quit smoking. Weird huh?

            Liked by 1 person

          • makagutu says:

            This is also how understand it. But to Marvin it only means either you are being forced to do something or not.

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          • And that simply is not what is meant by the term “freewill”. To say it is is to be very disingenuous. Perhaps Marvin is confused as to what others are speaking of when they discuss the topic. But I think disingenuous is more accurate. Dennet, Harris and others do not mean freedom from coercion when they’re speaking of freewill. Marvin has created his own word game here, one in which he is the sole player. Freedom from external force is NOT what is meant by freewill, at least not to anyone but Marvin.

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          • Dude, it’s not a game. It is how the paradox is resolved.

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          • I’m coming from reality Mak. I’m a Pragmatist. And I can see that deterministic inevitability makes absolutely no difference to anything in the real world.

            All of the utility of determinism comes from science studying the specific causes of specific effects. By this knowledge we gain greater control of ourselves and our world. We learn that viruses and bacteria cause diseases and we create vaccinations to prevent and antibiotics to cure them.

            But the fact that everything that happens will inevitably happen tells us nothing that we can use.

            And contemplating inevitability invites fatalism. You can see it the comments here if you look for it, especially in those by “Inspiredbythe Devine1”.

            If I may quote my post at http://marvinedwards.me/2015/06/18/determinism-free-will-fatalism/

            Inevitability does not actually control anything. It is not a cause in itself, but rather an observation of how causes interact to reliably bring about a specific outcome. If you’re thrown into a swimming pool (and life is often like that) you cannot sit back and wait to see what will inevitably happen. If you do you’ll drown.

            The false belief that inevitability is in control of our destiny is called “fatalism”. It preaches that we have no control, that all of our choices are already made for us, and that our will is only a rider on the bus being driven by inevitability. Fatalism encourages apathy, destroys morale, discourages autonomy, and undermines moral responsibility. Fatalism is morally corrupting.

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          • makagutu says:

            Marvin, I have read most of your posts on freewill and honestly there is very little that makes sense in them

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          • That’s quite all right. Don’t feel bad. At least you’ve made an honest effort to understand a different point of view. 🙂

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          • The fallacy is that free will is free of causation. It is not. It can only be free of coercion.

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      • makagutu says:

        hahaha.
        i couldn’t have expressed this better

        Liked by 1 person

    • If you’re a compatibilist, like me, then free will is nothing more and nothing less than your ability to make your own choices for yourself.

      If you’re an incompatibilist, then free will is a supernatural power that lets you work outside of causation. Theologians claim this as a gift from God. That’s why atheists pick on them.

      Unfortunately, the phenomenon is one single thing. So when atheists use deterministic inevitability to attack religious free will, they end up attacking ordinary free will, and that leads to fatalism.

      Fatalism is really stupid and morally harmful. So atheists who are incompatibilists need to get their message straight by clearly addressing supernatural free will and not going after ordinary free will.

      Liked by 1 person

    • makagutu says:

      Fine by me, Scottie. Just give me a few days and I will put something together

      Liked by 1 person

      • Scottie says:

        Jeff sent me a link to a Sam Harris video also. Thanks Hugs

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          • Scottie says:

            ya, but hard for someone like me to understand. I mean I understand the constraints of the real world, and I do NOT believe the energy world controls us, yet I do feel we can control , access, and manipulate that energy. So while I don’t believe “GODS” control us, I do believe we create our own gods and there are some who can move and manipulate energy. None of the energy can violate the physical laws of the universe as we yet understand them. But to free will, as we can not violate the laws of the universe , we have free will with in them. Like animals in an habitat, we can interact with the world we are in. If our world changes, our choices change. However if you are given only the choice of oping a right door or a left door or not opening a door and losing your life, that is the boundary we are in.. we must make a choice, and we are free to choose in that situation. But we can not simply say , the situation doesn’t exist and I wont follow it. That would be rewriting the code of the universe and that is beyond us at this time. Hugs

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          • makagutu says:

            Scottie, on this blog, there are several posts on freewill. You can search using the search bar

            Liked by 1 person

          • Also, you can get a beer at the search bar. Nice the way Mak arranged that for his readers.

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          • Scottie says:

            Thanks. After all the comments and listening to others, I think I am getting the idea. Seems there are two views. One is that there is a choice only with in the laws of nature, and the other is a weird biblical view that their is choice beyond the laws of nature, and beyond the idea that god has it all mapped out, which to me is contradictory. if God already has it mapped out, where is the choice, but that is the contradiction. Thanks and hugs

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  12. The main difference in positions here is whether we must be (a) free of causation or simply (b) free of coercion to say that we are “free”.

    If we must be free of causation than the word “free” is no longer usable, because we all agree (except for the theologians) that nothing is free of causation.

    The assertion I make, which apparently confuses some people, is that all of the causes that exist WITHIN us, ARE us. And if they are us then they cannot be said to coerce us.

    Our genetic dispositions, our life experiences, our beliefs and values, our reasons and our feelings, and anything else that makes us uniquely us are NOT forces acting against our will (coercion), but they are US formulating our will.

    That is the nature of us in the causal chain. Unlike inanimate physics, biological organisms come with a purpose (survival) and deliberately alter their environment to suit that purpose. Those organisms with sufficient neurological evolution can learn, experiment, plan, and choose alternate means to accomplish the purpose of survival.

    When we organize ourselves into societies, we create rules about how we should or should not behave, to optimize the chance that everyone will be able to satisfy their basic needs without trampling upon the needs of someone else. And we hold those who break the rules responsible for the harms they cause. If their future behavior can be improved, we rehabilitate them. If they are incorrigible, we imprison them to protect others.

    We cannot time travel back to the Big Bang and make quantum adjustments to prevent the harm from happening in the first place.

    Instead we recognize the autonomy (free will) of the offender and attempt to provide the missing education, skills training, counseling, and other interventions that would give him better options in the future. We want him to make better choices in the future, of his own free will.

    The fact of inevitability is not helpful here. The fact of our autonomy and his autonomy, that our choices as to what we will do, and his choices as to what he will do, is pretty much everything that is meaningful here.

    Inevitability becomes irrelevant by its ubiquity. If the offender claims that it was inevitable that he committed the crime, then the judge can also claim that it was inevitable that the criminal would be punished. It is like a constant that is on both sides of every equation, that can be subtracted from both sides and ignored.

    To try to make inevitability into something meaningful is to invite fatalism. Inevitability is best acknowledged and then ignored.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Scottie says:

      Dang you are so much smarter than I , I read this four times before I came to understand I think we say the same thing. I admit I don’t understand what you meant by the big bang thing, but I know I have free will, but only with in my biology, my surroundings, and the science I understand. I do not feel I am forced to make a choice unless that choice is only a or b based entirely on my own needs and experiences. I can not simply step out of my existence to change everything I know , such as a mythical GOD could. So in truth do I understand what you are saying and if there is a deeper meaning to your words, I am again lost. Sorry. hugs

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      • There’s nothing complex about saying that a person who makes a choice for himself is acting of his own free will, and someone who is forced to do something against his will is not acting of his own free will.

        Those who wish to say that free will is impossible must explain themselves. So you can talk that over with Mak.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Scottie says:

          No what I was meaning was complicated was all the situatation, conditions of each life that makes each free choice seem somewhat predetermined. It is like if your good at chess you can tell what the other players move will be against your move, even though they have the choice not to , you can set it up so it seems a person is pushed into thinking there is only one path they can take, which is not true but seems that way. Hugs

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          • The question is not whether a choice is determined, but rather how it is being determined. If the deterministic process that makes the final choice is actually me, then I am acting of my own free will.

            All of the other prior determining causes do not by themselves cause what I finally do. Only I can cause that. It is my reasoning and my feelings that make the final determination.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Scottie says:

            But they do push us in some directions, to some choices, they help us to see what is a good choice for us personally or a bad one, like the law of gravity will tell me jumping off a high structure on to hard ground is not a wise thing to do, even though I could still do it. Did I understand that correctly? Thanks. Hugs

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      • makagutu says:

        Hi Scottie, don’t worry about being lost, you will find yourself soon enough

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Mak: “The relevant question to the discussion is whether the actions of the one who wasn’t coerced were un-caused. This is the only relevant question, all others are not relevant to this discussion.”

    Nothing is uncaused. Even the decisions we make of our own free will are caused by our own purposes, reasons, feelings, etc. The inevitability of things is a rather trivial fact.

    Despite a history of philosophic nonsense, inevitability has nothing to do with free will. The broken record that keeps repeating that the will must be free of causation if it is to be free at all, is a crock. And it doesn’t matter whether Spinoza or Einstein says it, it is still false.

    The question is whether we play any significant role in causation. If setting a goal and choosing how to go about reaching it is impossible, then we are stuck in fatalism.

    If choosing goals and how to achieve them is real, then what we think and choose to do is significant and meaningful.

    If, when choosing, we are free to make the choice for ourselves, then our will is free. On the other hand, if we are coerced to choose or act against our will, then our will is subordinated and subjugated to that external force. In short, it is not free.

    Inevitability plays no meaningful role in making this distinction.

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    • makagutu says:

      Marvin you may have spent a lot of time on your pet theory. I am sorry you have been engaging a wrong discussion. In this one that you have created, you are the sole winner. You may need to reread on the historical philosophical question regarding freewill, maybe then, just then you will understand it. I am sure even Dan Dennet who is a compatibilist like you would disagree with your reasoning

      Liked by 1 person

      • I ran into the problem of determinism and free will reading Spinoza at the Richmond Public Library. I’m guessing I was around 15 or 16 at the time. That was over 50 years ago.

        Sometime back then (either on my own or by reading one of the Pragmatists like William James or George Santayana or Bertrand Russell) I realized that inevitability is nothing that anyone can do anything about.

        And anything that anyone might try to do to avoid inevitability would have in fact been inevitable! So the idea that we can or should do anything differently because of inevitability is delusional.

        In practical, everyday life situations, how is anything changed by the fact of inevitability?

        Nothing has changed. All of the causes keep causing the same effects, including me. When I cause something, it continues to have the same effects.

        And I remain as free as I was before inevitability ever occurred to me. I still make my own choices and I still must deal with the consequences of my decisions. And that is all that freedom is or ever was.

        If you think that you are less free because your choices are caused, you are deluding yourself.

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