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Free Will and Libertarianism.

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Lozterrk Posted: Thu, Nov 29 2012 3:54 PM

Hi I was just wondering what good rebuttals can be given to the arguments here http://www.academia.edu/219143/Consciousness_and_Free_Will_A_Critique_of_the_Argument_From_Introspection

 

I've heard a lot of social psychologists try to minimize the self and push the introspection illusion as well as general determinism against metaphysical libertarianism.

I don't know much about what arguments can be given to the Libet experiments and related items http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuroscience_of_free_will

Does anyone wish to add their two cents?

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Blargg replied on Thu, Nov 29 2012 6:55 PM

After reading Daniel Dennet's Elbow Room, I don't see determinism and the varieties of free will worth wanting to be incompatible. I highly recommend this relatively short book and have read it many times myself.

 

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Wheylous replied on Thu, Nov 29 2012 6:58 PM

I've pretty much settled on determinism and don't really think the issue is a very major one for libertarianism. Best a statist could say is "Well, if he wasn't in control of his actions, should he be punished?" To which I reply "How can I help my punishing him? After all, it's what I'm pre-determined to do."

Seriously, the world is deterministic - get over it. Pretend as if it's not (and I say "pretend" self-consciously, because you can't really choose whether to pretend or not). So yeah - determinism true, but we shouldn't bust our heads over it. Keep living as if it isn't. Cuz if it is, it won't matter anyway!

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Wheylous replied on Thu, Nov 29 2012 6:59 PM

In fact, I will write about this a little more and then slap on a name - "Wheylous's Wager" [1]

[1] Reference to "Pascal's Wager," only this one makes more sense

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Neodoxy replied on Thu, Nov 29 2012 7:20 PM

I think that the idea of free will is ridiculous and that it might even be conceptually impossible, but I haven't really worked that out yet. It's also one of the places where objectivist philosophy makes me want to facepalm. "Everything in the universe is causal, except for free will". Yea, that's right, the entire universe acts in a certain way except the brain.

As for why free will might be contradictory think about it like this: you can either have will, in which case your will is always determined by what you value most and what you value most is based upon the way you conceive of the universe. Therefore you have no control over your will as such; will is the incarnation of your very essence as an individual. Will is what you are and you ultimately cannot change that because you only have the values you have, how can you do something which you do not value? So you have will or you have freedom. Freedom in this case would be freedom from causality, but how can you have freedom from causality which shapes your desires? This would mean that you would always and at every time value thing which don't exist, things which aren't even conceivable , and there would be utter chaos in the mind.

So it would seem to me (this isn't really a formal chain of reasoning, rather just a quick musing) that freedom from causality and will are exclusive to one another.

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Clayton replied on Thu, Nov 29 2012 7:31 PM

Causality is deterministic. Hence, every explanation of phenomena assumes determinism. To say otherwise is merely a confusion over definitions. That said, "free will" is a human category of knowledge and does not refer to indeterminism from the point-of-view of an omniscient being. Daniel Dennett explains it all in painstaking detail here:

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hashem replied on Thu, Nov 29 2012 8:06 PM

Free of what?

/thread

The video Clayton links is indicative of the essential problem plaguing the establishment free will debate.

The establishment perspectives wrestle over a false dichotomy. At best, an important position which I'll point out later is ignored. But usually you just get to choose from one of two sides:

A) The conscious brain (that brain activity that you consider to be yourself) orchestrates the cerebral output it experiences. Therefore free will is true.

B) The cerebral output the conscious brain ("you") experiences is orchestrated by the same, but the events leading up to that moment in time inevitably caused it. Therefore free will is false.

I propose a better perspective:

The vast majority of the brain is neither controllable by nor accessable to the conscious brain. It's the unconscious brain, and it's busy storing input, and processing it, and outputting data. A fraction that input, and of that processing, and of that output is experienced by the conscious brain. When you think of yourself, what you're thinking of is your conscious brain—it is what you identify with, it's what you are for all intents and purposes. You—your conscious brain—don't control the automatic brain activity which is processing input to arrive at the output you experience. So the unconscious brain is calculating an output which will be called choice, and when it causes the body to behave a certain way the conscious brain experiences that—but the conscious brain didn't orchestrate that.

So no, "a person" (that is, a person's consciousness) doesn't orchestrate choice, and in that sense a person doesn't will anything. Rather, a person (that is, a person's consciousness) experiences the automatic output of the unconscious as though it willed it.

The important question is not whether the conscious brain orchestrates choice (aka "do we have free will"). The important question is, "given that the brain and body don't require conscious brain activity, what is its evolutionary survival value?" What's the purpose of conscious brain activity?

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 I don't buy into the fact that everything is predetermined due to the fact that multiple time realities exist, according to some theories in physics

I also think "future time" doesn't exist in a determined sense, as it hasn't transpired yet. Assuming otherwise is nonsensical. Maybe things are "deterministic" if we look back at things, into the past, from point B to point A, but things can't be deterministic if we look onward from point A to point B, because point B doesn't exist yet. That's why people have free will.

So, yeah, I suppose I'm more of a metaphysical libertarian than a determinist.

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Anenome replied on Thu, Nov 29 2012 8:40 PM
 
 

Wheylous:

I've pretty much settled on determinism and don't really think the issue is a very major one for libertarianism. Best a statist could say is "Well, if he wasn't in control of his actions, should he be punished?" To which I reply "How can I help my punishing him? After all, it's what I'm pre-determined to do."

Seriously, the world is deterministic - get over it. Pretend as if it's not (and I say "pretend" self-consciously, because you can't really choose whether to pretend or not). So yeah - determinism true, but we shouldn't bust our heads over it. Keep living as if it isn't. Cuz if it is, it won't matter anyway!

I don't have details, but I've heard many claim that quantum mechanics disproves any notion of determinism.

 
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Yeah, that's what I was getting at too Anenome. 

I personally believe everything in the past was determined by causal factors (that's pretty clear, A leads to B), but I don't think anything in the future is "pre"-determined, which makes no sense to me (ie, future event B is set in stone). Maybe if a deity exists, I dunno.

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Life is as if human beings have free-will. Whether we really do or not is irrelevant for political philosophy, in my opinion. Whether there is really a shoe in front of me, as part of objective reality, or whether there is only a phenomenon, is irrelevant in discussions of who owns the shoe. Likewise, whether Bob really was free to kill Jones, or it only seems that way, is irrelevant in discussions of what restitution he should make. What we ask "what really happened" with respect to some dispute, by "really" we are not referring to the mind-independent (i.e. objective) world. No one ever has any access to this at all, by definition. We are asking people for reports about their subjective experience: what did you see, what did you hear, etc. In other words, we're always only dealing in the realm of appearance; whether there is anything beyond that appearance is irrelevant.

The question of the reality of a criminals free will only comes into play if you make the error of trying to draw an ought from and is: i.e. Bob should pay such and such restitution because of the fact that he acted with free will. Rather, the ethic that says a person is responsible for his voluntary actions is not the conclusion of a proof which begins with facts about reality, it is (or is a deduction from) a primitive valuation. By "primitive valuation" I mean a value which is simply posited. This is what ethics in fact are, and what I think they ought (n pun intended) to be recognized as. "Murder is bad" is no different than "tomatoes are tasty." This claim does not rest on any facts. There cannot be and need not be any reason behind this. That's not to say that I'm in favor of people following whatever ethics happen to pop into their heads from time to time. I see libertarian ethics as a series of rules which are deduced from a series of fundamental principles, which in turn are designed to produce in society a state of affairs which we have valued as good. There's no further reason why it's good, as there's no further reason why someone might like tomatoes. They just do in fact like them. We just do in fact like peace and prosperity, which is what we believe universal adherence to those fundamental principles underlying libertarian ethics would yield. So, again, since our entire system is based on primitive valuations, and since these do not rest on any facts whatever, no facts (such as whether there really is free will or not) make any difference. No fact can disprove those valuations, just as no facts could disprove the valuation "tomatoes are tasty."

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I definitely agree with Minarchist; the metaphysical libertarian vs. determinist debate is wholly irrelevant to the political libertarian vs. statist debate. That needs to be made clear.

Even if a murder is predetermined, it is still fundamentally, axiomatically, and entirely wrong, and should be punished, even if that punishment is predetermined.

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hashem replied on Thu, Nov 29 2012 9:17 PM

The debate isn't whether will is free or determined. That's the establishment false dichotomy. It always comes back to when can we use violence to enforce our morals. Forget that noise. This free will silliness wins the award for trolling philosophy into establishing the new hegemonic rationalization once bare statism is seen naked on a large scale.

You (your consciousness) doesn't orchestrate the cerebral output (called choice) it experiences. You don't choose anything, rather you experience the choice your unconscious brain calculated automatically. Your unconscious brain was calculating this stuff long before you (your consciousness) ever became aware of anything.

More important than the establishment false dichotomy distraction game are fundamental questions: what's the purpose of conscious brain activity? Why did brains which don't require it win the evolutionary struggle once they developed it?

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it's time to pause and reflect. —Mark Twain
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Lozterrk replied on Thu, Nov 29 2012 9:36 PM

I meant it might relate to political philosophy because statists such as Sam Harris and other more popular scientists who talk about our lack of free will (I think I read something by Robert Sapolsky as well) use it as an excuse to promote utilitarianism. Since people can't be held accountable for their actions, the state can come in and fix your brains which you are unable to control yourself. David Eagleman also proposes a similar solution more or less when he talks about neurolaw. Think about the implications that if the state finds you have a "bad brain" then obviously you will have no choice but to commit a crime, thus they have the right to come in and fix your brains at an early age.

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Lozterrk replied on Thu, Nov 29 2012 9:44 PM

Joshua D. Greene and Jonathan Cohen are others who discuss this http://www.wjh.harvard.edu/~jgreene/GreeneWJH/GreeneCohenPhilTrans-04.pdf

 

Sapolsky: http://neuro.bcm.edu/eagleman/neurolaw/papers/%5BSapolsky%5DFrontalCortexandJustice2004.pdf

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hashem replied on Thu, Nov 29 2012 9:46 PM

Thank you for vindicating me. Arguments about free will usually revolve around justifying violence.

hashem:
This free will silliness wins the award for trolling philosophy into establishing the new hegemonic rationalization once bare statism is seen naked on a large scale.

Think outside the box they're building for you. The question isn't when is violence allowed, it's what is the evolutionary benefit of conscious brain activity.

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it's time to pause and reflect. —Mark Twain
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AJ replied on Thu, Nov 29 2012 9:47 PM
Define "free will" and you'll know whether or not you have it.
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Lozterrk replied on Thu, Nov 29 2012 9:49 PM

Also I'm sorry but my conception of free will relies on self-determinism rather than non-determinism to be true. I'm not here to discuss that question. I guess i was hoping to find someone who can address those issues of the need for utilitarianism. whether or not they are false, the socialists (social psychologists like daniel wegner and emily pronin) are jumping on this to claim decisions are made unconsciously, with no free will, conscious, rational input. So it's an excuse to also attack the free market by saying people are too stupid to do well in the free market, it needs therefore to be regulated by experts. We all know how it goes. Even if we have free will, how can we as libertarians still fight for individuality if our sense of "self" doesn't cause or acitons, or if the "self" is an illusion? That's the whole premise of the first article I linked to. That if free will collapses, then libertarianism's claim that we are rational agents who can control our actions also collapses.

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Lozterrk replied on Thu, Nov 29 2012 9:58 PM

What if some events are subconscious while others are conscious? Obviously learning how to bike requires consciousness. You consciously develop a skill which then become second nature, or, "subconscious".

I'm skeptical to all theories of mind which treat it as a mere narration of brain activity. If we're just blindly going about our lives in terms of the decisions we make, and no conscious input affects our decisions, then i'm surprised we arrive at truth as often as we do. It's almost as though we're miraculously determined by the laws of nature then to somehow come to the truth. So your sacred brain just happened to come to the right combination of information processing while my inferior brain came to this conclusion because of the unconscious nature of the information processing.

If what you say is true, I couldn't care much about any evolutionary survival value. I wouldn't care about much about anything. But that's just me.

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hashem replied on Thu, Nov 29 2012 10:16 PM

@Lozterrk

Obviously learning how to bike requires consciousness.

Why is that obvious? Google 'blindsight'. Google 'sleepwalking'. Etc etc etc.

If we're just blindly going about our lives in terms of the decisions we make

The unconscious brain is doing unfathomable work. Just because you're not consciously aware of it doesn't mean it's not happening.

It's almost as though we're miraculously determined by the laws of nature then to somehow come to the truth.

It's not so much "miraculously determined" as it is the inevitable course of evolution. Genes are replicators, and bodies are their survival machines. Bodies that developed brains proved better at surviving. The purpose of brains is to calculate input to arrive at a more successful output for gene propagation than would happen by chemical necessity alone. The purpose of conscious brain activity is to expand such capacity, probably by an awesome degree—but it doesn't mean the conscious activity orchestrated the calculation; the unconscious brain calculates output, the conscious brain experiences.

So [a brain just happens to arrive at truth]

A brain doesn't just happen to stumble on truth (well, strictly speaking, it does). Rather, it has evolved to be spectacularly successful at accomplishing that end.

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Clayton replied on Fri, Nov 30 2012 12:00 AM

when can we use violence to enforce our morals.

This is not a question of philosophy, it's a question of law, that is, what norms emerge from dispute-resolution.

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Not wishing to debate free will again extensively- if you look at my post history I've done it quite a lot.

The main point though is, if determinism is true we are screwed. In a way we don't exist just the atoms which create the illusion of me (see my signature).

I define free will as the ability to choose good or evil, truth or falsehood and beauty or ugliness. I used to say it was the power to choose the contrary- A or non-A. Put as above I think it grounds it more in reality.

The denial of free will is the classic case of a man holding a conclusion which undermines his means of discovering it. It is basic observation that man chooses yet by holding a consistent materialism you have to undermine it. Consequently a non-materialistic worlview better descirbes reality.

Man discovers science, not science man.

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z1235 replied on Fri, Nov 30 2012 7:02 AM

Lozterrk,

So it's an excuse to also attack the free market by saying people are too stupid to do well in the free market, it needs therefore to be regulated by experts.

Presumably, these attackers and expert regulators would have been pre-determined to do so?

 

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AJ replied on Fri, Nov 30 2012 7:11 AM
Physiocrat, the ability for who to choose? One's own perspective must be handled differently from those of any "other agents"; if we ignore the difference and just speak of "we" it can only lead to confusion.

From my perspective I certainly have the ability to make choices. By this definition I definitely have free will (and you may find you can say the same of yourself). The only remaining question is whether I (or you) could eventually - in principle - model the movements of *other people* entirely through physics (determinism), or only ever through teleology. Of course that latter question can only be answered by attaining that level of mastery of physics, if that turns out to be possible.

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z1235 replied on Fri, Nov 30 2012 7:56 AM

^ AJ, I agree. 

According to what I think is the most useful definition of "exist", if X is useful for navigating (surviving in) your environment, then X exists. 

Entities for whom a bus does not exist, stop existing themselves. They get run over. Deny the existence of agency in others at your own risk. 

 

 

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Twins are physiologically the same people and grow up in virtually the exact same environment and are typically treated exactly the same, except the twins are usually two totally different people. These social "scientists" claim that by augmenting or altering the environment that you can manipulate people's behavior, yet in this case with twins, how is their environment so drasitcally different that it can form two different people? The truth is it isn't. They are two different people with different wills.

Not only that, it becomes a matter of how one can "choose" to change the environment or "choose" to inspire someone to change their environment when free will "doesn't exist" to begin with, as they say. Lots of contradictions amongst the science community. The root of all this behavioral "science" is to promote the idea that we are not individuals; that we do not choose anything, and therefore we are not responsible for our behavior, and thus we must take their drugs in order to be "free." More like take their drugs to become agents of the state.

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Wheylous:

I've pretty much settled on determinism and don't really think the issue is a very major one for libertarianism. Best a statist could say is "Well, if he wasn't in control of his actions, should he be punished?" To which I reply "How can I help my punishing him? After all, it's what I'm pre-determined to do."

Seriously, the world is deterministic - get over it. Pretend as if it's not (and I say "pretend" self-consciously, because you can't really choose whether to pretend or not). So yeah - determinism true, but we shouldn't bust our heads over it. Keep living as if it isn't. Cuz if it is, it won't matter anyway!

Are you being sarcastic?

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Autolykos replied on Fri, Nov 30 2012 8:17 AM

On the level of pure determinism, individuals don't exist. Nor does anything else exist apart from the fundamental building blocks of the universe (whatever they turn out to be). Free will therefore doesn't exist as a separate physical phenomenon.

However, at the level where individuals are perceived to exist, free will is also perceived to exist, because it's impossible to know what any individual will do at any point in the future.

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Clayton:

Causality is deterministic. Hence, every explanation of phenomena assumes determinism. To say otherwise is merely a confusion over definitions. That said, "free will" is a human category of knowledge and does not refer to indeterminism from the point-of-view of an omniscient being.

Simply because we exist and we are phenomena does not exclude the presence of free will. Do you truly maintain that there is no difference between you, me and a rock? The rock is a phenomenon, as with you and I. You may bring up that we have a phenomenon called the brain, and that since the rock doesn't have free will and is a cause and agent of its physical environment that choice is an illusion.

Before I begin my critique, am I understanding you correctly?

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AJ,

I am saying all agents (humans) have the ability as described above. In my mind free will is far more fundemental than prediction. In fact prediction has little to do with it unless you argue that a being a exhaustive foreknoweldge. In that case free will would be redundent since all actions of agents would be settled prior to creation since it that being knew with certitude something would happen then it must. Further I'd argue to know something it must first exist so to know the future would imply that it exists- as such all time must exist concurrently which again implies determinsim and also causes problems for human identity. At which point in time am I me?

EDIT:

As an addenum, with causality there must be a first cause otherwise the chain would never come into existence. Now since that is the case there could be other similar causes to this ultimate first cause which start the chain of causality, not caused by it. This is how I understand real, metaphysical free will- it begins a chain of causality, it does not begin one. It however does not follow from this that it is random since that precludes meaningful choice. Free will is necessary but mysterious since it is basic- it cannot be explained in other terms since it is in fact basic to human existence.

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hashem replied on Fri, Nov 30 2012 9:58 AM

This doesn't have to be another circle jerk thread. Like AJ said, define free will and you'll know whether you have it.

1. What is will?

2. What is it free of?

But think outside the establishment false dichotomy. A person identifies with his conscious brain, not with his unconscious brain. YOU are your consciousness. The question then isn't is will determined or free, but does the conscious brain orchestrate chioce or experience the choice output by automatic processes of the unconscious brain.

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AJ replied on Fri, Nov 30 2012 10:18 AM
z1235:
According to what I think is the most useful definition of "exist", if X is useful for navigating (surviving in) your environment, then X exists.
In that vein, I can find in my mental experience only three modes of (nonverbal) thinking: modeling phenomena in terms of mechanical object-on-object interactions, modeling phenomena in terms of agency (by analogy with my own consciousness), and then just trivial noting of patterns. These three are all just types of "seeing movies" (not just visual, but encompassing all five senses - modeling agency, for example, involves bodily sensations like the vicarious pain you feel when seeing a guy get kicked in the nuts). With that, I'd define whatever sets of sensations in those movies that matter to me (are relevant to my pain/pleasure) as being "real" or perhaps as "existing," though I tend to reserve that latter word for physical objects.
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AJ replied on Fri, Nov 30 2012 10:38 AM
Physiocrat, all agents have the ability to choose, by definition of the word "agent." The question is whether there are really any other agents besides me (or from your perspective, besides you). No actually, the only question that matters for me (or for you*) is whether it is useful to view others as agents (useful to view others as having free will, as you have defined it). For me it certainly seems to be, and I don't expect anyone would say otherwise if they understand what I'm getting at. I'm merely trying to tie up all loose ends by allowing the possibility that it could be useful to model people as robots some day in the future. This was not intended as a central point, just an attempt to anticipate all objections so the debate wouldn't drag on too long.

*This is tautological, because I'm using "matters" and "is useful" as synonyms.

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Physiocrat replied on Fri, Nov 30 2012 10:46 AM

AJ,

See my edit above which might make my positon more clear. Further I think viewing people "as if" they were agents pressuposes a pragmatic approach to knowledge which is IMO the epistemological equivalent of throwing in the towel. I'm not saying it is useful to treat others "as if" they were agents but that the are agents.

The atoms tell the atoms so, for I never was or will but atoms forevermore be.

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AJ replied on Fri, Nov 30 2012 10:53 AM
Well it sounds like you're saying that you care about non-pragmatic points, but I can't make sense of those words. To me, "I care about issue X" and "X is a pragmatic issue (to me)" are synonyms. Please clarify.
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Physiocrat replied on Fri, Nov 30 2012 11:03 AM

I was meaning that you seem to be exhibiting a pragmatic approach to knowledge rather than holding to either correspondance or even coherence theory of knowledge. Not that a correct epistemology wasn't practical. Did you see my edit above about causilty and freedom of the will?

The atoms tell the atoms so, for I never was or will but atoms forevermore be.

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Clayton replied on Fri, Nov 30 2012 11:09 AM

Do you truly maintain that there is no difference between you, me and a rock?

Re-read your sentence and the answer should be obvious: of course not. But let me ask you this, what is the difference between sufficiently complex phenomena and free will?

 

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I think metaphysical libertarianism is a perfectly fine explanation. Why must everything be "predetermined"? Sure, there are determined "natures," such as human nature, which are not subject to change. But that doesn't mean that "fate" or "destiny" exist. Part of the nature of man is to have free will. And I don't think free will is compatible with this idea that "reality is pre-determined."

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Blargg replied on Fri, Nov 30 2012 11:23 AM

There are two ideas of predetermination: the entire "story" of the universe written as an author writes a book, and a deterministic universe which necessarily means that the future state is not open to change. I think you're using the first definition, which is counter to free will. The second one is not.

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Clayton replied on Fri, Nov 30 2012 11:23 AM

"reality is pre-determined."

From whose point-of-view?? If we mean from God's PoV, then of course it's pre-determined, everything is pre-determined from the PoV of an omniscient being. It is crucial not to reason ourselves into circles.

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