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68 Answers

Sellz's avatar

I would consider it a somewhat of a test. To see a persons level of sincerity. for example, it is it kind of like a friend having someone call another friend on 3 way to see what they think about something you want them to do. This way, the person will truly speak their mind. Ya know?

-Sellz

steelmarket's avatar

Free will is not an illusion, restriction or loophole. Events are not predetermined, although they may all be known. Free will is a responsibility.

I think of moral liberty as moral liability. Every action has consequences, not predetermined, but inevitable.

Sellz's avatar

I agree steelmarket. Good perception.

-Sellz

LostInParadise's avatar

I am confused. How can free will be a restriction? If we assume that free will exists it would imply that a person is only limited by what is physically possible.

SuperMouse's avatar

I think free will is an illusion. There are so many forces pushing us one way or another that most events are simply out of our control. What we can control is our reaction to these events.

fireside's avatar

Free will is the ability to view the events in your life as positive or negative.

Life will be infinitely better for you if you choose to see the path that has been laid out as a positive one, but you are free to fight the current and increase your struggle.

GAMBIT's avatar

Free will is a responsibility. It is like your parents giving you the keys to their brand new Rolls Royce and saying “have it home by eight”.

wundayatta's avatar

Free will is about choices, not about control. Can we choose our own actions, or are they predetermined? It seems to me that we have no choice but free will.

Chaos reigns in the universe. At the quantum level, everything is probabilistic, and nothing can be determined. If it can’t be determined at the quantum level, then how could things be any more determinable at larger levels of organization?

I’m with Steelmarket in saying that free will is neither a restriction or a loophole. How can it be a restriction? It’s freedom. If it’s a loophole, what is it a loophole in? There is no law in universe, other than those established at the big bang. Free will doesn’t appear to be a loophole in those laws, but perhaps it could be, if it can bend physical laws.

If morality is prescriptive, then we have moral liberty, because we have to create the prescriptions out of nothing. If morality is descriptive, then it is based on the collective free will of members of society. If morality is philosophical, then, of course it is subject to free will, as we argue over the proper principles to determine what morality is.

I’m afraid I don’t see how moral liberty can be an oxymoron. Perhaps you are using a different definition of morality. Or maybe you’re just messing with our heads! ;-)

MindErrantry's avatar

@SuperMouse, how exactly is controlling our reaction to these events any different than making choices in the first place? I don’t think everything can be so neatly lined up as, event X has happened and now I will choose what to do about it—at least, that’s not how we’re going to perceive everything; to us, a ‘response’ might be an initiation of a new event. And in any case, being able to control our reaction to events—isn’t that free will again, making a choice about what to do?

Ulmaxes's avatar

free will. hm. The conversation here seems to be more about the very meaning and essence of free will, so Ill cover that. Let’s set up an example. I saw this question- for simplicity’s sake, let’s say I had two options. A. answer or B. ignore
I chose A. Was that choice a distinct action I made in my mind, or was it just another part of a chain of events leading back to the beginning of my life?
I say both.
Indeed, those event led up to this moment, and set up what I would probably do. However, I did weigh the pro’s and con’s, and make a decision. I do know one thing: we are not puppets in a predetermined universe. We are not the marionettes of some supreme puppeteer of fate. To quote one of my favorite movies, “Our fate is what we make.”
Morality is not being forced to do one set of actions- it is the choice between what the person believes is right and what is wrong.
If one feels “constrained” by morality, then one should reevaluate his or her outlook on their morality.
Example: Christianity. if one feels “burdened” or “obliged” to follow Jesus’ footsteps, then you’re missing the point. another: Parenthood. If trying to be a good father/mother is a chore, you’ve missed the point. It’s built to be something done out of joy and love.
Summary: free will is present, and is a gift to us so that we may choose to do what we have concluded to be good and right.

SuperMouse's avatar

@MindErrantry, Fireside summed up my feelings on this perfectly. Our reaction to events can either make us more miserable or help us to remain content. If we view life as a series of continuous struggles it is going to be much more trying than if we view life as a gift and react to situations from that perspective. There are many things in life that we have little or no control over (such as actually being given life) which is why I believe freewill is an illusion.

steelmarket's avatar

The given life choice was made by your mother.
Non-choices in your life are often the result of choices made by others.

Ulmaxes's avatar

@MindErrantry, we don’t choose a lot of things in life; the sun comes up and down despite our deepest wishes. does that mean we have no freewill? nope. there are indeed many, many things we don’t have a choice about. I think here we’re merging the idea of being given an option to do something, with the ability to want to make a choice. If I’m falling down an elevator shaft, I probably don’t have much of a choice in the whole dying situation. But I still choice to try to survive by any means, thrashing against my quickly approaching doom.
The point is that I want to make the choice. Whether I can actually do anything to assist my choice is a different matter.
The laws of physics, in that specific example.

Introverted_Leo's avatar

I’m not sure what you mean by ‘moral liberty,’ Sherlock, because I understand it as something slightly different from free will. Could you explain what you mean by that?

MindErrantry's avatar

@Ulmaxes, I wasn’t arguing that we don’t have free will—I think we do, which is also what you’re saying unless I’m reading you wrong (a distinct possibility)—have I got that right?

mrswho's avatar

We don’t have free will. Any aspect of one’s personality or and any part of a situation that would determine one’s actions is predetermined. I have no control over which dessert I happen to like or what choices are put before me. I don’t choose the jello, I didn’t choose to like it or make it a delicious treat that’s fun to eat. Though the uncertainty principle makes determinism impossible, anything that would factor into a choice is beyond our control. I could choose not to drop the baby off the roof because that would be immoral, but I did not place those ideas of morality into my head. Society and common sense told me that that would be a terrible idea, neither of which I had any control over.

To carry the idea to its absurd, but valid, conclusion those who do things like drop babies off roofs did not choose to do so because freewill is an illusion. Society must punish them and hold them accountable, but whether it was nature or nurture that warped the kind of person who would do such a thing, the circumstances were beyond their control.

wundayatta's avatar

Wow, Mrswho! That was an astounding feat of philosphical legerdemain! You definitely have a career in sophistry. Or at the bar. Which might be more lucrative.

MindErrantry's avatar

@mrswho, but isn’t it true that you still have the choice to drop the baby off the roof? I would hope that you wouldn’t, of course… Just because the conditions which predispose you to not do so were not instilled in you by your choice, you still have the choice whether or not you will obey them—after all, that’s why there is still crime, because people can choose to go against precondition. Otherwise the world might be in better shape—but of course that’s a whole other monsterous can of worms right there. Anyhow.

In general, I don’t think that the argument that there are some things which we cannot control is sufficient to invalidate free will entirely. So sure, some stuff is beyond our control; what we can control, we think about and make decisions regarding it. That’s choice. Free will says nothing about being able to control the universe, just being able to make choices (and not even necessarily be able to carry them out, as discussed above).

mrswho's avatar

@MindErrantry I don’t think that you would nessicarily have the choice of whether or not to drop the baby. The mind works by using what it values to determine the best course of action. Everything that goes into the decision making process is beyond our control. We cannot even control what we think about. We might see someone drop the aforementioned baby off the aforementioned roof, and would have no choice but to then think about that. The impluse to try to push somthing as terrible as infantacide out of our mind could be determined by evolution or by various experiances we had.

We can’t control our thoughts any more than a rock can control falling down the mountain. For anything to happen there must be an impetus, somthing must make it happen. The rock does not decide to fall and the neurons do not decide to fire off in the particular sequence that would result in an idea, thought, or action. Something has to make that happen, and when that thought occurs the other thoughts it migles with were made to occur, once again we have no free will. Choice is nothing but an evaluation of the values of different options. Those values are predetermined, and what ever the brain values most (though it may be completely illogical and indecipherable from the outside) wins out in the end. The decision was determined, and the values set before the choice was laid out. Before they were born. Before the earth cooled.

Introverted_Leo's avatar

Wow, never heard this arguement before.

I make choices that go against my “value system” practically every day—lying, saying something mean and snarky, or whatever—whether I like it or not. My value system clearly does not determine my choices in those cases.

mrswho's avatar

@Introverted_Leo I don’t mean value system as a moral measure. I mean what your mind values. Would your mind value the truth more, or not getting in trouble for having done something wrong? If your mind values avoiding the repercussions of what ever you did over the moral need for the truth than you will lie. It isn’t moral question, its an economic question. What should I exchange for what and what value does it have? If you want to steal but its against your values it does not matter if lifting whatever it is is of more worth than the moral voice that says no.

There is still no choice in what your mind values or how your values developed and were set in your mind.

Introverted_Leo's avatar

You say you “don’t mean value system as a moral measure,” but then you go on and use an example which clearly talks about a “moral” voice. So is it moral matter or is it a matter of cerebral calculations?

What you make the brain sound like is a calculator (which, in a way, it is), and a calculator, in and of itself, is just a tool, a mechanism. It still needs to be told what to calculate, how much to calculate and according to what function. Sure, it understands the value of four compared to one, or two compared to seven, or even what it means to multiply rather than to divide; it’s been programmed to. But it still needs an actual living entity to arbitrarily choose which values to input in order for it to produce an answer to those values in context of a function.

The brain doesn’t do all of that on its own. People give tools meaning; tools just help us further synthesize it.

(And to answer my own question, I would say it’s a bit of both—moral values and cerebral calculations.)

“If you want to steal but its against your values it does not matter if lifting whatever it is is of more worth than the moral voice that says no.”

It does if you conclude, in the end, that stealing isn’t worth the consequences. You can change the order and function of your input values before pressing the equal button (to keep with my analogy).

SherlockPoems's avatar

@mrswho & @Introverted_Leo – I am enjoying the repartee between you two and I don’t mean to take sides at all… just a note to hopefully provide clearer understanding… from where do we derive our ‘values’? Socialization some will say… yes, in the Mores of the society… which may include only the immediate family in some cases… a town… a country and then there is the additional confusion (or perhaps this is the realm of free will or choice) the differing and sometimes conflicting Mores of the whole world.

fireside's avatar

And another question…Can you change your value system over time?

If you are born and taught a certain set of values, do you have the ability to research other values and add them to your system?

wundayatta's avatar

@mrswhoThe mind works by using what it values to determine the best course of action. Everything that goes into the decision making process is beyond our control. We cannot even control what we think about. We might see someone drop the aforementioned baby off the aforementioned roof, and would have no choice but to then think about that. The impluse to try to push somthing as terrible as infantacide out of our mind could be determined by evolution or by various experiances we had.

Now I understand your name. The questions is: who are you? You seem to think that you are not the processes in your brain. There is some “you” somewhere. But where? And what is it? How do you know you are a who, if you separate yourself from your thoughts and your senses? How do you experience your “whoness?”

Who are you? Where are you? What are you? Based on what you say, it doesn’t seem to me like there’s any there there. The essential you is like some kind of personality Kline bottle. We drill down, and drill down, through senses and thoughts, and just when we think we will find you, we find ourselves right back where we started.

Introverted_Leo's avatar

@SherlockPoems: well, I can only share my thoughts ‘cause it’s clear Mrswho and I don’t agree. :P

I think we derive our own personal value systems, the things we choose to live by and others to ignore, from all sorts of things—the way our parents raise us, our experiences, what we learn from other people, etc. But I also think there’s an underlying greater law to morality to which some (though not all) people are constantly seeking to align their values to, and I believe in this because I also have faith in God. A greater power, supreme being…people can call him what they like. I just attribute an overall law to how things should be to Him because I think he’s in ultimate control of how things run. The primary revelation of this law would be the Ten Commandments, or even simpler the first two.

But just because we have all these things and people to be influenced by doesn’t mean we have to follow what we learn from them, if we learned anything at all. In the end, I think we choose to value what we want to value, and our actions will sometimes confilict with our values, simply because we naturally struggle with living out morally upright lives. And because we were given the free will to follow whatever values we wanted to in the first place.

@fireside: I think you can change your value system over time, augment it or adjust it to your experiences and what you learn. When I hear “value” system or morality, though, I think of how we prioritize certain things. Where does our moral compass, so to speak, point when we’re trying to decide how to live our lives? A person may, for example, value becoming/being affluent over all else, while the next person down might put love and generosity at the top. I think we tend to focus on certain values more than we do others, even if we’d like to think that all of our values are equal. And maybe some of them are. It’s just sometimes our actions reveal to us how we may otherwise see them. As they say, “Actions speak louder than words.”

But even so, I wouldn’t say this at all changes the overlying “greater law” of what’s good and what’s bad. Unlike the physal laws of our universe and all the matter which follows those laws, I think we are born with the ability to break this higher moral law (free will), but we also must live out the consequences, which is why the world goes through so much struggling. But in regard to the physical laws of the universe, we are not free.

Meh, long answer. But that’s how I see it.

GAMBIT's avatar

@fireside Yes you can change your value system. A young teenager may want to chase fast cars and fast women. He may feel that this is all there is to life but the young man gets older he falls in love and gets married now all he wants to do is provide for his family. Soon his hair gets gray and all he would like is a nice retirement chair and a cool air conditioner and his grandkids at his feet.

MindErrantry's avatar

@mrswho, then why do we make decisions that we feel bad about later? Clearly ‘values’, whatever they may be, don’t determine everything we do. I’m referring to ‘feel bad about’ 5 minutes later, not down the line, when our values have changed, or something…

steelmarket's avatar

So, if life is totally deterministic, I don’t need to feel guilty about Fluther now. I simply have no choice.
Whew !

Ulmaxes's avatar

@MindErrantry,..wow big time my bad. Definitely pointed my response towards you when I meant to point it @SuperMouse. sorry, we do agree. lol. We’re both on the same page-I just saw SuperMouse responding to you, and my mind slipped and put your name instead of his/hers. my bad.

fireside's avatar

@Introverted_Leo and @GAMBIT – I agree, it was really more a question about mrswho’s ideas. Guess it was predetermined that she wouldn’t be back for a while.

SuperMouse's avatar

@Ulmaxes if you had freewill wouldn’t you have chosen not to fall down the elevator shaft to begin with?

@GAMBIT, I think what you are describing is more a case of maturation than the changing of a value system. That isn’t to say I don’t thing a person’s value system can change over time….

TheKNYHT's avatar

It would seem that some might consider free will to be a loop hole in an attempt to escape predestination, or predestination as a restriction to free will.
However I don’t see these two elements, or forces, whatever as being contradictory or in conflict. It would only appear that way viewing things from our finite domain of the space/time continuum.
In the here and now, within the capsule of reality as we know it, known as the s/t continuum, I make my choices and am free to do so. True there are certain choices, given ones cognitive reasoning and moral center, temperament, personality, environment, familial traits that an individual would tend not to make, but essentially its an open book.
If one were to escape this limited existance of 3.5 dimensions and step outside of the s/t continuum, they would see the past, present and future all together (what did Einstein say? the difference between the past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistant illusion), we would see all of our choices ahead of time. Suppose then that we wrote a letter to ourselves describing a day in the life yet to be experienced, and if we read that letter at the close of day, it would seem then that we were predestined to do exactly as that letter indicated. Contradiction in the predestined/free will debate evaporates if you go one dimension up.

Introverted_Leo's avatar

@TheKNYHT: nice observation! I think that’s the only way I’ve been able to view predestination and free will side-by-side. Otherwise, it gets quite confusing. Still, it’s a little mind-boggling when you’re stuck in the s/t continuum. It’s elusive and graspable all at once.

Ozzman's avatar

Free will is a gift from God. He gives us the choice to live our lives any way we want. That being said, He gives us His to word to follow or not follow. In the end, depending on how we live our lives decifers where we will spend eternity: Heaven or Hell. Jesus says He will return one day like a thief in the night. When that time comes we all will, individually, stand before Him and we will be judged according to how we lived our lives.

SherlockPoems's avatar

@Ozzman sounds ominous and so subject to interpretation don’t you think?

CMaz's avatar

Free will is just another form of semantics. What works for one does not for another. It comes down to, at the end of the day, were the decissions you made the right ones that you can live with?

Lonestarwildman's avatar

This is a loaded hard question and it is only my opinion.
Free will is a limited choice of paths that we choose on the roads that we travel through life.A lot of expectations are placed by our Democratic society in regards to free will.Even in the Bible we are led to believe we have free will.
Actually free will is very limited to choices (as I have mentioned)Rules and laws both by man and God (and religions) have limited our free will.You do not have the free will to kill,rape,steal,and other negative actions that one can dream up that does not coincide with the present set of rules.We do have the free will to give away all our money all our clothes and all our love.Here at Fluther you do not have the free will to demean others nor use racial comments etc.There is no free will.Even Jesus Christ told His followers “You can not come to me if it not were of my Father“Choices we have,but free will is limited if it exists at all.However we have more free will in the USA than in any other country in the world,such as it is.As a matter of fact today is an anniversary of the (spelled wrong)Thainaman Square incident where the free will of democracy freee speech and such were crushed.(An attempt at freedom)NO FREE WILL.We are guided by destiny

JLeslie's avatar

Free will to me is simply knowing you have choices. I don;t htink of it as a loophole or a restriction.

ponderopus's avatar

“do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law” – aleister crowley

noodle_poodle's avatar

I think its both liberating and confining liberating because it suggests that you can control life but if you consider that you make your own choices you are then forced to take responsibility for the consequences…in respect you can choose to do something that will have a bad result and know that it is your fault where as if you believe that fate controls everything then you are never really have to take the blame for anything you do as you could say…its not my fault it was just destined to happen
believing in the reality of what choice means would probably limit your actions based on perceived consequences so its more confining than the abandoning yourself to whimsy and fate

rwiedeman's avatar

Why ask this question if you don’t believe in free will? Do you think God enjoys rhetoric? :)

Brenna_o's avatar

I think free will isnt really free because you are limited by so many laws, and governments that you cant really have a free will, you really have a liited free will. (meaning there are restrictions on how free that will actually is)

Polly_Math's avatar

“Man is a masterpiece of creation if for no other reason than that, all the weight of evidence for determinism notwithstanding, he believes he has free will.”

—George C. Lichtenberg (1742–1799)

CMaz's avatar

@JLeslie has a good point. We have choice as in knowing we do. But, we HAVE TO choose something.

bean's avatar

Life is a challenge, we challenge the idea of what individuals believe is free will, or freedom… other’s challenge those who challenge their idea of freedom/free will… and all of us are with in a world where we believe we have free will but under restrictions and laws that have been created by higher authority so we can live in peace and settle disputes as equally as possible, this is justice which leads into the notion of what are your rights and what is rightfully just in a situation… these things are small compared to larger ideas that go beyond societies breach of right and wrong, such as the idea of what is right and wrong among man kind…. there are so many things to debate, and free will or freedom among different races, among different cultures, among different colors may not be perfect… everything is a changing cycle…. give it another 5, 10 to 20 years or so, and the idea of freedom will defiantly change, but the general structure will remain the same.

phillis's avatar

Free will offers many things to me, not the least of which is that it gives me the chance to laugh at my human foibles! There is a lot of comedy in being human! Nobody knew that better than Sam Kineson. Free will also gives me permission to forgive myself when I make mistakes that aren’t so funny. It gives me consent to change things I don’t like about myself, and permission to show mercy to transgressors who refuse to change. I like it.

abbydowns's avatar

Free will is a responsibility and a gift.

plethora's avatar

Ron Mills (the comedian) nailed it in his joke about being thrown out of a bar in NYC. When the cops arrived, he said he had the right to remain silent, but he didn’t have the ability. We have free will…but we don’t have the ability to exercise it. Very short answer to a very very deep question.

Rufus_T_Firefly's avatar

@plethora – That was actually Ron White, not Ron Mills.

plethora's avatar

@Rufus_T_Firefly Right you are….one side of my brain must not have been firing. Thanks very much..;)

philosopher's avatar

Everyone has free will but we are affected by our exerpiences.

MaryW's avatar

Free will is free choice made by an individual. There are consequences but no restrictions other than those we choose.

Hopefully we have been mentored well so that the process can be enriching for ourselves and those around us by the least possible errors in choice.

Smashley's avatar

I consider it a useful term for dealing with each other in what seems to be a fundamentally predictable, though currently unfathomable, world.

CaptainHarley's avatar

It’s not “free will or determinism,” it’s “free will AND determinism.” Just because we have trouble reconciling the two doesn’t mean that they’re not both part of the warp and woof of the universe.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

I wish we could really have free will. I have done my part – stayed away from relationships with controlling people and religious factions and such, but the government has systematically taken away my right as an adult to have free will. I already can’t see what I choose in the theaters – that choice is made by the censors. I can’t smoke certain things because the government thinks they’re my daddy. The last straw was when I went shopping for my favorite lime-flavored tortilla chips and found that they only make them in “whole wheat” now. I can’t ride a bike without a helmet even though I’ve been doing it since I was 6. I love this country, but it’s plain to see that it has become a police state.

basstrom188's avatar

One thing that has always bewildered me is the Christian concept of freewill. We are told that God gave us free will but when we choose to practice it we are punished.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

@basstrom188 Yeah! What’s up with that? That is just one of the many contradictions in religion. Like for instance, if you get cancer and God heals you, then do you thank him for healing you or be angry at him for giving you cancer in the first place. :{

SABOTEUR's avatar

I’m certain I don’t understand the question.

But it seems to me your freedom is restricted by the consequences you are willing to accept/endure for your actions.

fredTOG's avatar

@Ozzman He planned the days of your life in advance, choosing the exact time of your birth and death. The Bible says, “You saw me before I was born and scheduled each day of my life before I began to breathe. Every day was recorded in your book!” [Psalm 139:16] If God has “planned the days of your life in advance, choosing the exact time of your birth and death”, what that means is that you have absolutely no free will. Humans have no control over anything. We are simply puppets executing the plan.

whiteliondreams's avatar

Many answers here. If freewill were a responsibility then how can anyone explain morality? If morality is not an illusion (which, in fact it is), then so would the idea of freewill as stated above. Freewill is only as real or significant as faith, which has no significance as it substantiates no absolute certainty in the notion. Freewill is a cute way of saying you can do as you please, but we all know what happens when you do what you please. I cannot say it is a loophole or a confining restriction, but a limited representation of what an individual may express as being perceptively significant. Finally, significance is only as important or real as you are willing to accept, just as any truth, just as any norm, just as any more (more-ray).

Crashsequence2012's avatar

I consider it a concept of a far higher order than any that can be generated by a government made up of fallible humans.

Inspired_2write's avatar

Free will means the right to choose.
Plus the consequences too.

kitszu's avatar

Free Will is what it is.

Add your definition if you must but understand “free will” belongs to the grey, shadowy places of our lives.

It was never meant to be black or white, it was just meant to be.

fredTOG's avatar

You can do it your own way,as long as it’s done just how I say.

NanoNano's avatar

Moral liberty is an oxymoron. There’s no disputing that.

But at the same time (even though this on the surface seems illogical) moral constraints can engender an environment of greater freedoms than an environment without any such constraints.

I consider free will liberating.

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