The age-old debate is that of fate versus free will. Why not both? I have no problem seeing that some type of intentional action is present in humans (and other animals), whilst the whirlwinds of the changing universe underlie and determine the vast majority of phenomena. "Free" will is obviously very small in its interaction with the universe compared to the overwhelming hand of what we call fate. Both are there, but really, an individual will is extremely tiny compared with the behavior of the rest of nature. Only when one gets to the level of the Caesars and Napoleons does free will have much of an outlet. Placing fate and will in mutually exclusive categories shows a basic lack of imagination.
I would say that sure, there is a will -- we are not automatons -- but that it is almost wholly unfree for all practical purposes. Every thought a person has, however it fires, is thoroughly constrained by genetic and especially by cultural (i.e. memetic, e.g. language itself, primarily) factors which are salient and fundamental. The evolution of the culture of which you are an unwitting part, and the genetic equipment of which you are involuntarily composed, had at no point, anywhere along the line, anything to do with anyone's will. Culture is a larger and more dynamical independent process and it is not and has never been formed by choices.
"Block time" can be a correct description of our universe and, to my mind at least, still preserve volition. In block time, from a higher dimension one would be able to see every event from the beginning of our universe until its demise -- it is basically a "block" of events which only appear to unfold in our dimension of time -- like a range of mountains in which each peak is an individual moment in the larger range of time. I can imagine that, even though the events of the universe may in some way be predetermined (as by fate), it does not nullify our ability to be willful. Perhaps you were always going to choose a particular way. In block time, you were somehow bound to do it. Why can't you really have chosen it? Does block time really forbid it? My contention is no, it doesn't; any concession made that fate obviously exists does not exclude willful behavior. Appreciating the power of fate may serve to trivialize the notion of will, which in my opinion cannot properly be called truly "free." But will and fate are not incompatible.
The truth is rather murky, but someone who believes he has free will will very likely fare better than someone who believes he is an automaton.
Anyone who has done advanced maths knows the nature of effort. But don't get caught up in the illusion that you're "doing" it. One has to flex that brain muscle to get results, and the fact of the matter is that that flexing is the extent of one's "free will."
I have more fun conducting myself as if I am at cause over several of my actions, rather than just none of them -- which is the fashionable interpretation of existence among many thinkers. Free will is one extreme, and soulless determinism is the other extreme. I like to be somewhere in between.
Robotic behavior defines the vast aggregate of the affairs of humanity. Fortunately, robotic behavior does not define the will of the individual at all times. Even the most highly trained cannot be without it completely. But the point is that one can learn to tame it and let the true self peek through. And so, the individual is free to be something of interest, if not of value, in the universe.
One's will is very small, and it is not free, but one has to leave room for that Promethean fire.
Could it be that the subjective will and the objective reality are one and the same, ultimately?
It's funny -- the people who think humans are mostly robotic are likely the least robotic, while those who believe in the primacy of their will are probably the most robotic.
Most people do not have a destiny.
Foreordinational freedom of will. Our will is simultaneously genetically predetermined and volitional. Willful actions take place through genetically constructed channels.
Life is definitely a ride, and should be characterized as such, but the interesting thing is that we are allowed to steer it a little of the time.
Everyone is always arguing about whether our behavior is inherently deterministic or whether it is willfully caused. In truth, it comprises elements of both, all the time. That's why we're so confused -- different perspectives (on the single reality) lead to different conclusions and beliefs. I would point out that, regardless of whether we are fated or free, we do seem to be on automatic pilot most of the time.
We are willful by degrees. The spectrum is bounded on one end by as much "control" as we're able to have and on the other by pure automatism.
Holding certain contents of awareness in one's awareness is an act of conscious will.
One must remember that free will is not the same as true will.
A choice is not so much an independent and free act as it is a conditioned influence initiated by consciousness. The whole process would be nothing without significant subconscious neurological factors, but indeed it could not occur without consciousness.
People talk about free will, decision-making, choice, etc. as if humans are totally unconstrained in their thinking and actions -- which most likely isn't true. As far as all that goes, I tend to put everything under the umbrella of consciousness. Consciousness appears to be the underlying essence of our reality -- the fundament of our being. Perhaps instead of insisting inflexibly and dogmatically on an unencumbered "free" will, and unconditioned choice, we might simply acknowledge that these processes are manifestations of consciousness, and have their ground and their action therein. There is enough room in consciousness for humans to have a will, although it is debatable whether it is free. But it is not as if human individuals are little gods walking around. We're quite limited, and acknowledging and understanding that leads to much more realistic thinking about consciousness and its relationship to human activity.
I have thoughts and opinions and I stand by them. So does everyone else. But we must realize that we do not have any control over our convictions or leanings. They are wholly determined by genetic, cultural, and environmental factors. We do not choose how we think and feel. We make decisions within closed parameters.
When we say that actions are genetically determined, we are not saying that the genetic switches themselves are causing them, but rather that the behavioral 'organs' which they have constructed are the primary actors. There is, within the genetic prescription, latitude for several behaviors. This does not mean that humans are automatic (even though they act that way much of the time). Humans are not in fact sophisticated robots -- one has to leave room for consciousness, which obviously makes the whole picture quite a bit more complicated and subtle.
Much of the time, our waking consciousness is being dragged around by the fears and emotions, but there are indeed acts -- of a participatory nature -- that, without your involvement, would not take place. I have to assume that this is what people are referring to when they use the term "free will." I.e., the causal efficacy of consciousness in practice.
I personally do not believe in clockwork determinism, so I feel events are more or less likely to happen, but that the improbable can always happen, and things can always change. That said, I feel the universe has much more of a say in our lives than we do -- we're just puny human individuals in a gigantic cosmos, anyway. I do not believe we have "free" will, but I do believe we have a will that is genetically and culturally constrained. So we can effect actions in the world that are not automatic, although I note that humans act virtually automatically most of the time. But consciousness is always there at the bottom of things, so humans are indeed not robots. Our will has an outlet in reality, but it is very tiny. Nature and chance have much more of a say in how our lives will go than we do. So really, to pit free will against fate is wrong, because even if our will is free, the hand of earthly happenings determines much more than our will ever could. It is not until you get to the Caesars or Napoleons (or Christs) that an individual will shapes events meaningfully. But I think, in our lives as humans, there is always wiggle room to execute our will in a small way. But it can always be nixed by happenings.
Say what you will, suicide is pretty good evidence for some sort of free will.
The determinism-will debate is, after all, only a debate between concepts. Determinism is a pattern seen in our bodies, certain aspects of our minds and egos, as well as certain physical processes. Will is an acausal principle experienced in higher mind-states, the new physics and certain spiritual philosophies. As these concepts are so closely based upon our selves, they are held firmly one way or the other, and the polarization inheres in the fact that people only consider one or the other but not both. It is not "either-or" but "both-and." We would profit, as a species, by adopting more of the latter type of thinking.
The will is essentially like an organ. Only it's one you can use consciously.
As Burroughs so correctly and wisely stated, there is not in truth room for any more than one will on any given planet.
I don't know about you, but I feel that if the circumstances of my life -- the events and their chronology -- had been different, the arc of my personal being would still have been the same. In other words, I don't think the experiences of my life define who I really am. I think this particular self would have, sooner or later, shaken out in any alternate universe in which the initial conditions were the same (barring any major traumas). That's just how it feels.
Magick, defined succinctly, consists simply in executing one's will in order to cause Nature to conform to it. It's that simple.
We do not choose how we choose.
I'm not saying the conscious will has no role -- it does. But I think it has a much more limited one than most proponents of a truly free will tend to promulgate. It seems like nonsense to me to say we are free in any meaningful sense. That's completely foolish. Nature and chance have much more of a say in how our lives go than our little will does.
Whatever social situation one is in, even with family, one is necessarily executing a role. You're not free at all, and in many cases are essentially damned. There is no such thing as being able to "be yourself." The only time one is oneself is when one is alone, and that's all we ever are, anyway.
The creative, conscious force at the center of all of us is capable of overcoming the mechanism of the mind and nervous system. This doesn't change the fact that most people act mechanistically most of the time.
I don't know whether free will actually exists or not -- and occasionally I have good reason to believe it doesn't -- but I prefer to conduct myself as if it does.
Despite how some feel about the statistical nature of quantum mechanics -- a property many hold is a fundamental indeterminacy in the cosmos itself, while others contend merely that quantum mechanics represents what we can say right now about the universe, not necessarily what the universe "is" -- the universe is still quite safe for reasonable explanations. Some may argue that if the universe is in fact causally deterministic, any freedom of the will is impossible. But why? To me, saying free will is outlawed by any principle of deterministic physical behavior shows a basic lack of imagination. Just because volition and consciousness are technologies we don't understand yet does not mean that they can't exist in a reasonable universe. Like I said: to contend such a thing shows a profound lack of imagination.
The brain operates like a muscle. You flex it, and it performs and gets stronger (barring any misfortune, injury, or catastrophe, of course).
Moving one's arm, or doing anything consciously, is sort of like power steering. You set the process in motion, but there are billions of operations/computations going on in one's brain and body which carry out the command for you.
I tend to regard our thoughts and actions as both genetically and environmentally guided.
The system that is "you" having a will is only that -- a particular system or level, among many in the nervous system. And it doesn't appear to be very free.
We can only be free in the sense that we may choose from an invariably narrow range of options which are limited and constrained in so many ways. And this is in the best of circumstances. People who attest to a truly free will are a bit mistaken about the quality of their purported freedom.
What we are calling free will is the confluence of matter and spirit. Ultimately, pure awareness is the reality.
Will could, in some sense, be seen as that which changes thought into energy.
The pressure of will can be very powerful, but more often than not it is powerless.
I usually think of the will as a spectrum, on one end of which is free choice, and on the other end of which is pure automatism. I think usually we're somewhere in the middle. Maybe this is just a feeling, or perhaps consciousness is not merely passive.
Just because one can shape things with one's will does not mean one has any real control over the world. The "fate vs. free will" dichotomy is badly misunderstood, most people lumping their assessment in one category or the other, considering the two mutually exclusive.
Physicists like Richard Muller and Henry Stapp suggest that modern physics not only supports but suggests free will and a soul.
Conduct yourself for a week as if you have free will. Then conduct yourself for a week as if you are a deterministic robot. Note where there are contradictions, and see which one you like better.
Fate has a strong hand in keeping our reach small, but privately we can dream about whatever we want. In reality, though, a small few have some power, and the rest of us don't seem to have much at all, ultimately. That's reality for you.
It seems to me that there is a bizarre contradiction at the heart of Hindu philosophy. On the one hand, they are hardcore fatalists, believing that one cannot change the world, and that free will is an illusion. But on the other hand, at the same time, with respect to their system of karma, they believe that everyone is ultimately and totally responsible for their actions, especially those involving right action and morality. These actions, not up to God but up to the individual only, determine the future course of one's soul. So... they are hardcore fatalists who believe in freely willed behavior. Right? Perhaps they feel that one cannot change the world, but that one can change oneself.
Free will and fate coexist, and they do so like a whirlpool. One can move and swim and affect the water in any number of ways immediately around oneself. One is free to maneuver locally. But Nature will have her way in the big picture, in the larger movement, and eventually one will be pulled under.
Free will or no, decisions seem to be constrained by necessity. A "random decision" has no meaning. One has to rely on a correspondence with the factors involved, and in fact the brain is a perfectly good arbiter of these factors. Are decisions made by the brain, and initiated by the will? It is important to realize, for all the free will buffs out there, that decision-making does not constitute all acts of behavior, and is really a rather narrow phenomenon. We can possibly guide our actions with some freedom, but when faced with options, we more often than not cannot choose arbitrarily, it seems. Even when faced with what appears to be an arbitrary choice, like what type of ice cream to buy, we are not going to choose something outside of the parameters of what makes sense -- in this case, say, one's mood. Etc. So... supposing we did have free will. Would we really be able to make free decisions? Or does reality step in to constrain us?
Is there any better argument for some kind of free will than suicide? How do evolutionary biologists attempt to explain it?