Do we prevent somebody being hurt by superstition or faith by rejecting and challenging those things? 

Is it mistaken to support organised religion in membership or donations?

If people do good because they are human, not because God prompts them then is it right to risk giving God any credit when they alone own their good?

Patrick H
Gormley


HOW DOES FREE WILL WORK?
 
“You may choose to act the way you wish, but you do not choose the way you wish to act” Barbara Smoker.
 
COMMENT, You cannot control how you will feel about things. If you fall in love or are depressed there is nothing you can do about it. If you try and help yourself out of depression, it only works not because of you but because there were other feelings that were there to deal with them and they too were feelings that happen to you but which you didn’t make.  How we feel about things causes how we act and the “choices” we make. If you really love your child you will not be able to kill her because of how you feel. Even if you have free will you cannot use it for your feelings control it and it is because they do that that you think you feel free! To correct Smoker we must have, You may “choose” to act the way you wish, but you do not choose the way you wish to act. The choosing to act the way we wish is only an illusion. We can do other than what we do because of the way our feelings control us. No matter what we do it is in response to some feeling that cries for gratification. Sometimes that feeling cries for a painful gratification such as when you admit you stole $400 though you don’t have to admit it.


Suppose we have free will. This page is not so much about if we are free or not as how free will could work.


Free will is the notion that you alone cause your actions and decisions and you are not programmed. If you could have done x you could as easily have done y.
 
Everybody believes you have a will but not all believe that it is free.
 
Determinists say it is programmed so it is not free.
 
Indeterminists say we can do anything and predictability is impossible for there is no programming involved.  


Determinism
 
Determinism is the denial of free will. It teaches that we cannot help making the choices we made though we feel we can. It tells us that there are no such things as choices. Our so-called choices are caused by our past and present circumstances so we cannot help and cannot avoid making them. We are determined or programmed or call it what you wish for its all the same. Determinism teaches that our choices are caused by the way we are. Incidentally, God giving us all the powers we have does not prove that he makes our decisions for us for it seems that he can make beings that are free and which can rebel. His knowing our future does not infer determinism for he only sees what we will freely do. Foreseeing is not causing. 

 

People argue that if hard determinism can be shown to be an error that the door swings open to make it possible to affirm free will. Not necessarily.  Also it is untrue as we shall see.


Indeterminism
 
Indeterminism is the doctrine that our choices are not caused. They are not caused by the past or by our genes or by our environment but they just happen. There is no law that can predict what we are going to do. The act or choice is wholly the creation of the agent only - nothing else contributes. We cause the action but the will that drives and causes the action is uncaused. Though it is hailed as the doctrine of free will it is the opposite. If our choices come out of nowhere and are causeless then they are not our choices so we are not free after all and it is wacky to say that we are the cause. It is necessary to explain why if we have a number of options why we can freely choose one of them so you cannot have a doctrine of free will without it.

If indeterminism were true we would be completely unpredictable: amiable one second and putting a knife in someone the next. We would be irrational. But some people say we are irrational so it makes no difference.

Indeterminism makes it wrong to try and change a person. It is insidious and deadly poison. Good example is futile if it is true. If it seems to help anybody it is only pure chance that has changed the person and not the influence.

It is reckoned that there is indeterminism in physical reality. Many scientists believe that sub-atomic particles can behave as if nothing is making them do it. But this cannot be proved for there may be forces that cannot be detected that determine what they will do. And it is not sub-atomic particles that make the brain work the way it does but the combination of molecules. A computer is full of sub-atomic particles but that does not mean the computer is subject to indeterminism. We must remember that outside of the universe there could be forces that are not caused but which are simply there. These forces could change the way the future would turn out deterministically by interfering in it and changing the way things happen. This is what scientists mean by saying that even if determinism is true there could be uncaused forces that change what will be determined (page 131, God and the New Physics). These forces have nothing at all do with verifying indeterminism or free will. If they change the way your choices would go without them, that is not giving you free will. Indeterminism has the idea that events can come from nothing but with the other type of uncaused events you have them coming from something that was just there and was uncaused and which has nothing to do with nothing.

Some say that if indeterminism were true then you could end up in deadlock. They say you could be as inclined to make one choice as a different one instead of it. That would leave you be unable to choose either just like you would be unable to move if two men of equal strength each held your arm on each side and were trying to pull you away from the other. But because we can only have one desire and thought at a time this cannot happen. The desire to decide something will make sure we pick one of them so there will be no locking even if indeterminism is true. After all that the whole point of us looking at the two options in the first place.

Religion says that God is the cause of all things so he cannot have an indeterminist will for that would mean there were forces outside him that could move his will. So the God concept implies that determinism is true though it implies it is not true other ways for the concept is incoherent. Also indeterminism would imply that the choices that do not come from us but which we think we make come from God.
 
Let us think about indeterminism as in creation.
 
God is said to be so free that he can make things from nothing. Free will would be creating an action out of nothing. Can God give us the power to create? True free will would be the power to create choices out of nothing. But to choose before a choice is made is impossible. To choose to create your choice out of nothing means you have already made your choice.

If determinism is a denial of reason, it is an endorsement compared to the notion that our choices are self-created out of nothing which is what the popular notion of free will entails. The popular notion of free will is made up to look like free will but in fact contradicts itself. It is not really a doctrine of free will at all.

The other thing is that if we pretend free will would not require that you be able to make choices and actions out of nothing, it would be the case that any form not involving the power to create would be inferior. It would not be worth celebrating.

 

Indeterminism and the idea of a spiritual soul

 

Religion defines the soul as being totally no-physical and as the source of free will so it argues that if free will does not make any intellectual sense or sense in any way, that does not matter for we do not understand the soul and how it does it. So it frees religion up to argue that we have a free will that may looked programmed – perhaps at times – but is not and so we create our actions. This argument is used to justify retribution and punishment.  But is it really right to base such tricky doctrines on a guess?  No. 


The religious idea is that as your actions show what you are then if you do evil you are creating yourself as a bad person. It is like self-creation.  That contradicts the notion that you can love the sinner and hate the sin!  It says the sinner is the sin.

 

Indeterminism does not give you any confidence that your will may be free

 

Proving that free will exists is not possible some say. They say it would be as silly as trying to prove you are conscious or sense your breath.  It is possible to prove that indeterminist free will is impossible.

Indeterminism is held to be about free will and on the face of it it looks as if it is the only option. If it fails to defend free will or explain it then there is no free will at all.  Some call it libertarian free will which means the same thing.

 

If we have that kind of free will we don't have very much or very useful freedom. If we don't have libertarian free will then we have even less freedom than we can ever realise.

Suffering usually does not come with the freedom to choose.  If you have free will it should be about being moral as in helping suffering so the idea that non-deliberate suffering is ever good or tolerable by God is obscene.

 

Free will is really just about what step you are taking not about what you are stepping into. That actually is not much freedom. Freedom does not give you freedom from the truth, from responsibility or consequences so freedom is paradox. Is freedom an attempt to get away from all that? The answer is yes.  But it disappoints for you cannot really do it.

 

We do not have complete control over our feelings. Suppose I know that sitting on the shore makes me happy. If I go to the shore on a sunny day and the feeling comes to me it does not follow that I caused the feeling. If I know the sun will shine on the beach and go to enjoy it, it does not follow that I caused the sun to come out. Same with my feelings. I could be wrong to think that the beach will make me feel happy - maybe I will feel nothing or maybe I will even feel sad. If I feel happy, I cannot make myself feel even better simply by willing it.
 
We cannot act without our thoughts.  Thoughts matter most in the same way breath matters most when you are out for a cycle.  We do not have complete control over our thoughts. Try visualising a teabag for a minute. Soon other images will take over.  Your system is not bothered about your alleged free will.
 
You cannot then be fully responsible for anything you do.

Now suppose it is true that our actions are causeless and come out of nowhere. We can easily feel as if they do which is a warning about how feeling free has nothing to do with being free. If free will is an uncaused force, an uncaused force can work on the will as well. So if causeless free will is possible it may be inbuilt – the way free will works – or it could be something that arrests free will and makes it go its way. John may create the act of choosing to eat bread from nothing. Something may create it for him though he thinks he is the creator. He cannot see that his act comes from nothing so he cannot know. Therefore even indeterminism does not truly support free will and has ridiculous implications.

 

 


Compatibilism

Compatibilism is the doctrine that our decisions are caused and yet that we are free. Are free will and determinism compatible like it says? This philosophy of compatibilism is now the predominant one.
 
The best authorities believe that the doctrine of compatibilism is sheer nonsense and the attempt to reconcile determinism and free will is hopeless (page 263, The End of Faith, Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason).
 
Compatibilism is the crazy notion that the truth is in between the two doctrines. It says free will exists. But overlooks the fact that determinism says it cannot exist. And free will says a decision is not confined to causes but can just happen for if causes get you to do something then the action is not yours but theirs.

 

One way to understand compatibilism is that when both determinism and indeterminism fail to teach free will exists and make no sense that as it tries to learn from them both it is worse than either.  Two voices are better than one and that is what it is doing - trying to put two denials of free will together and pretending they affirm free will.

Finally:
 
None of the theories about how we might be free make sense.  They insult our "free" will to exercise reason and avoid being contradictory and self-refuting.

 

Some say, "We are self-aware which is why we are free."  Thus if you know you are alive that is freedom but it is not the free will kind of freedom.  That seems to be why we think we have free will.  But free will is not the most important freedom.  Self-awareness is.
 
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