Free Will Discussion

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A short discussion of some of the questions that arise when we start to conside what it means to have free will. Humorous images make this entertaining as well as informative

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Free Will Discussion

  1. 1. Free will A taste of some of the questions that arise. Dave Shafer CHJ Fairfield, Ct.
  2. 2. We like to think that we have free will and that our be- havior, choices, and thoughts are not predictable, by anyone. We want even the mind of God to not know our future. We know that some of our personality is wired in at birth, but we still think that we have free will for most of our choices, espe- cially those small ones, like to speak or not, to stand or sit, to order out or eat in.
  3. 3. We are aware of those parts of us that are hard- wired, by biol- ogy and evolu- tion, but we feel that we are free to decide about acting on these impulses, or not. When choosing between opposing impulses we feel that it is not determined in advance what we will do. That is what we mean by free will. But there are problems with that idea. We have to decide what connection there is between our mind and our brain.
  4. 4. We know there is some connection between the brain and the mind, but it is not clear what that con- sists of. They could be directly linked, in some Rube Goldberg fashion, if both are purely physical. But we don’t think of the mind as being physical. If it were, then its thoughts and decisions could, in principle, be just as predetermined as the motions and changes of any other purely physi- cal object or organism are, given the laws of physics and a nearly infi- nite set of data on its status at any given mo- ment. Our mind and brain are tied to- gether, but how? If the mind isn’t physical then what is it?
  5. 5. If you think occult powers are so much bull, then how do you explain that our mind seems to control our body? But then why can’t I levitate? Is our mind imprisoned in our brain or can it sometimes escape, like Houdini? Why can’t my mind control your body? Until we understand the limi- tations of our mind and its connection to our body we can’t really know if we have free will.
  6. 6. We would rather not get bogged down in philosophical hair-splitting, but these questions cannot be ignored and still have a meaningful discussion of free will. Spinoza thought that mind and body were just different aspects of one thing and that both were controlled by the laws of physics and hence were, in principle, predetermined. Hence, for him, there is no free will and we are not morally responsible for our ac- tions. If you believe in free will then why isn’t this a sort of supernatural phe- nomenon, with minds being a kind of god. If there are these gods then why not also the old fashioned God up above? These are hard questions.

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