Am I free not to act according to my wishes and beliefs?
Does the question even have a meaning?
Can you want something else than you actually want? Of course not. Can you want what you want? Of course not.
The correct question of course would be: is it possible not to act according to your wishes and beliefs? The answer is ‘yes’ of course. It is called coercion. You forgot again how boring compatibilism is, George.
I do not understand why Stephen is so upset about a meaningless question.
And Lois: are you not able to do what you want (no not always of course…)? Are you not able to act according your wishes and beliefs? What does it matter that your wishes and beliefs are determined? Why would one suppose that ‘free will’ means ‘an uncaused will’?
Welcome to the Peak of Nihilism, Stephen. I have been expecting you. :-)
Interesting that you use a picture of Caspar David Friedrich. He was a very religious and romantic painter. His ‘Wanderer above the Sea of Fog’ is meant to show the people the grandeur and sacredness of the landscape. Friedrich painted a lot of landscapes with christian crosses and churches.
George - 24 November 2012 09:21 AM
So when I can’t act according to my wishes I don’t have free will?
Yes. Not everything what you do is according your wishes, is it? Not everything you do is expression of your free will. If you are coerced to do something, you do not do that from free will. You forgot again how boring compatibilist free will is.
George - 24 November 2012 09:21 AM
And I don’t know where you are getting from Stephen being upset. But then, I don’t understand many things about you.
Sorry, that was a misreading. Influenced by your ‘nihilist mountain’ I read ‘not comforting’ here.
As for free will, the people claiming it exists have the burden of proof to show it does. Without that evidence, the default is to assume it doesn’t. As with belief in god, “feeling” is not evidence. Nevertheless, though the deniers of free will do not have the burden of proof, there have been laboratory tests using brain scans with results appearing in peer reviewed journals that show that our decisions are made before we are aware of them.
Sorry, you are late. This was discussed before. Just read from here on. Libet proved that libertarian free will does not exist, which is as interesting as proving empirically that a circle has no corners.
BTW: I just see that you discussed with us there! Ah, but then the burden of proof lies on your side: to proof that we cannot act according to our wishes and beliefs. Our wishes and beliefs are determined of course. We are all determined. You just join the choir ‘determinism true, so no free will’. This is a very unreflected position, which I think is only possible when you assume that we have a soul. In libertarian free will the soul is not caused, but it causes our actions. In the ‘determinism true, so no free will’ choir the soul is caused by our brain. Both are very naive views.
You are not free to either act or not act on your wishes and beliefs.
Right. That is exactly the naive understanding of free will: as uncaused free will (or maybe self-caused free will, like the Baron of Münchhausen in the swamp).
Lois - 23 November 2012 12:31 PM
You have no control over your decisions, no matter what you wish or believe, though your wishes and beliefs do dissolve into the sea of determining factors, they are very weak antagonists in the presence of countless much stronger ones.
That is a nice poetic view, but it is not quite correct: the causes of your actions of course lie in your brain. We experience them as wishes and beliefs, and it is only by by their functioning as wishes and beliefs that we see our bodily movements as actions.
...You have no control over your decisions, no matter what you wish or believe, though your wishes and beliefs do dissolve into the sea of determining factors, they are very weak antagonists in the presence of countless much stronger ones.
In my younger days, I had a friend who frequently dabbled in the use of recreational drugs. Once when I was visiting him, he offered me a little purple pill, which I took. Later I decided to drive home. Fortunately it was in the wee hours and there was little traffic. At one point on the drive, I realized that there was a red light up ahead. But suddenly, I had the distinct impression that I was not in control of my body. I remember intensely hoping that my legs and arm would do what they’re supposed to do in that situation. (I was driving a standard.) Well, they seemed to remember what to do, and I got home without incident.
I’m not sure if that story says anything, one way or another about free will, but your stance seems to absolve me from any responsibility for taking a strong psychoactive substance and then driving. So, thanks.
That is not quite correct. Our actions are usually also a product of stimuli outside of our brain and outside of our body. Though the processing is pretty much done through the brain.
Of course. But all the stimuli go through the brain. But not every stimulus will be translated to a movement via brain circuits that translate to wishes or beliefs on higher level. I assume that is what you mean? Our bodies’ processes are mostly automatic. But those processes that are actions work via wishes and beliefs, i.e. their implementations in the brain.