How to live without free will

I thought this was interesting. What do you think?

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Reductionism must be wrong :slight_smile: I always feel like these guys are overthinking it. We live in a world where it certainly seems like we have the ability to make choices, and where those choices seem to have real and potentially good or bad consequences. In this life, it behooves me to proceed in life on that basis, much the way I proceed on the basis that my senses give me an accurate picture of reality. If somehow they can explain how this determinism thing down to the movement of every atom at every point or whatever works, I guess I’ll buy it. Until then, I’ll figure we have free will, at least in a sense that is relevant to how I’m actually going to live my life, and interact with others. I think the author really said the same thing in his final 4 points, but in a way that’s a lot more complicated and a lot harder for me to understand :slight_smile:


“You have to believe in free will, you have no choice.” I.B. Singer :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:

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So basically she’s saying,
Even though you don’t have freewill, live as if you do. Act as if you are really making those decisions which you are really not making!

Are you sure the title is not clickbait ?

@Jerry_Coyne has jumped into the discussion on free will.

Sabine Hossenfelder on why we don’t have free will, but why many still insist on it « Why Evolution Is True

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You must realise there is a clear philosophical/metaphysical dimension to this argument don’t you?

Have you heard of Descartes statement “I think therefore I am”.
The entire debate depends on reductionism to the point that thought and the “I” behind the thought are illusions.
It amounts to “I” don’t think. Some particles + quantum randomness leads to thought. So “I” don’t exist.
Do you have any idea what this kind of nonsense does to epistemology and concepts of truth?

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No, please tell us.

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If the “self” that knows the truth is an illusion… truth itself doesn’t exist… or atleast the meaning we attribute to truth doesn’t exist.

We cannot know if something is really true, because there is no reason that particles + randomness should prefer the grasp truth in preference to untruth. The probability is simply higher for untruth. Every act of Human discernment is an illusion based on predetermined biases and hence truth itself is beyond our understanding.

Logic is at best a joint delusion shared by the majority of human beings.

We obviously don’t live in such a world. So this should tell us that we exist in reality (as opposed to being just the sum of our parts) and so does free will.

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You got to better than that. What you wrote above is incomprehensible. :sunglasses:

Answer me this: Do you know what you are going to have for lunch tomorrow?

Read it carefully and think… you will get there.

Blah. Read Churchland. Determinism is no way implies we can’t know truth. You seem to be attacking some weird type of fatalism. Keep in mind, I think determinism is probably false. But you calling it nonsense for reasons that are complete nonsense rubs me the wrong way.

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It’s not determinism that’s the problem… it’s the absence of true consciousness/personhood.
The real consequence of Sabine’s argument is that any sense of being a person or having consciousness is an illusion.
Also, the question is why should the a set of particles+ random chance know “truth”… whatever is known by individuals becomes an illusion because the Knower himself doesn’t really exist. All of us become sets of atoms that just differ because of different initial conditions, slightly different arrangements and chance.

Edit: In short, we would be beings who are decieved about the most fundamental thing. I.e Our existence as actual conscious agents.
If we are decieved about this, the we are probably decieved about everything we know.

However that does not seem to be the case.
Hence Sabine is wrong.

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I feel like the confusing element in what you’re saying is your choice to assign the title “truth” to what you see as lacking in a deterministic reality.

I think what’s more accurately nonexistent is responsibility/accountability. Can we truly be held accountable for our actions if they are not under our power to determine?

Whether chosen or determined, what is true is truth.


We wouldn’t be ultimately responsible but we should still be held accountable. Just in a non retributive manner

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Maybe I could have stated it better. It’s not that truth doesn’t exist. The main problem is not determinism perse. It’s the conclusions about consciousness that is implicit in Dr Sabine’s argument.
One of the most fundamental truth or fact accessible to us is our being conscious moral beings. i.e, that we exist and our decisions are our own. If this itself is an illusion, then what hope do we have for knowing anything more as truth? It’s an epistemological problem.
Science involves inference based on observation. If our most basic inference from Observing reality is false, then we are incapable of knowing anything is really true.
This should tell us that the idea we don’t have free will is false (because we do have atleast a limited ability to come to true conclusions about the world around us).

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Hi everyone,

I’d just like to make a brief comment on Dr. Sabine Hossenfelder’s essay, How to live without free will. Allow me to quote a brief excerpt:

Physics deals with the most fundamental laws of nature, those from which everything else derives. These laws are, to our best current knowledge, differential equations. Given those equations and the configuration of a system at one particular time, you can calculate what happens at all other times.

That is for what the universe without quantum mechanics is concerned. Add quantum mechanics, and you introduce a random element into some events. Importantly, this randomness in quantum mechanics is irreducible. It is not due to lack of information. In quantum mechanics, some things that happen are just not determined, and nothing you or I or anyone can do will determine them.

Taken together, this means that the part of your future which is not already determined is due to random chance. It therefore makes no sense to say that humans have free will.

The argument appears to be as follows:

(1) All known events (including future events) are either caused by systems behaving in a deterministic fashion or caused by “random chance”.

(2) If free will exists, then at least some events are caused by libertarian agents, whose behavior is neither deterministic nor random.

(3) By (1) and (2), free will does not exist.

The first fallacy lies in step (1). There are no events that are caused by “random chance.” Rather, random events are uncaused. Just because an event happens out of the blue, doesn’t mean that “the blue” made it happen.

The second fallacy lies in the assumption that free will requires that at least some events are caused by libertarian agents. No, it doesn’t. It is enough that some events are constrained by libertarian agents, so that outcomes that would have eventuated in the absence of such agents are ruled out by the agents themselves. An alternative dualist model of human action is defended by Dr. Sophie Gibb in her excellent paper on dualism and free will:

Gibb, S. (2015). “Defending Dualism”. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 115, 2, pp. 131-146.

I should add that Hossenfelder herself concedes the possibility of free will in her paper, The Case for Strong Emergence, even though she insists there’s no positive evidence for it:

  1. Conclusion

In this essay, I have presented a new example for strong emergence. While this example is purely hypothetical, it illustrates how truly new fundamental laws could emerge for composite objects, at least theoretically.

I herewith grant you permission to believe in free will again."



And Descartes accurately parses out all the possibilities and he produces a rock-solid-can’t-be-doubted truth:

“I think, therefore I do exist.”

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So you can think. But your thoughts have no magical powers

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