Do we have a choice in what we do?

Jack (@tokinblackguy) 9 years, 2 months ago

So if your thought patterns pre-determine what you are going to do, then what you think; happens. But as Sam Harris so elegantly claims in his book “Free Will”, “You can do what you decide to do — but you cannot decide what you will decide to do.”, suggesting we aren’t even in control of what we think. My questions is, does this mean everything happens independent of what we actively try to do?

July 18, 2013 at 10:58 pm
Derek (11) (@wailingmoonman) 9 years, 2 months ago ago

No, not everything.

If I actively want to reply to this thread, I do it. Like this. And is it your thought patterns that pre-determine what you do, or is it your evironment that determines your thought patterns? I can have different thought pattersn in different places, and the same thought patterns in the same places (i.e. work, school, the bank, etc). It’s never so cut and dry.

emptyminded (68) (@thoughtless) 9 years, 2 months ago ago

@tokinblackguy, ‘we aren’t even in control of what we think”

we aren’t even in control of what we think BUT we are in control of how we react to what we think.

i dont know if you realize this too, but as im going throughout my day, sometimes my body goes in auto-pilot and i just seem to be this observer of events while i run around in my head… when im completely conscious and in the now, even the folding of my fist seem to be completely under the guidance of my will.

James (121) (@alljuicedup) 9 years, 2 months ago ago

Just because something seems “completely under the guidance of your will” does not make it so…

The truth is, no one knows if we have free will or not, although science has begun to lean towards the side of determinism and a lack of free will (there’s some fascination research out there using split brain patients that seem to show how our very conscious thoughts and decisions are in fact “stories” we tell ourselves after the fact. They are themselves effects of a prior cause we had no control over).

When thought about logically, it seems to make sense. As the common phrase goes, “you can do what you will, but you can’t will what you will.” Simply put, what exactly is the prime mover? How is it that my thoughts arose into my head in the first place? How did I come by them? If it is all just merely neurons firing in our brain, than we are merely the results of physics and chemistry and the other laws of nature in action. After all, that’s what a thought is, when something comes into our mind, it is the RESULT of an electrical signal. For us to really have free will, there must, by necessity, be something outside of the physical that we are in control of. There must be more than this physical reality, more to us, that somehow exerts its “will” onto the physical. Otherwise, how can you logically say we are really in control?

We all have the subjective experience of having free will, of being in control. That is why it’s so easy to dismiss this topic like the two people above me, because it is so counter-intuitive. But so is much about reality and how we perceive it. I FEEL like I have free will, but that does not make it so.

Now, I’m not saying one way or another which is correct. We simply don’t know yet. But if anything, the scale of scientific and logical arguments has tilted towards to side of determinism…

P.S. There are already LOTS of threads on this topic if you want to use the search function and read them.

P.P.S. Here’s the podcast that originally got me interested on the topic. In it they go over a few of the experiments that have been done that really throw a wrench in the free will argument. The first half of the podcast is filled with a bunch of other stuff though, so you’ll have to skip ahead to when they change topics to determinism vs free will…

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