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Subject: Free Will (Could be RSP, maybe some R?) rss

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Madame Pom3
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Phel and I were derailing the R thread a bit, so, as per his advice, a new thread with a new mission.

Disclaimer: I'm an ex-philosophy nerd who doesn't get an outlet for this particular brand of nonsense too often, so I will ramble, at length, on and on about the topic.

Free will time!

Specifically, I'm a proponent of compatibilism, a worldview that maintains that the concept of free will is compatible with the concept of determinism (Determinism being the idea that every event has a cause, such that if you knew all present causes, you could deduce all future events).

My basic premise is that, in order for me to exercise my will in a meaningful way when making a choice, I need to be able to make that choice based on my beliefs and desires. Determinism allows for this. Interestingly, if our choices are NOT deterministic, it means they are NOT ultimately made based on our beliefs and desires, but by some other agency. My problems with this are mainly:

1 - I don't see how a choice that is made without being based on my beliefs or desires could meaningfully be in accordance with my will.

2 - I don't actually have any idea what the aforementioned "some other agency" would be, since in order to be a nondeterministic agency, it cannot have any cause.

I think one line of argument against compatibilism is that this kind of choice does not seem "free". However, I don't understand in what way that could be true. If my choices are determined by my own beliefs and desires, in what way is that not free? How could a choice be freer than if it is self-determined?
 
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A quantum world is not deterministic.
 
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Madame Pom3
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jmilum wrote:
A quantum world is not deterministic.


I'm comfortable with probabilistic determinism.
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Madame Pom3
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PerAnon wrote:
jmilum wrote:
A quantum world is not deterministic.


I'm comfortable with probabilistic determinism.


More to the point, unless free will presents only via random quantum events, they aren't very relevant to the discussion.

There are definitely some people who do think that's the case though - I just don't see how rolling a die to impact my choice has anything to do with my freely exercising my will.
 
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PerAnon wrote:
PerAnon wrote:
jmilum wrote:
A quantum world is not deterministic.


I'm comfortable with probabilistic determinism.


More to the point, unless free will presents only via random quantum events, they aren't very relevant to the discussion.

There are definitely some people who do think that's the case though - I just don't see how rolling a die to impact my choice has anything to do with my freely exercising my will.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Dice_Man
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Madame Pom3
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jageroxorz wrote:
PerAnon wrote:
PerAnon wrote:
jmilum wrote:
A quantum world is not deterministic.


I'm comfortable with probabilistic determinism.


More to the point, unless free will presents only via random quantum events, they aren't very relevant to the discussion.

There are definitely some people who do think that's the case though - I just don't see how rolling a die to impact my choice has anything to do with my freely exercising my will.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Dice_Man


I guess maybe that guy is the epitome of freedom.

Maybe not though.
 
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Michael Mesich
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What if our souls have free-will to choose our life-path pre-birth and we're just playing that out here?
 
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Madame Pom3
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mmesich wrote:
What if our souls have free-will to choose our life-path pre-birth and we're just playing that out here?


As a materialist, I have a suspicion that we'd disagree on what a soul is, but that's a separate matter.

I think the more interesting question is: What makes your pre-birth decision in your example free, as opposed to the post-birth decisions?
 
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Michael Mesich
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PerAnon wrote:
mmesich wrote:
What if our souls have free-will to choose our life-path pre-birth and we're just playing that out here?


As a materialist, I have a suspicion that we'd disagree on what a soul is, but that's a separate matter.

I think the more interesting question is: What makes your pre-birth decision in your example free, as opposed to the post-birth decisions?


Well, some people believe that the things that happen in the course of our lives are "pre-written" by ourselves in the pre-life.

Which kind of aligns with the fusion of free-choice and pre-determination.

Personally, I'm a believer in reincarnation and I believe that we group together in different configurations in order to learn specific things (which is how I can justify horrific events and infant/child death as a part of the framework instead of an inconvenience to the theory of earning a place in "heaven.") and as such am less into specific pre-determination of events but rather in pre-determination of circumstance where hopefully we're striving to learn and become better in the process.
 
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PerAnon wrote:
jmilum wrote:
A quantum world is not deterministic.


I'm comfortable with probabilistic determinism.

I never understood this philosophically. I mean, our models have to be probabilistic because the quantum world is immeasurable.

But say we had an environment where we had complete control over the initial states and vectors of all particles within - wouldn't that environment be KNOWN for as long as it was maintained?
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mmesich wrote:
What if our souls have free-will to choose our life-path pre-birth and we're just playing that out here?

 
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Madame Pom3
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SaiSaysPlayGo wrote:
PerAnon wrote:
jmilum wrote:
A quantum world is not deterministic.


I'm comfortable with probabilistic determinism.

I never understood this philosophically. I mean, our models have to be probabilistic because the quantum world is immeasurable.

But say we had an environment where we had complete control over the initial states and vectors of all particles within - wouldn't that environment be KNOWN for as long as it was maintained?


Honestly, this is where someone with a greater degree of understanding of quantum mechanics would need to step in.

My understanding of the current theory is that there are events that happen at very small scales that are truly random, which would be one problem with knowing the positions of things even if you did have "all the info" at the start.

In addition, I believe that the current theory actually precludes us having complete knowledge of a physical system at a very small scale, which is the other problem.
 
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PerAnon wrote:
PerAnon wrote:
jmilum wrote:
A quantum world is not deterministic.


I'm comfortable with probabilistic determinism.


More to the point, unless free will presents only via random quantum events, they aren't very relevant to the discussion.

There are definitely some people who do think that's the case though - I just don't see how rolling a die to impact my choice has anything to do with my freely exercising my will.

I have always felt the real reason you flipped a coin was so while the coin was in the air you choose what you hope the result would be and thus know your decision. [Not when you are at a sporting event deciding who goes first or whatever, but in personal choices.]

Not that this is relevant to the discussion either, since I'm not sure where making up your mind goes in with free will.
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Valkerie32 wrote:
I have always felt the real reason you flipped a coin was so while the coin was in the air you choose what you hope the result would be and thus know your decision. [Not when you are at a sporting event deciding who goes first or whatever, but in personal choices.]

Not that this is relevant to the discussion either, since I'm not sure where making up your mind goes in with free will.

I agree. I don't believe I've ever had to make a decision that was truly 50/50.
 
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SaiSaysPlayGo wrote:
Valkerie32 wrote:
I have always felt the real reason you flipped a coin was so while the coin was in the air you choose what you hope the result would be and thus know your decision. [Not when you are at a sporting event deciding who goes first or whatever, but in personal choices.]

Not that this is relevant to the discussion either, since I'm not sure where making up your mind goes in with free will.

I agree. I don't believe I've ever had to make a decision that was truly 50/50.


There's a bit in the fifth book in the Hitchhikers' trilogy that sort of addresses this. Trillian is interviewing an astrologer, and giving her a hard time about the pseudoscience, and the astrologer is like, "Oh yeah, the rules are pretty arbitrary - what's relevant is you have somewhere to look for the patterns you were trying to find when you were thinking about your problem."
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SaiSaysPlayGo wrote:
PerAnon wrote:
jmilum wrote:
A quantum world is not deterministic.


I'm comfortable with probabilistic determinism.

I never understood this philosophically. I mean, our models have to be probabilistic because the quantum world is immeasurable.

But say we had an environment where we had complete control over the initial states and vectors of all particles within - wouldn't that environment be KNOWN for as long as it was maintained?

Take the Game Theory approach where, even with perfect information about how you and your opponent will make a decision (ie. how the probabilities are distributed between fixed choices), there isn't always a single 100% solution to what each of your choices will be to optimize the outcome of the game (or, in games like The Prisoner's Dilemma, where the game is at a stable equilibrium, even though the outcome isn't optimal for either player).
 
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Quote:

Determinism being the idea that every event has a cause, such that if you knew all present causes, you could deduce all future events


PerAnon wrote:
jmilum wrote:
A quantum world is not deterministic.


I'm comfortable with probabilistic determinism.


Perhaps you'll have to define this better, but my guess as to what probabilistic determinism means (all possible future events and the probabilities at which they will occur are known, given all present causes) sounds a lot like "given all present causes, we can deduce basically nothing". I mean, "all possible future states" could possibly diverge rather quickly, if choices made via free will were based on the result of quantum coin flips. Which is a potential answer to your 2nd point as to why you believe in determinism - "there has to be some non-determanistic agency making the choice" - and it seems like quantum coin flips could be that agency.

 
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rgatti wrote:
SaiSaysPlayGo wrote:
PerAnon wrote:
jmilum wrote:
A quantum world is not deterministic.


I'm comfortable with probabilistic determinism.

I never understood this philosophically. I mean, our models have to be probabilistic because the quantum world is immeasurable.

But say we had an environment where we had complete control over the initial states and vectors of all particles within - wouldn't that environment be KNOWN for as long as it was maintained?

Take the Game Theory approach where, even with perfect information about how you and your opponent will make a decision (ie. how the probabilities are distributed between fixed choices), there isn't always a single 100% solution to what each of your choices will be to optimize the outcome of the game (or, in games like The Prisoner's Dilemma, where the game is at a stable equilibrium, even though the outcome isn't optimal for either player).


I have a theory that a large enough state machine could replace such cases that we currently model with probability. If that were true it would be deterministic.
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SaiSaysPlayGo wrote:
rgatti wrote:
SaiSaysPlayGo wrote:
PerAnon wrote:
jmilum wrote:
A quantum world is not deterministic.


I'm comfortable with probabilistic determinism.

I never understood this philosophically. I mean, our models have to be probabilistic because the quantum world is immeasurable.

But say we had an environment where we had complete control over the initial states and vectors of all particles within - wouldn't that environment be KNOWN for as long as it was maintained?

Take the Game Theory approach where, even with perfect information about how you and your opponent will make a decision (ie. how the probabilities are distributed between fixed choices), there isn't always a single 100% solution to what each of your choices will be to optimize the outcome of the game (or, in games like The Prisoner's Dilemma, where the game is at a stable equilibrium, even though the outcome isn't optimal for either player).


I have a theory that a large enough state machine could replace such cases that we currently model with probability. If that were true it would be deterministic.

Can you explain this further? It sounds both interesting and fascinating (even if it might be slightly off-topic).

However, it probability was deterministic, wouldn't that have implications for Game Theory that would allow an opponent to take a super-optimal action based on a known outcome instead of needing a mixed strategy based on potential outcomes?
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Robb wrote:
Quote:

Determinism being the idea that every event has a cause, such that if you knew all present causes, you could deduce all future events


PerAnon wrote:
jmilum wrote:
A quantum world is not deterministic.


I'm comfortable with probabilistic determinism.


Perhaps you'll have to define this better, but my guess as to what probabilistic determinism means (all possible future events and the probabilities at which they will occur are known, given all present causes) sounds a lot like "given all present causes, we can deduce basically nothing". I mean, "all possible future states" could possibly diverge rather quickly, if choices made via free will were based on the result of quantum coin flips. Which is a potential answer to your 2nd point as to why you believe in determinism - "there has to be some non-determanistic agency making the choice" - and it seems like quantum coin flips could be that agency.



When I think of me exercising my free will though, I don't think rolling a die fits the bill. I don't think that "free" can be explained via random events. If they're random, they don't have anything to do with my will, and being at the mercy of random events doesn't seem any more free than being at the mercy of determined ones.

Another problem is the fact that there are plenty of random events that seem to pretty clearly have nothing to do with anyone's will: atomic decay is a good example of this.
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SaiSaysPlayGo wrote:
rgatti wrote:
SaiSaysPlayGo wrote:
PerAnon wrote:
jmilum wrote:
A quantum world is not deterministic.


I'm comfortable with probabilistic determinism.

I never understood this philosophically. I mean, our models have to be probabilistic because the quantum world is immeasurable.

But say we had an environment where we had complete control over the initial states and vectors of all particles within - wouldn't that environment be KNOWN for as long as it was maintained?

Take the Game Theory approach where, even with perfect information about how you and your opponent will make a decision (ie. how the probabilities are distributed between fixed choices), there isn't always a single 100% solution to what each of your choices will be to optimize the outcome of the game (or, in games like The Prisoner's Dilemma, where the game is at a stable equilibrium, even though the outcome isn't optimal for either player).


I have a theory that a large enough state machine could replace such cases that we currently model with probability. If that were true it would be deterministic.


I'm fairly certain the current theory in this area precludes obtaining the level of information that you'd need to do that, guaranteeing uncertainty.

Happily, it's rather moot in terms of practical application, since our current techniques can't even remotely approach the level of granularity and scale we'd need to accurately model events like this anyway.
 
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rgatti wrote:
SaiSaysPlayGo wrote:

I have a theory that a large enough state machine could replace such cases that we currently model with probability. If that were true it would be deterministic.

Can you explain this further? It sounds both interesting and fascinating (even if it might be slightly off-topic).

However, it probability was deterministic, wouldn't that have implications for Game Theory that would allow an opponent to take a super-optimal action based on a known outcome instead of needing a mixed strategy based on potential outcomes?

Well, start by thinking about a coin-flip. If you could measure everything involved in that coin-flip - speed, spin, wind, friction, moisture, height, etc. you would know exactly which side would land face-up. The butterfly effect of all of these initial conditions is (mostly) what makes it unpredictable; however, from a wide-view we're able to model it accurately using probability.

Taken to the extreme, all things we model with probability may be calculable chain-reactions. Perhaps 50,000 years from now we'll figure out how to model many things we currently think of as probabilistic as cause-effect outcomes with certainty.
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SaiSaysPlayGo wrote:
rgatti wrote:
SaiSaysPlayGo wrote:

I have a theory that a large enough state machine could replace such cases that we currently model with probability. If that were true it would be deterministic.

Can you explain this further? It sounds both interesting and fascinating (even if it might be slightly off-topic).

However, it probability was deterministic, wouldn't that have implications for Game Theory that would allow an opponent to take a super-optimal action based on a known outcome instead of needing a mixed strategy based on potential outcomes?

Well, start by thinking about a coin-flip. If you could measure everything involved in that coin-flip - speed, spin, wind, friction, moisture, height, etc. you would know exactly which side would land face-up. The butterfly effect of all of these initial conditions is (mostly) what makes it unpredictable; however, from a wide-view we're able to model it accurately using probability.

Taken to the extreme, all things we model with probability may be calculable chain-reactions. Perhaps 50,000 years from now we'll figure out how to model many things we currently think of as probabilistic as cause-effect outcomes with certainty.


Caught coin flips are less random than you may think. When I was young I could pretty reliably flip heads 10-15 times in a row.

Letting them hit the ground adds much more complexity in a way that would be very difficult to calculate at the instance of launching a coin outside of initial conditions.
 
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PerAnon wrote:
Phel and I were derailing the R thread a bit, so, as per his advice, a new thread with a new mission.
Sorry for taking my time till I got to the thread.

PerAnon wrote:
Disclaimer: I'm an ex-philosophy nerd who doesn't get an outlet for this particular brand of nonsense too often, so I will ramble, at length, on and on about the topic.

Free will time!

Specifically, I'm a proponent of compatibilism, a worldview that maintains that the concept of free will is compatible with the concept of determinism (Determinism being the idea that every event has a cause, such that if you knew all present causes, you could deduce all future events).

My basic premise is that, in order for me to exercise my will in a meaningful way when making a choice, I need to be able to make that choice based on my beliefs and desires. Determinism allows for this. Interestingly, if our choices are NOT deterministic, it means they are NOT ultimately made based on our beliefs and desires, but by some other agency.
Why? I don't see how a choice not being deterministic means that they aren't made based on your beliefs and desires.

PerAnon wrote:
My problems with this are mainly:

1 - I don't see how a choice that is made without being based on my beliefs or desires could meaningfully be in accordance with my will.

2 - I don't actually have any idea what the aforementioned "some other agency" would be, since in order to be a nondeterministic agency, it cannot have any cause.

I think one line of argument against compatibilism is that this kind of choice does not seem "free". However, I don't understand in what way that could be true. If my choices are determined by my own beliefs and desires, in what way is that not free? How could a choice be freer than if it is self-determined?

To continue our discussion from there:
PerAnon wrote:
Phelanpt wrote:
PerAnon wrote:
Phelanpt wrote:
PerAnon wrote:
Phelanpt wrote:
PerAnon wrote:
Phelanpt wrote:
PerAnon wrote:
Okay, let's do free will next (wall of text inc):

I'm a determinist, which means that I believe that all things have causes. One consequence of this belief is that I have to accept the fact that, if you knew all the causes (i.e. you knew exactly the state of everything in the universe), you could work out all the effects (i.e. the future is in fact determined by the state of the present). I'll note that if you DON'T believe this is the case, you have to believe that some things happen "uncaused". I don't know what that means, so I don't believe that.

Probably important to note that I both don't have a perfect understanding of quantum theory, but am also totally comfortable with a probabilistic kind of determinism where you'd have to do like probability charts to determine what the likelihood of certain things would be. Whatever - there's really not much difference.

So this means that I believe that you could, if you knew (literally) everything, you'd be able to know what choice I would make in any given situation. If we rewound time after I made the choice, I'd make the same one over again (assuming we didn't change anything when we rewound - like, if I kept my memory of making the choice, I might mix things up out of boredom), I'd make the same choice again. Guaranteed.

I think that this is totally compatible with free will, and that actually, it is required in order for my free will to have any real meaning.

A lot of people disagree with me on this.
I don't see how your concept of free will is compatible with determinism. It's something with which I've struggled a lot, and I can't put the two together.
It's one of the reasons why I find time travel stories so fascinating, possibly.


I have a hard time understanding how free will could exist without determinism.

Looking at the case of a single choice, it seems to me there are two possibilities, ultimately:

1 - The choice was made based on some reason/reasons (it was caused).

2 - The choice wasn't made based on some reason/reasons (it was uncaused).

If free will requires 2, I don't understand what it is, for a number of reasons. The most pointed problem I have with the concept that our "free will" has to be uncaused to be free is that this means that my "free" choices have nothing to do with who I am as a person, with my beliefs or desires. That doesn't sound like "my" choice at all.

If "free will" means "arbitrary action independent of my own mind," it sounds a lot less like what we think of when we think about making choices. The problem is, as soon as you say "well, the choice isn't arbitrary," you've limited yourself to 1 above - the choice was caused.

So, in the case of 1, I'm choosing based on my beliefs and desires - they would be the reasons behind the choice. If I make a choice because I believe it is the best choice available to me at the time, how is that not a free choice? Does freedom REQUIRE me to do things I believe are not the best choice available to me? I'm not sure why we'd say that.
I think you're arguing against a case I didn't make. Possibly a strawman, but can't be sure.
What I mean by free will is that you could choose something else, at the same point in time, with the same reasons behind the choice. Possibly something worse, possibly something better. That, to me, would be to have free will: To be able to choose from the alternatives.
If reality is fully deterministic, I technically have no choice, since, given the same initial seed, things would progress exactly the same way and lead me to always make the same choice again and again. Be it the better choice, or the worst choice, or something in between.

Your two choices above are two extremes, one which limits yourself to one "choice" to be based on your reasons, and another that allows for multiple choices but removes any influence you might have on the decision. That's basically what I think is the "strawman" here.
Your premises state your conclusion, basically.


I think that the disconnect here is actually over the definition of "Freedom".

I do think that it is obviously true that we always make the choice that seems to be the best to us at the time that we make it. I think that's how choices get made. We might have incomplete data, and later say of our choice that it was the wrong one, once we learned more, but that's in hindsight.

If choices are made in some other manner, I don't really know what that would be like. I wholly admit to reducing this to a "P or not P" deal with regards to making the choice that seems best to us at the time, but I don't see the flaw in that.

I think that you would need to propose another mechanism for choice to get out of my argument.
I don't think I need another mechanism for choice? I'm not sure what you mean by the phrase, actually, so please clarify if I'm missing something.

There isn't always a "best choice". Sometimes you have two, or three, or four, or more "best choices". If those alternatives seem equal to you, you can choose one "at random"(humans don't do random well).
If you've never had uncertainty in making a choice, I would understand the above "P or not-P" reduction, and the argument you make for free will and determinism.
But as it is, it feels like it's a reduction to make it work.


You say it yourself here: "If those alternatives seem equal to you, you can choose one "at random"(humans don't do random well)."

Two things:

1 - How does this not map to my reduction? First of all, as you say, we don't actually do random well (or indeed, at all) - we have means for making choices that seem random to us, and perhaps, in a situation that was entirely unclear to us, we'd use one of those to make a decision. Since none of the methods available to us are truly random though, this doesn't preclude determinism in the least.
What if you don't use a random method and choose one of those options yourself, without trying to emulate a random method(which actually doesn't exist, in determinism, btw)? Would you actually have to always choose the same thing, if they all had the same "best" value to you? Determinism says it would. And yet, that to me isn't free will, if you couldn't choose one of them over the other, the decisions being equal in value to you.


Random stuff does seem to happen at very small scales (atomic decay).

However! More to the point, how are you making that choice in your example? Are you choosing "at random" or based on some criteria? It reduces to the same questions, even if your reasons start to become inane.

I guess I don't understand how you can make a choice that is not determined by your beliefs and desires.

Phelanpt wrote:
PerAnon wrote:
2 - Ignoring 1, above, let me ask you this: is "freedom" contingent on these uncertain choices? What about very clear choices? Let's say that I make a choice that lines up strongly with my moral code (trying to help someone who is hurt, or something), such that there is no real uncertainty. Can that choice be free? If it can, freedom doesn't seem to have anything to do with uncertainty.
Even with a very strong moral code, you will never(or very rarely) have a decision that has only one clear answer, I think.
But let's assume that there is one, and that's before you: If you don't have the option to choose to do something different(as you wouldn't in the case of determinism), then I don't think that's having "free will".

In fact, I think it devalues the whole concept of will, by having it all be determined from the initial seed in reality. Instead of you yourself making a choice, that choice was made when reality began, and there is nothing you can do to change it. So it doesn't matter, or have value. It just is.
If you had chosen to kill someone, it would have been determined. If you had saved a person from death, it would have been determined. You couldn't have done anything to change that decision.

I don't see how you equate that with "free will".
What is "free will" to you?

And feel "free" to create a new thread, since this is starting to get philosophical more than about religion itself. I know that there intersections with religious discussion, but I feel that it is a tangent.


Yeah, I was worried this would happen if someone wanted to get into free will with me, so I'll stop here for now, but I'll basically say that I don't understand how acting in accord with your beliefs and desires could be anything but an exercise of your free will.
I don't think that "this is the only path" is a choice, and therefore, undermines the concept of "free will".
If you can't choose at all, there is no choice, and therefore, your will isn't free.
This is the way I see it, and why I have a problem putting determinism together with free will.


As for the matter of "random", as Sai said in thread above, if reality was fully deterministic, given the whole set of variables at some point in the progression, we'd be able to predict the full course of the progression.
This, of course, assuming we also fully knew the rules for the progression. But if we assume the first, the second could be deduced by scientific method.
This also assumes infinite processing power and memory, and possibly time to process.
 
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