Free will and ethics?

I’ve been thinking for a couple of days after watching debates and trying to put together my own thoughts and ideas. What exactly does free will mean? When people say “Do you believe in free will”
to me that sounds like they’re asking “Do you have the ability to think?” but I have a feeling when people are debating that subject between other atheists they mean something deeper?
I want to understand this and I don’t yet grasp what they’re getting at. If anyone is willing to have a discussion with me on this let me know. I don’t know if there is much to this conversation or if it’s really needed but it’s the only way to ask so I asked. The other subjects I’d like to better understand are morality and ethics in a simplified version. If you recommend resources please note I prefer videos or audio versions of books due to dyslexia. Thank you for any replies. :slight_smile:

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Hmmmm :thinking: people do have different things in mind when they toss this around. Personally, defining “free” and “will” is important because we are limited by all sorts of forces, genes :dna:, physical and mental …societal limits - let alone toss in a religious idea of “free will” :roll_eyes:.

For me, ethics is simply working towards less harm. (Personally and societal)

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Free will: this is a topic that has had me doing a lot of mulling in the last few months. Presently I am off chasing a very weird train of thought. It involves quantum entanglement.

Quantum entanglement is a phenomenon observed at the quantum scale where entangled particles stay connected (in some sense) so that the actions performed on one of the particles affects the other, no matter the distance between two particles.

Of course this is a huge mystery for scientists studying particle physics. One possible explanation is hard determinism, which may be linked to free will.

If hard determinism is true ( I do not agree), then everything that has ever happened and will happen has been determined, even our thoughts. Who knows, that if we solve quantum entanglement we may solve hard determinism and from that determine whether a god exists. I admit, it is a very weird chain of thought.

Another approach to free will as perceived from the theist viewpoint. If you check the boxes you go to heaven when you die. In heaven you are 100% happy. But one cannot be truly happy BY THEIR OWN CHOICE if those they love are not in heaven with them. I know I am not going to heaven, yet my mother will.

The conclusion I draw is that god reaches into my mother’s brain and memories and wipes away all memories if me. In heaven she has no free will.


What option do we have other than to live as if we conduct ourselves by free will?

There’s no other option that I’m interested in struggling to achieve, even if that struggle never produces the ideal end state.

Matt D. has a decent take on the idea. “For all intent and purposes, I have free will.” It’s a bit like the mind in a vat problem. We can not demonstrate that free will exsists as we can not reverse time. If we did reverse time and put every atom back in the exact same place, all things being exactly the same, how could the choice we made be ay different?

Whether or not we actually have free will becomes a moot point. We act and behave as if we have free will so that we may hold ourselves and others accountable for their actions.

What is the difference between a man who becomes angry and starts killing people because he has a tumor in his brain and a man who just murders people? We send one man to the doctor and remove the tumor. We blame the tumor for the man’s eratic behavior. But then what if medical science was progressive enough to go into the other man’s brain and remove his desire to commnit murder. How is it any different? What would be the role of ‘free will’ once we can intervene biologically to alter thoughts.

The Free Will that we care about is the free will that allows us to hold others responsible for their actions. When we can go into a brain and remove specific tendencies, then that free will can be brought under control.

There is no means by which we can test a ‘free will.’ Recent brain studies show that neurologists can predict our decisions, before we make them. I question this. I would say, “before we are conscious of them.” The neurons first fire in the brain, that must be translated into action before actions can take place. The fact that the brain acts first should be elementary. Of course the brain acts first. I do not think this is an indication of a lack of free will. Instead it may be an indication of a preverbal brain preference… So much goes on autonomically in the body. Were we to be aware of every single event in our bodies, we would have time for nothing else. Thought is a manifestation of brain. It makes perfect sense that brain does something first. I don’t know that, that says anything at all about free will.

In the end. We live in a world where we need to hole people responsible for their actions. So, we believe in choice. Choice is a reality to a lesser degree in people who do not know they have it and to a greater degree in people who do know they have it. With that said, all the choice in the world does not stop the world from turning, and not all choices are made with all the information necessary to make a good choice.

As I hold people responsible for their actions, and as I hold myself responsible for my actions, the decisions I make are as free as I can make them, given the information I have at any point in time.


From the often lampooned shut up and calculate! perspective; there isn’t anything to solve. [From this viewpoint] entanglement is just one of many weird consequences of the postulates of QM.

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And if we solve hard determinism, how will be know that it was not our brain in a vart someplace else in space and time that just made us think we solved it? What solution could we possibly come up with?

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I admit I am chasing down a very weird and tenuous rabbit-hole. There probably isn’t even a hole.

It is the flimsiest connection, a single strand of spiderweb probably has more integrity. But we need to determine if there is any connection at all. But this is how science works, to chase weird ideas and determine their feasibility and truth.

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Didn’t Sigmund Freud do a study and come to the conclusion that free will was limited?

Freud’s point is that it is most likely the case that none of us is free, since, according to his theory, freedom must be acquired. To acquire it, we must be able to achieve a limited control over the unconscious determinants of our behavior.

Freud was a lunitic. I’ve only read a couple of his books and honestly do not recall their names. One of them was famous case studies and another on his theory of transference and homosexuality. The man was a frigging nut-job. I have no idea why they even call it psychodynamic theory, Oh! I read some of his bullshit on dreams as well.

Freud reads like a rambling lunitic. Especially the shit on regression therapy and the interpretation according to Psychoanalytic Paradigms. “CRAP!”

His saving grace is his work on Defensive Mechanisms. His rationalization for defensive mechanisms; however, are pure shit!


“Of course we have free will, we have no choice.” – Hitch

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Here is what I know of regression therapies. The goal is the free association of the unconscious to the conscious. The technique is called “Free Association.” The therapist is passive but for interpreting according to psychoanalytic theory. He or she may make suggestions; however, between sessions much may have happened so a good therapist is willing to pick up where the client is and not return to where they were last week. Ignorant therapists always want to return and when the client wants to discuss something else, the therapist calls the client “Resistant.”

Fact is this: If you got a psychological problem it is going to manifest no matter what the fuck you are talking about.

So, the therapist sits about 70 degrees outside of the view of the client and takes notes as the client 'free associates." This can go on for a long time. The therapist is skilled in not responding to questions and at getting the client to continue his or her free associations.

Now, when an issue is spotted the therapist wants to know it’s origins. Something happened in the past to cause everything. Enter, “Object Relations.” A theory worth looking into but not from Freud’s viewpoint. (Short version: You treat your current girlfriend like the bitch that dumped you because you have the idea they are the same. Or you treat all women like you treated your mother. Basically you objectify relationships and treat people like things, failing to notice the nuance between individuals. Treating your wife like a wife and not like a human being for example."

So, somewhere in your past this dysfunctional behavior had its origin. Off we go on the rabbit hunt… Ah ha, says the therapist, it was your relationship with your mother when you were ten years old. But the client says, “No, that’s not it.” Back to free association.

Ah Ha! Says the therapist. It was your relationship with your father when you were seven years old. No, that’s not it, says the client. Freud reads like a psychic doing a cold reading. The therapist just keeps doing the past regression shit until he finds something the client agrees to. Then he acts all smart and interprets it according to psychoanalytic theory. “Well, your libido was stuck in the oral stage and this fixation has caused you to be overly dependent on others. It all relates back to being that 5 year old child feeling abandoned when your mom dropped you off at kindergarten.”

It’s all bullshit… Okay okay… Don’t throw the baby out with the dirty diapers. I don’t really know why anything in Psychoanalysis is called a “Theory.” It certainly does not qualify. It resembles cheap carnival psychic readings. Do you really think you have an id, ego and superego? Really? How fucking scientific is that? I don’t even think a good argument can be made for the unconscious. What is unconscious but shit you have not remembered in a while. (Brings us to Repression ‘a defensive mechanism.’ A valuable concept in any theory, not just psychoanalysis.)

Bla bla bla I’m dragging on and none of this shit is interesting.

If one has no control over what one desires, what would be the use of free will.
It’s a line* from the Netflix series Dark, and it got me thinking.

*Maybe not exact in those words.

If you had no control over what you desired, how in the hell would you know it? Nothing changes. Right this minute you either have free will or you don’t. Absolutely nothing in your life changes whether you actually have it or not. This is the life you have. You can spend your life worrying about shit that does not matter, or you can get out there and do something. You are what you do. Sit about and worry about free will and that is what you are using your free will for. As if you ever had a choice. Just pretend everything is out of your control. That’s another choice.

Yeah well. You’d be surprised to know how many decisions are made from desire within.
Thinking about free will seems lees fruitful to me compared to giving thought to what the desires are that drive your actions.
So I suppose control was not the word that stood there, I suppose it was aware.

If one has no awareness over what one desires, there is no use in thinking about free will.

Like it better that way?

Please give an example of a THINKING person who has no awareness of their desires.

Why would I name a particular person?
One can be a brilliant thinking mathematician without being socially aware eg.

…(raising hand highjumping up and down excitedly)… Oo-oo-oo! Me-me-me! Me-me-me! Let me try! Let me try!..

Ummmmm… A narcissistic nun!.. Hmmm… :thinking:… Uh, no. That doesn’t sound right. Oh! I got it! A phony philosopher!.. No-no-no. Not that… :thinking::thinking::thinking:… Uh, maybe a fanatical flasher?.. Grrrr… Dammit. This is harder than I thought it would be… :thinking:… Uhhhh, an enchanted eunuch!.. Nah… A castrated Christian?.. No. Too much like the eunuch… A married masochist! Hysterical hippie? Ah-hah! :smiley: A frightened foot-fetish freak!.. No, no, and no… (shoulders slumping)… Shit… Okay, I give up. But, hey, at least I tried.

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Number 3 seems very different than #1 and #2.

You are right, socially aware wasn’t the question. Still one can do brilliant thinking in mathematics without being aware of one’s driving desires.