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Do we have choices in life?

Most of you will say yes, but i think the things we consider when making a choice are based on previous experiences (so i say no). So, does free will exist or are we slaves of the environment we grew up in, the education we recieved and the genes that we inharited?
I think that we must concentrate on the process of decison. What happens in our brian? What information is it being processed?
when i choose not to touch hot surface of the iron when it is plugged in, that is because my brain asociates it with pain based on previous experiences. if the process of decision is more complex, the brain analises other posibilities that derive as well from the previous experiences. So, again i ask, do we have choices. if, hipotetically, two babies cloed from the same subject are living two identical lives in two parallel diferent universes, when they are asked to pick a number between 1 and 10 at the same time, will they choose the same number?

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    May 2 2012: Hello Stan,
    Yes, I believe I have many choices in the life experience:>)

    I agree that often, the choices we think we have, are based on previous experiences. We have the ability to evaluate previous experiences/choices to decide if we want to make the same choice again, or something we not?

    I also agree that education, genes, external programming (information given to us by parents, society, etc.) often influences the choices we make.

    You also insightfully say..".I think that we must concentrate on the process of decison. What happens in our brian? What information is it being processed?"

    This, to me, is the important factor to being able to make choices, or not. We have the ability to think, feel, and evaluate the choices we made in the past, the choices we are making in the present moment, and the choices we may make in the future. When we are mindfully aware of underlying cause and effect, we have the ability to decide exactly how we will "BE" in any given moment. To me, that is the biggest choice of all, and for me, it is based on all the information I've taken in throughout my life experience. We all have the ability to think, feel and evaluate on many different levels.

    The first important choice we can make is to be mindful, aware and present in each and every moment. The other choice is to repeat the same patterns over and over again, thereby depriving ourselves of more choices:>)
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    Apr 26 2012: Visit a local care facility for the elderly. Get some candid answers from folks whose whole thought-budget is devoted to the past. They will likely suggest that choices made absolutely affect the outcome of life. Some will speak of regret and some of gratitude, but I've never found one who said their choices were pure robotic functions controlled by impulses from a master panel somewhere. My check mark goes in the "yes" box. Thanks Mr. Bogdan, you should get some interesting responses.
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    May 6 2012: Hi Colleen

    Wonderfully expressed!

    The lighted mirrors? ... delightful!
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    May 2 2012: We do have choices in life, but our choices tend to harm our mental being, in case we take them as considering our own benefits. Our choices give rewarding results when we take them considering well being of humanity and surroundings. If we go back and check the decisions we made for ourselves in the past, we will be able to analyse that some were only to appease somebody or some were only for monetary rewards and some were only to look good in "others" eyes.

    Till our teenage, not all decisions are completely ours, so we can't go back and cry foul over them, but after a particular age, we may call it a mature age, the decisions we take are completely ours and we shall held ourselves responsible for anything good or bad comes as an outcome of those decision.
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    Apr 28 2012: I believe that we do have choices in life. However, those choices may be limited by several factors. We play the cards we are dealt (figuratively speaking). We don't always have a choice in what card will turn up. We didn't have a choice in who our parents would be. We didn't have a choice in what traits we inherit. We didn't have a choice in our intellectual capacity. We do have a choice in where we go in life (limited by what options are available and how well we are able to respond to those options), in who we associate with, in how we respond to peer pressure, in how we respond to our own inner intuition, etc.

    There are leaders and followers. The leaders take charge of where they are going. The followers choose from the options that the leaders present to them. Education seems to be the determining factor in who is a leader and who is a follower. How you get that education may be from books (self taught), schooling, or learning from observation. My father was a leader even though he only went to the seventh grade. He chose to set his own course in life and wouldn't let anyone tell him that he couldn't succeed on his own.

    What choices we have goes back to the serenity prayer; Lord help me to accept the things I cannot change, to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
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    Apr 28 2012: life is full of choices it all depends on you which choice you choose!!
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    Apr 27 2012: Firstly we must understand the meaning of the boundaries (the limitations in doing something) and from here we can see how far freedom can be expressed. There are two important things should be noted while talking about freedom.

    1. Thinking is activities by associating and connecting among associated proportionally, then tracing limits between them. “The will” in the search for opportunities will always be within logical framework. On this understanding will be emphasized that there is no thinking out of the logical framework.

    Logical framework based on axiomatic truth, and that means through it may be known the possibility of exploring within the framework of logic itself.

    2. The perfect free will is the ability to explore anywhere in a logical framework to determine how far free will can be realized, thus realizing the possibility of free will is by exploring the possibility from the smallest to the widest logical possibility that should never be failed.

    Actually we are exploring the possibilities free will to get the whole of the possibilities of free will that exist for us. It’s an opportunity, and we can put the concept of free will here.

    Imagine a basketball is being played by an untrained people - people A. This shows the freedom of moving the basketball as far as can be done by an untrained people generally. Now put this person A to another basketball trainer (assuming that person A will be trained by a basketball trainer and person A will get even more expertise in playing basketball). Then the basketball will experience freedom greater than before.

    For those who feel they have no free will, then he should link “the will” to something more powerful in the assumption to get more freedom than before.

    Do we have a choices in life? Yes, we have a choice as far as on whom we rely.

    For myself about choices, chances, free will, freedom and other similar, .. "I am free not because I have choices, but I am free because I rely on God with quality assured !"
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    Apr 26 2012: I think we have free will, we choose the number. Society chooses the which numbers we can choose from.
    • W T

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      Apr 27 2012: Hi Adriana,

      I really liked your response.

      It made me think of a multiple choice test. Sometimes, one of the choices is "all of the above", sometimes the choice is "none of the above"...........AND sometimes, we get the choice to write in our own reply, if none of the choices are to our liking.....

      Sometimes the things we can choose from can be altered.......A houte couture if you will.......I am frugal by nature......don't know day we went to buy ice cream. I did not want to get one ice cream for myself, so I took the lid off the container of my child's ice cream and put some on there for me.

      As I was eating, another customer saw me and said, oh look they are making now smaller portions, I'm going to order one of those. I laughed and got up to explain it was my invention........he said it was an ingenious idea, that he had not though of doing it.
      Many times we have more choices than we takes a critical thinker to figure out these choices which are hidden from the simple eye.

      And yes Adriana, I agree with you..........we have free will...........we just have to realize that we must live with the consequences of our actions.

      And, as they say in spanish......."justos pagan por pecadores". Sometimes the free will of others infringe on our free we end up paying a price for other's lack of love and how peace loving people are oftentimes caught up in war torn countries, due to no fault of their own.

      Your simple comment made me think alot. Sorry if I rambled. Thank you again.
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    May 7 2012: Hi Stan,

    I'd say it does not matter.

    At every level, one can always point to an ambiguity between determinism and choice.
    Either way, there is no value in either belief.
    Just enjoy the ride.

    Um .. I think I need to be a bit more committed to my reply:
    So I add this edit.

    The problem with determinism is that it assumes a symetric continuum.

    Obvious to me that we live in a continuum that is asymetric, otherwise there would eb nothing as it would all cancel-out.

    This gets bizarly entangled with dimensional physics.

    Choice infers a multiverse.

    If you remain in one universe, it is entirely deterministic, like crystal growth, but in a multiverse this is not the case.

    As far as belief is concerned - whichever translation serves you is correct.

    But I would warn that these deliberations are outside of the "moment" and can have only political benefit.
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    Josh S

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    May 5 2012: You are right that chemistry in the body changes, but what i meant to say was that the principles and laws of biology and chemistry dont change.
    Based on our genetics, we percieve our surroundings and they way we percieve it will not change.
    For example, lets just say that the color blue makes one happy- based on your genetics.
    If one sees a blue ball you will become happy, you cant stop that- this is the type of logic im applying to life.

    Chemistry changes like hormone levels, but this can be predicted based on the environment and genetics, and this is why i believe we dont have the freedom of choice that we may initially believe.
    • May 5 2012: In terms of playing cards, nature gives you the cards, but nurture plays the certain cards.
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      May 5 2012: Josh,
      You're right..."the principles and laws of biology and chemistry don't change".

      I do not agree that we percieve our surroundings based on genetics. I believe that we percieve our surroundings based on choices. Our perceptions can change all the time.

      I respect your choice to stick with the idea that we don't have the freedom of choice that we may initiallty believe. And that is probably where you get your belief regarding your sad "bottom line", as you stated in another comment. I percieve many MORE choices than most people are aware of. I agree to disagree:>)

      Good metaphor...we are dealt certain cards, and we make choices regarding how we play our hand.
      If I may take this idea a bit we get better and better at the game, we remember all the cards that were already played...we remember sequence...we remember outcomes of taking certain chances with the cards we play at any given time...we when and why we play the cards we were dealt...we learn, grow and play the game to the best of our ability....just like life:>)
      • May 6 2012: Well, we do not have total free will. Our free will is limited to a trend of thoughts and behaviors that may or may not vary in similar consequences in which the trend depends on our genes and environments.
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          May 6 2012: I agree Zared, that our free will may be "limited to a trend of thoughts and behaviors....".

          So, when I change limiting thoughts and behaviors, then I am no longer as limited, may experience more free will, and may be more aware of choices:>)
      • May 6 2012: Yes. but you are not likely the one that decides on how you change your thoughts and behaviors. If anything, it would likely be a unpredictable consequence that influence your normal thought of an action, then that thought changes your normal behavior, and the modified behavior causes the regular consequence to change, which then modifies the entire chain reaction. Free will has a set point in which case the individual does not have entire control over the environment, unless of course, you believe the world is just.
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          May 6 2012: Dear Zared,
          I am the ONLY one who can change my thoughts. I am the only one who can change my behaviors...assuming I am not in captivity or something like that of course. Even then there might be some choices, although that would definitey be limiting! I'm not saying anything about "control over the environment". I live in harmony with the environment.
      • May 7 2012: If you are the only one who can change your thoughts and actions, then you must believe you have complete control over all consequences. It is quite impossible for the environment to not have some control over your thoughts and actions. I am not talking about embracing peace with the environment but a much deeper and more meaningful relationship.
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          May 7 2012: One thing I have total control over Zared, is my thoughts, and I take responsibility for the consequences of my actions. It is a choice, and an idea that is embraced by many people. The environment has NO control over my thoughts. I am also talking about a much deeper and more meaningful relationship.
      • May 7 2012: Then, you admit that all social interactions, cultures, and calamities have no influence in any aspect of your life whatsoever, and the world is just, am I right?
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          May 7 2012: Zared,
          No, I did not say "that all social interactions, cultures, and calamities have no influence in any aspect" of my life. Everything I experience has INCREDIBLE influence. I said, external forces do not control my thoughts. External forces certainly influence my life, and we have choices regarding our thoughts, and how we use the information provided by the life experiences.

          FYI...I have no expectations either. I experience responsibility for consequences (cause and effect), and I feel free of expectations...I am open to possibilities:>) I believe that having expectations is just as limiting as believing that we have no choices regarding our thoughts.
      • May 7 2012: Braam, consequences refers to outcomes. Animals have free will too, may it be severely limited compared to our ability, but they do have it. I mean animals are not machines, they can think. The relationship I am referring to is not of love but of connection. We are not just mentally healthy, there is a far deeper causation of natural behaviors and thoughts.

        Steen, if it influences you, then it processes some control over you. Some of it you might not be fully aware of, but it does control some aspect of your life and limit. We do not have total free will.
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          May 7 2012: Schwartz,
          We can be influenced and not controlled. I'm actually pretty aware Schwartz.

          If YOU feel you do not have total free will to control your thoughts, that is a choice YOU make for YOURSELF. I have free will, I am aware, and I make informed, decisions/choices:>)
      • May 7 2012: We can totally be influenced; therefore, we can be controlled. The awareness that I am referring to is unconscious processing; so, no, you are not aware of your unconscious processing. Total free will is impossible because of a multitude of reasons including biological restraints.
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          May 7 2012: WE cannot be controlled. If YOU can be it. Nothing is impossible...unless you believe it to be:>)
      • May 8 2012: If you have total free will, then, prove it with actual facts.
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          May 8 2012: Zared,
          You have your perception. I have my perception, which is a choice. That is the fact.
      • May 8 2012: Steen, that is no support for your reasoning. Your perception is influence by the external factors. Now, now, control, I do admit, is too strong of a word, but influence is a nicer term. If you are influence by external factors, then, you are not entirely in control of your life. You may say that you can control such influences, but some might be out of your control such as biological restraints and critical periods.

        Braam, free will is the ability to decide for oneself. Animals are not instinct machines, they can think. Moreover, information does not have to process into the lobes of the brain in order to for the brain to gain information. If such a incidence occurs, then, conscious awareness of such information does not necessarily have to occur. I mean I can point out specific structures of the brain to support myself, but, you should read biological psychology articles to obtain a clearer understanding.
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    May 5 2012: From a reductionist perspective we may not have free choice. I also don't underestimate the power of our instinctual drives and responses to feed, fight, flee, freeze, etc - fears and rewards - pleasure and pain. I also think we rely on autopilot and habit a lot.

    However, from a practical human perspective we do make choices everyday - trivial and important - often good decisions involve putting off immediate gratification for some longer term reward.

    If everything is mapped out or could be predicted, it really doesn't matter because it seems like we have choices. Now I'm choosing to end this comment.
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    Josh S

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    May 5 2012: Stan what a great topic, i was thinking about this before i even saw this.
    The way i see it is that everything we do, everything that we think is based on biology and chemistry, that is no debate, and because biology and chemistry do not change, it seems that we are in fact slaved to our current situation/ genes/ education/ etc.
    Everything we do is a culmination of our neurons firing in certain paths, and because chemistry, physics, and biology are constant (the laws dont change) it is theoretically possible to determine everything that will happen in the future- if we knew everything about bio/chem/physics and if we knew everything in the body and in the world.
    Bottom line: because of the unchanging rules of biology and chemistry and physics, we must be slaves to our situation.

    Kind of saddening to think about really =/
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      May 5 2012: Good point Josh...everything we do, everything that we think is based on biology and chemistry, that is no debate...".
      I agree that biology/chemistry is an underlying factor in our body/mind processes.

      You go on to say...," and because biology and chemistry do not change, it seems that we are in fact slaved to our current situation/ genes/ education/ etc."

      The biology/chemistry of the body/mind CAN change...scientifically proven. Laughter and crying, for example change the chemistry of the body. That's why they say laughter is good medicine. It releases endorphins in the brain which actually change the chemistry of the body.

      I agree that everything we do is a culmination of our neurons firing in certain paths, and I'm sure you know that brain pathways can change? There are a couple good talks about that subject, given by neuroscientists right here on TED:>)

      Why don't you explore some of this information, which is readily available. Then maybe you wouldn't have to live with your sad bottom line?
  • Apr 30 2012: When you repeat things, you feel that you are doing exactly the same way. But you can never repeat something exactly the same way even once. When there is change in everything every time, you can as well select the change you want.

    Read "Sitaram Naik's formula of concentration and capability" to improve your capability and control.
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      May 5 2012: I agree "you can never repeat something exactly the same way even once"... wise words!

      This reminds me of the iconic quote by Heraclitus. "You cannot step into the same river twice"

      In essence, the only constant is "change". Therefore, nothing stays fixed, even if it appears to be so. It only appears so by the way we choose to perceive "it" (it being whatever we are observing). We are therefore also given the great words of wisdom "do not give permanent reality to temporary things".
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    Apr 29 2012: Great question Stan,
    We do have choices but , at the same time we need to be responsible ,(rather take ownership) for the decisions we take or the choices we make
    • Apr 29 2012: It is not the ownership of actions that limit our free-will, but it is the trends of our thoughts and actions that limits our free-will.
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      May 5 2012: I recently attended a book club meeting, and the conversation was the 9 choices we make to be happy. The topic of responsibility was raised.

      There were people who felt that it is easier to blame others than to accept responsibility for their choices. Owning our freedom to make choices, was seen as being too much of a burden. So many will choose not to be happy and then deny that they are making a choice and then blame everything outside of themselves for their unhappiness.
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        May 5 2012: Hi Aneesah! Nice to see you again:>)

        Unfortunately, blaming others, rather than taking responsibility for the choices we make is a common practice.

        Your story reminds me of another situation along the same storyline.

        A lovely, intelligent person decided she wanted a more peaceful life (like mine), so she chose me as her mentor. She had an issue with never feeling like she had "enough". Although she was always gainfully employed, dressed beautifully and had a lovely home, she simply did not believe that she ever had enough. She understood that her parents passed this idea on to her...they also never felt that they had "enough".

        I often asked her if she had ever been hungry, without a job, without shelter, etc. etc., and her answer was always no. She continued to obsess with the idea of not having enough. She wanted always to evaluate, analyze, and try to determine why her parents would pass on this horrible burden, which she had been carrying for 50+ years, making her life miserable.

        I continued to ask the same questions...why do you want to carry this idea? Have you ever been hungry, without shelter, without cloths, etc.? The answer continued to be no, but why would they (the parents) do this to me?

        I did not sympathize with her regarding "what they did to her". I simply kept taking it back to her with the intent to plant a seed of responsibility for her own thoughts and feelings as an intelligent, intuitive, insightful adult. She simply would not accept responsibility for how she was using the information. She finally decided that I was not the "mentor" she was looking for!

        She had a choice to accept the information her parents gave her (there was never enough) and live a "miserable" life, as she described it.....OR.....making a different choice, which might include recognizing everything she DID have:>) Blaming her parents seemed to become very much a part of her identity, and difficult to give up.
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          May 5 2012: Hi Colleen, it warms my heart when I come across you here!

          I love your story. It highlights another side of responsibility. As mentors and coaches, I think , even as fellow human beings, it is challenging to notice when people make choices that disempower themselves. One wants to be able to be of assistance, to help them see they have unlimited potential no matter what...

          and yet, it is not our duty to convince. We can hold up a light, with empathy and compassion; they can choose to see or not. We then have to learn to let go... they choose their own journey and we need to respect that.

          Coming back to responsibility: We are not responsible for others. At times like these, we need to reminds ourselves that "I am not my brother's keeper".
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        May 5 2012: I get that warm fuzzy feeling when you appear too Aneesah:>)

        I agree...we can be fully engaged in the process with someone, and it is also important to be detached from an outcome. I think that's why we have a warm feeling when interacting...I percieve us both to be fully engaged with the interaction, and detached from a certain outcome or agenda....yes?

        You say we hold up a light.....I say we (humans) are all like mirrors...reflecting information back and forth all the time. Perhaps we are lighted mirrors??? LOL:>)
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          May 7 2012: Hi Colleen,

          We are convergent mirrors. Otherwise known as "love".
  • Apr 28 2012: In the realm of reality, fate is nonexistent; however, people are prone to certain events due to a chain reaction of thinking, acting, and the consequences that follow. We have limited free-will because we can think for ourselves, act out our own desires, and have some control of the consequences' influence in our thoughts, but we are still prone to follow a similar chain reaction for all thoughts, actions, and consequences in terms of the underlined proportion of them. Moreover, fate is simply statistically impossible, and hindsight bias allows one to think fate is at work for any event.
  • Apr 28 2012: This is exactly the point gerald. Do u understand your actions i. e why you do the things u are doing? If yes, then you certainly have free will but if not then u ll have to blame the electrons
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    Apr 28 2012: I believe in fate.
  • Apr 27 2012: by choice i didn`t mean life changing decisions. I meant everything your brain makes you do every moment of your existence.
  • Apr 27 2012: Yes, lets first point out that free will, as a concept, is no-existent. We choose neither our education, nor our genes, nor our environment within which we live.

    However, the CONCEPT of free will is a social necessity that is only useful when it is BELIEVED.
    Without free-will, none of our actions are truly be blamed upon us, as we did not actually have a choice in making them.
    Furthermore, if you try to blame something which caused me to commit an action, you end up suffering the problem of infinite regress, all the way back to the beginning of time and space, since nothing spontaneously happens.

    Yet we need to believe in it, because without is, morals, ethics, social niceties. None of it matters. Because the moment we come to a situation where we do understand the absence of free will, we will act upon that, and without it, a blameless existence allows us to do so many things while still justifying it by our lack of free will.

    I would question your choice of hypothetical. Two babies, cloned from the same subject, CANNOT have identical life's if they live in two different universes. That would make those universes the same. If those universes ARE the same, then obviously they will make the same choice, since they are one person.

    believe it or not, a parallel universe which is separate from ours, yet exactly the same, could not exist. Just as you can never make a "perfect" copy of anything, so thereof, a perfect copy of our universe, could not be made.

    But, since it is a hypothetical, lets carry it to the end. If their life's are identical, they will choose the same number, since nothing is different between them. Its like asking if two identical pennies are flipped with the exact same amount of force in identical situations, will they land the same side up. Ofcourse.
  • Apr 27 2012: choice. time. decisions.
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    Apr 26 2012: They'll choose the same number.
    Free will is an illusion, but it's conveniant in explaining lots of stuff that individuals do.
    • Apr 27 2012: Why do you think that there is no free will? Does it mean that everything you did in your life was requested by someone else or you did it because you were under pressure from someone/something else? Or it was your choice. I think everything is a matter of the right/wrong choice and a chance.
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        Apr 27 2012: I cannot control the laws of physics. They control me. And my thoughts also depend on them. This message is just a result of these laws. I couldn't have written anything else.
        However, it's handy to say I have a choice about my behaviour for explanatory reasons. For instance, let's say I'm replying because I enjoy this forum.
        • Apr 27 2012: You certainly have a choice but obviously you refuse to make this choice and instead you let the "laws of physics" to control you. By doing so you risk to make the wrong choices. No wonder then that for you the free will would be just an illusion. I believe that by doing so the entire life might turned out to be an illusion
        • Apr 28 2012: But I think there is a difference between what the laws of physics permit, and what the laws of physics determine. If there is no free will, we have something of a paradox. Why would evolution produce beings who can take decisions (often wrong ones) given information if everything is predetermined? Wouldn't it be enough to synchronize living things with the rhythms of natural laws? I think laws determine what's possible, not what will and will not happen. I might be wrong. It might all be illusory. But it does not seem so. What I am certain of, is that we can't distinguish real choice from the illusion of such, and that deciding is not a matter of stating that the laws of nature are immutable, and forget everything else. Thus, this would be undecidable.

          But remember, the idea of determinism came from the over-enthusiatic minds of physicist who thought that they had everything figured out by post Newtonian times (but they hadn't it all figured out, had them?). A lot has changed since then, but the over-enthusiastic idea took such deep hold that most physicists, and materialists (or physicalists-I mean these schools of thought) have taken it for granted. They have done so, perhaps, without a lot of thinking other than what you said. "I can't control the laws of physics." But, again, that mistakes what the laws allow from what the laws determine.

          If not clear, well, it was predetermined that I would not be able to explain this clearly


          Few seem to have contemplated the possibility that natural laws might not govern, but rather constrain, which is different ...
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        Apr 28 2012: pocahontas, i am not saying that electrons control my love-life.
        Well they do, but in a way that doesn't make sense. In our macrosopic world, it's just me and my choices (for the sake of being able to understand my actions).

        Gabo, the problem is that everything around you is also being "constrained". We may not be governed by the laws themselves, but our environment is leaving us very little room for freewill manoeuvres. I'd be thankfull if you had an example of the phenomena you have in mind.
        • Apr 28 2012: What I am saying is that the laws of physics (or nature) are misrepresented when we use the word "govern." That sure, they constrain the choices we have available, but that our brains work with and because of the laws of nature does not mean that the answers are predetermined. I have no examples, except metaphors, such as the one by Adriana Bevacqua around here: "we choose the number. Society chooses which numbers we can choose from." So, I would say, we make choices, nature limits the choices we can make. We cannot choose to fly by flipping our arms, that's impossible, but we can choose to walk left, right, or across. But again, it might all be illusory, you might be right. My only opposition to the idea is that it does not seem as straightforward that determinism is real as those overenthusiastic physicists once thought.

          I hoped you would catch on an intended fallacy: I says "rhythms" but there is no reason to think that determinism and natural laws forcefully entail rhythms. That is one thing we often also take for granted (rhythms). Exactly the same way we tend to think that laws govern, rather than allow. Unfortunately more metaphors ensue, which might lead to equivocation (I think determinism is due to equivocation too): our human laws don't determine our everyday moves, but they limit what we can do.

          I hope that was clear enough. I have not thought too much about this, since free-will is often used mostly for rhetorical effect by creationists (without giving it too much of a definition), it might also be that they help promote this view about science opposing the notion of free-will, so that they can insert their gods into the discussion. But that's another story.