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Do we have a self (ego, soul, actor, etc.) that exhibits free will?

After doing a little studying on ego and bundle theories of self, I have come up with two arguments on these topics.

The first argument is pretty simple and supports ego theory of self:
All of my actions, decisions, and desires stem from a nonphysical "experiencer" inside of me. Therefore, I must have free will and I must have a self.

The second argument supports bundle theory:
All of my actions, decisions, and desires are the form of emergent properties of my brain which are manipulated by the environment. In this case, I do not have free will (since the environment is causing my actions and making decisions on my behalf) and thus, I can not have a self.

Which of these arguments do you agree with more and why?

Could these arguments be more refined to give a better understanding of the self and free will?

What might be a more sound argument regarding this issue?

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    Apr 11 2013: Good day,

    I have a personal opinion or answer to your question and I think this question definitely relates to religious priority and, subsequently, the wisdom and willpower of the mind accessed through growth in knowledge and faith. I agree with your first argument more because I do think the self, perhaps not so much the ego which can be interpreted as selfish, but the self or essential "you" does have free will. This of course is not a topic that can relate to medically induced lack of the abilitiy to use your will, such as Alzheimer's Disease, however the opposite in which you strengthen your willpower is applicable.

    The unfortunate part of this argument is that in this world our decisions and desires are constantly on a thwarting attempt, either by the media, by our friends and family, even by our own battle with sin or negative feelings. In the Holy Bible, Jesus talks of this battle here on earth, even commenting that "the days are evil", something I interpreted as the hardship of everyday life and the resilience and motivation (and faith) that it takes to maintain your self.

    Basically, my argument is that your self is distinctly tied to what you most believe in and free will is certainly given to us as a creation, but we find peace and find the self that God intends for us to love by obeying, by keeping faith, and by using our free will in the manner God intended.
  • Apr 14 2013: "To thine own self be true"...we have that "inner voice" that guidance system inside us that shows us if we are being true to ourself. If we didn't have a self, nothing in our lives would matter....we would be without direction. Even if you create your own reality, it has to be a reality that feels right to our "self" not one that feels right to someone else. We have to help ourselves before we can help someone else. I' m reminded of this every time I listening to the flight attendant telling us " put on your oxygen mask first before assisting others".
    It's true, mindfulness connects us with self, keeps us on our path and shows us the way home...if we listen and tune into our "inner voice" rather than ignore it or dismiss it. Even not to choose is our choice.
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    Apr 13 2013: Hi Paul,
    I agree that all actions, decisions and desires stem from inside my "self". That being said, I also believe that we are influenced by our environment.......influenced.....not manipulated. The environment does not "cause" my actions nor does it make "decisions on my behalf".

    I believe everything and everyone is interconnected, so my "self" is simply another part of the whole, functioning together within the whole. I choose my actions, decisions and desires as an individual, while conscious of the whole, so in that context, I have free will, while being aware, mindful and conscious of the environment.
  • Apr 12 2013: One day I will start a debate contending that the question of fee will is irrelevant.

    The simple and obvious fact that everyone of us experiences, every day, is that we must choose what to do next.

    Each one of us must choose whether we are responsible for our actions or not, and no one else can make that choice for us. Personally, I can see no advantage in choosing to claim that I am not responsible for my actions. A person who makes that choice will likely end up institutionalized.

    So, I do not see how posing the question of free will has any practical consequences.
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    Apr 11 2013: The Prior


    You do not have an "experiencer" you is one, And you do not have a self you is one.

    Don't let anyone convince you different
  • Apr 11 2013: I don't think you can prove either hypothesis. What kind of experiment could conclusively prove this without relying on circumstantial evidence? So there's not too much point in arguing about it because neither side has a leg to stand on, at least if you're going from a scientific standpoint.
    My opinion is that there is a soul and we do have free will. We have responsibility for our actions and a degree of control over our lives.
  • May 10 2013: We tend to think of free will using binary frameworks, yet the human brain and its perceived activities such as free will have been shown to use multiple inputs. For every decision there is data coming from our memory of similar (and sometimes dissimilar) situations, data from our senses revealing the current world state, interpretations of this data by various internal mechanisms, data from our emotions, data from our autonomic nervous system. We have in memory a number of alternative analytic frameworks we can use to assemble and prioritize all this data. We can sometimes change perspectives to view the inputs differently. There is probably some bad data coming from chemical imbalances within the neural network. Lots of potential permutations. Even so, the "normal" person will make a decision within a period of minutes, sometimes split seconds. There are too many random events in these many inputs, and in fact, a single random event would "prove" free will; that the world and our actions are not deterministic.

    When you speak of the self, I assume you are referring to the self that you, not others, perceive. Your self is your creation. Through your actions and deeds you determine your self. It is primarily a historical video highlight reel and by acting consistently you affirm for yourself (and others) its validity. There is probably an input in the decision process that checks the action for consistency with your internal model of self. Since you have free will, you can clearly choose to ignore this step (and surprise your friends) by, for example, showing up naked for dinner.

    I favor Shakespeare's take: "We are such stuff as dreams are made on...."
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    May 7 2013: .

    (1) "We do have a self (ego, soul, actor, etc.) that exhibits free will".
    If not, we can not bio-evolve or survive.

    (2) We are "bundled" by the environment.
    If not, we can not live.
  • Apr 21 2013: Hi Paul,
    I think it is worth considering the process of choice. It seems to me that choice involves the presentation of alternatives and then the weighing of these against criteria. This is an orderly process that can be replicated by a computer.

    The choices people make can sometimes seem mysterious because the criteria against which they are made are not known, and sometimes the situation is so complex that we use strategy. When people habitually makes mistakes (or act according to strange criteria) we say they are irrational.

    It is my understanding that, when people decide, the neural process for initiating movement begins at the same time as the neural process for initiating language. Decisions are often underlined by affirming emotions so I would guess that the process for initiating the perception of emotion also begins at this time.

    Traditional philosophy has regarded thought and emotion as existent. These are what we perceive when we choose and so we misunderstand them as agents in the process of choice. Quite simply, traditional philosophy is wrong: thought and emotion are not existent, they are not entities, they are not agents. The correct way to express our experience is to say, for example, "I perceive an emotion" NOT "My emotion exists". The actual process of choice lies in brain mechanism and this we don't perceive because it would require further brain mechanism to do so.

    It should be clear from the above that the decider is the brain, it is the brain that initiates the action and initiates the communication of that action (if it so chooses). It may be possible to identify a module of the brain as the decider but this is where the identification of the decider ends.

    Free will is not an issue except to the extent that it captures the understanding that there are situations where it is ethical and important for others not to threaten consequences on an individual making a decision.
  • Apr 18 2013: your first argument in no way implies that you must have free will and that that means you must have a self as if not having free will means you don't exist gravity's force on you keeps your feet on the ground how much gravity can you hold in your hand i would say i'm describing a nonphysical experience or force which suggests i in face have no free will for i can not defy gravity any further than what force i can impress upon it now your second argument says we are products of our environment our environment being ourselves ourselves and environment being all the physical and nonphysical alike another way of saying everything that is has been and could every be is the self and free to be what ever it can will its self to be you being a manifestation of all this expressed to the degree of how much do you identify with as being self you are your cells but what free will do they have while they may not want those things you feed them your free will leaves them no choice in the matter what consideration do you have for them or do you only identify with their collective form and not you the individual cell you're as much one of your cells as you are them all
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    Apr 15 2013: Is "self" a singular entity or a multiplicity?
    We are of course aware of conscious and unconscious processes, and it is also conjectured the unconscious might dominate the conscious self, but some, such as Rita Carter think that we are "multiple selves."

    "We each tend to think that we are just one person - a single, continuous, and consistent self. But the truth is that we are each a group of personalities and we slip and slide from one to the other as we encounter different situations.
    Once each personality recognises the others, they can start to recognise each others' strengths and weaknesses and between them decide which one should be in control at any time.
    Multiplicity explains how personalities are made and kept separate in the human brain, how to discover it in yourself and how to recognise, identify and take control of your various personalitie."
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    Apr 13 2013: as long as I choose to live among a populous, my free will is impaired.
  • Apr 13 2013: I find it interesting that in the year 2013, and on a more or less scientifically oriented website, that this age old question would pop up. I've discovered a popular interest in new age spirituality and metaphysics on this site. Philosophy is good and all but attempting to answer philosophical questions with philosophy can lead you into what eastern thinkers call the "intellectual trap." Buddha spoke in negative description and confuscious spoke in paradox to suspend the over intellectualization of thought. Western thinkers where obsessed with absolutes so its no wonder they invented "Science." Science is a much better way in solving philosophical questions than attempting to think your way to the answer. Anyway.. I lean toward a Buddhist perspective. A central theme in Buddhism is "Annatta" or "NO-SELF." Buddha recognized that suffering was somehow connected with this instinctual and absolutely wrong idea that there is a "Self." We are the activity in our brains and all the phenomena that stimulate our brains. Free Will does exist, obviously. Only someone who thinks way to hard could assume otherwise. However Free Will is produced by our brain, just as the experience of "ego" although the "ego" is itself a product of perpetual conditioning and is experienced differantely depending on social and cultural context.
  • Apr 12 2013: Great Scot good point - How would we know?
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    Apr 12 2013: Hmmm...
    You do have free will in the sense that you can choose.
    But you can't choose what you will choose.

    Gödel stated that a part of a system can't truely inquire it externally Because it doesn't exist there, so we can't feel what causes us to feel. There are the same laws of nature the work on every quantom of everyatom of... everything. Those rules (while currently are mostly statistical) force everything react in a certin way, without "will" of that part, just beautifull, amazing physics.

    Never the less, I said you do have free will. Why? because free will is a term, a word in the dictionary. It comes to descirbe an independent choice, free from external effects.
    Assuming that you are each and every part of your body, after all of your life expirience to this moment, your choice is completely internal came from within you, your will is free.