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Web Project Manager,

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Do you believe we have true freewill?

I am curious to know if you believe we are more than just chemical and physical reactions in our brains.

What do you believe, and does that belief affect how you live and make decisions?

Edit: I have modified the question to allow for a more broad discussion on the general concept of freewill.

There seems to be a lot of confusion around the definition of the term "freewill". I have gathered some definitions from a few sources below to use:

"The power of acting without the constraint of necessity or fate; the ability to act at one's own discretion"
Source: Google dictionary

"Free and independent choice; voluntary decision: You took on the responsibility of your own free will."
Source: Dictionary.com

Lets try to not get too caught up on the semantics. There has been some interesting discussions so far. I would like to summarize the main points on each side of this topic when I have time.


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  • Jun 19 2011: Well actually a Newtonian view of a causal universe is still compatible with quantum physics. A Newtonian approach isn't disproved by quantum physics, it's just that in the realm of quantum physics we do talk about things as being probabilistic. Also, just because the world is in-determined doesn't mean we have free will. If, hypothetically, the root cause of my actions are random, then the cause of my actions still doesn't not rely on my own free will, but on those causes. So to say the universe isn't determined isn't a good argument for free will. Besides that I think there is two approaches. If you believe that the mind/soul and body are separate then there might be room for free will because our souls are independent in this case from the universe in that they are immaterial or spiritual (and if something is not of this world (or empirical) than why should empirical logic apply to it). If you don't believe in a body/soul dichotomy then I think there is still some argument for free will as a monist (the mind and body are one interlinked unit). Behaviourists such as B.F. Skinner proposed the idea that our behaviour can be determined and therefore how can we truly be free. The problem I have with behaviourism is that, although important, it's too stimuli-response. The reality is that we have a frontal cortex, which allows us to make intelligent decisions with foresight and an understanding of their moral weight and consequences. So I think the old view of free will, as absolute free will over our actions, is a bit ridiculous. This is partially because if our actions didn't have a cause then when wouldn't have any reason to do anything. I think a more modern view of free will that doesn't dumb people down, is a view that our free will is our capacity to understand complex moral problems (or any problem for that matter) and make an informed response.

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