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Law of Causation and Free Will

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I was on a website that said that the law of causation contradicts free will because it implies determinism. I know this is not true, because acting in accordance with one's nature doesn't necessarily mean one's actions are determined, but I still felt like this wasn't enough proof to prove that that person was wrong. I get why, but I just can't get the rationale behind it. Can you help?

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I was on a website that said that the law of causation contradicts free will because it implies determinism. I know this is not true, because acting in accordance with one's nature doesn't necessarily mean one's actions are determined, but I still felt like this wasn't enough proof to prove that that person was wrong. I get why, but I just can't get the rationale behind it. Can you help?

Why does determinism contradict free will?

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I was on a website that said that the law of causation contradicts free will because it implies determinism. I know this is not true, because acting in accordance with one's nature doesn't necessarily mean one's actions are determined, but I still felt like this wasn't enough proof to prove that that person was wrong. I get why, but I just can't get the rationale behind it. Can you help?

When arguing down at that level, it is not possible to prove or disprove anything. Proof has as a precondition a mind which is fallible but can choose to make the correct decisions to arrive at a truth.

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I was on a website that said that the law of causation contradicts free will because it implies determinism. I know this is not true, because acting in accordance with one's nature doesn't necessarily mean one's actions are determined, but I still felt like this wasn't enough proof to prove that that person was wrong. I get why, but I just can't get the rationale behind it. Can you help?

What does the website regard as free will? Is the same as Objectivism? Religionists assert to aupport free will also.

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I was on a website that said that the law of causation contradicts free will because it implies determinism. I know this is not true, because acting in accordance with one's nature doesn't necessarily mean one's actions are determined, but I still felt like this wasn't enough proof to prove that that person was wrong. I get why, but I just can't get the rationale behind it. Can you help?

As I understand it, determinism, or at least Laplacian determinism, states that if the exact state of every particle in the universe could be determined, then the entire course of the universe from that moment on would be pre-determined. Even if it were possible to determine the state of every particle in the universe (which it isn't, by Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle), it would still be incorrect to say that our choices are pre-determined by outside forces. After all, each one of us is a part of the universe. So, determining the state of every particle in the universe would involve determining the states of all the particles of which each of us is made. So our choices aren't determined by outside forces. They are primarily determined by the particles which make up ourselves. They're determined by us, by what we are. Hence free will.

Edited by itsjames
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"law of causation contradicts free will because it implies determinism"

Causation is the nature of things. For humans this includes in our nature that we can decide what we will do within what is physically possible to us. Our free will is in our decision to try to think clearly or not and we survive and flourish by the choice to think clearly. If that's our nature, then it isn't contradictory to causation no matter which we do choose. However, while we CAN choose not to think clearly at all, to be extremely evasive, just then reality will wipe our stupid asses out. We have options in our nature, but not all the options work for long we keeping us around in existence. What always seems to be hidden in this "causation and free will are incompatible" thing that bugs me is it seems like people often have this idea that it can only be free will if it is irrational, that it doesn't count as a choice we made if what we believe and do makes "too much" sense. If there is too good a reason for thinking and doing anything, then it wasn't done freely, it was forced! OoO Same kind of thinking of the people who don't see the difference between the kind of power had by a good business and a robber, they don't distinguish between doing something because it makes a lot of sense or because you are literally not given any other option at all.

"Laplacian determinism, states that if the exact state of every particle in the universe could be determined, then the entire course of the universe from that moment on would be pre-determined." This statement smells of primacy of consciousness, that things are predetermined *if they can be known by a consciousness.* Just because we do or do not know about something all on its own won't change what happens, say, to some star a million light years away, like if we don't know, maybe it will blow up or maybe it won't, but as soon as we do know everything about it, it must blow up. Suppose for a moment we didn't know the nature of the thing ahead of time and so the thing didn't blow up, but then later on we go back and examine the star that would have blown up. Now what do we find? Oh look, this star is in contradiction of its nature, it should have blown up ages ago. Does not compute. Hell, even if we never find out, a contradiction still can't exist like that, certainly not with something non-volitional like the workings of a star.

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Why does determinism contradict free will?

Determinism holds that the state of the Universe is pre-determined, for every moment in time. I don't know why some people subscribe to it, or even why anyone bothered formulating it, since it contradicts the obvious (free will, our ability to make choices) but they did, and it is what it is.

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People see that atoms have predictable behaviour, and we are made of atoms, so therefore we must have predictable behaviour. The error here is that "made of" is not the same as "is." The basic error is not grasping that "existence exists" means what it says.

If you look at a man with the naked eye and he has limbs, torso, head etc, then those things exist. If you then look at him through a microscope and see atoms, then those things exist too. They are not both "appearances" of the same thing, because if a thing exists, it exists. Therefore man is not atoms, he is made of atoms, where "made of" is a relationship between existents.

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I was on a website that said that the law of causation contradicts free will because it implies determinism.

Dr. Peikoff says that voilition, free will, is a type of causation, so it need not contradict.

Choice . . . is not chance. Volition is not an exception to the Law of Causality; it is a type of causation.

Peikoff “The Analytic-Synthetic Dichotomy,” in Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology

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I was on a website that said that the law of causation contradicts free will because it implies determinism. I know this is not true, because acting in accordance with one's nature doesn't necessarily mean one's actions are determined, but I still felt like this wasn't enough proof to prove that that person was wrong. I get why, but I just can't get the rationale behind it. Can you help?

Along with these other excellent replies, do not ignore the underlying stolen concept.

These people are saying that after their consideration of all the relevant information, they have concluded that there is no free will.

However, if there is no free will, then their conclusion is not free or independent but the result of whatever factors they think determine human activity: atoms, stars, or potty training. Thus, their statement does not offer anything other than what the outside influences have made them conclude and has no meaning. They don't get to eat their cake and think, too.

Few of these people have heard of Ayn Rand's formulation of free will. Many of them do not think people think (see), and would have trouble understanding AR. They believe that free will consists of arbitarily deciding to act in a certain way at a certain time, which we would view as a consequence of previous value decisions (or non-decisions). To build an argument that could get to one of the determinists you might have to go through many levels of translation and insanity.

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I really dislike the majority of opinions posted here -- people have either stated that determinism somehow necessarily implies a belief in the primacy of consciousness, or merely stated that, because we are made of atoms (and subatomic particles), our actions cannot be said to be determined. While I am in no way a fatalist, I really have to object to these arguments, for the following reasons:

1. (Re: "Primacy of consciousness") To say that we could, theoretically, determine the path of entire galaxies light years away, in no way contradicts the principle that existence exists. It is, in fact, quite in keeping with that principle. Bluecherry mistakenly states that this view relies on the idea that these events would not have happened if we had not "determined" them; to the contrary, the belief is that events (which are not the result of any actions taken by a free-willed organism) will occur inevitably, as (i) things have natures and (ii) things can act only in accordance with those natures, ergo (iii) everything acts in a specific, relatively predictable manner, regardless of your knowledge (or ignorance) of it. So, for instance, a particle billions of light years away will continue to act in accordance with specific laws, e.g. gravity, despite the fact that we have not seen it or acted upon it. Thus, we know that a piano dropped from the top of a building will always fall to the ground -- because things act in specific ways, and a piano, under certain conditions, will always fall, and never rise.

2. (Re: "made of atoms") It is true that we are made up of certain substances -- but that in no way contradicts the view of determinists. Itsjames claims that, because we are composed of atoms, and are therefore not determined by "outside forces," we have free will. But this has a few holes, like: if we are composed of atoms...where did those atoms come from? Well, the "outside," of course -- that's how we were formed in the first place! And if our subunits really are self-contained and not "determined" by "outside forces," then that still leaves us with the issue of how these subunits act. Well, they can't possibly act randomly, i.e. without causation, without nature. They must have some kind of nature, and they must act in accordance with that nature -- therefore, our actions are determined (if you follow itsjames' line of thought to its logical conclusion).

3. Intellectualammo only quotes Peikoff as if his points need no support, which is both annoying and disconcerting. I'll just leave that one alone, until and unless IA decides to elaborate, rather than merely reference what "Dr. Peikoff says."

The best way to debunk determinism, to my knowledge, is by following the general ideas posted here by Bob G and Grames. While I do not know the exact biological mechanisms which constitute free will, I know that it has to exist, for a variety of (ostensively identified) reasons. For instance, the fact that we out of all known organisms need a justice system in order to survive -- we must determine guilt; we cannot simply know it based on instinct. Also, reason (i.e. conceptualization) is an inherently volitional action -- because it is based on the fact that you can be mistaken about what you think, whereas lower animals have no such issues. We also need to expend effort to think, whereas you will never witness lower animals puzzling over differential equations; the closest they get to this is experiencing conflicting emotions, in which case they become paralyzed and only take action when the stronger emotion wins out. And, as Bob G points out, the very idea of "proof" (e.g. "I've proved that there is no such thing as free will!") is dependent on the possibility of falsehood, of choosing wrongly. Or, as Bob points out, to claim that there is no such thing as free will is kind of a pointless action -- it's like a Luddite using the Internet to spread the word that technology is evil. In fact, it's even worse, because at least a Luddite can choose not to use technology; no one can actually give up volition.

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2. (Re: "made of atoms") It is true that we are made up of certain substances -- but that in no way contradicts the view of determinists. Itsjames claims that, because we are composed of atoms, and are therefore not determined by "outside forces," we have free will. But this has a few holes, like: if we are composed of atoms...where did those atoms come from? Well, the "outside," of course -- that's how we were formed in the first place! And if our subunits really are self-contained and not "determined" by "outside forces," then that still leaves us with the issue of how these subunits act. Well, they can't possibly act randomly, i.e. without causation, without nature. They must have some kind of nature, and they must act in accordance with that nature -- therefore, our actions are determined (if you follow itsjames' line of thought to its logical conclusion).

Hi Obdura,

How do the origins of the particles of which we consist have anything to do with our free will? I assume you don't believe that each of us willed ourselves into existence. I don't either. Our existence is the result of the universe acting in accordance with it's nature. So, yes, we did originate from forces outside of our control (obviously.) But once we come into existence, the primary motive force that determines the development of the rest of our lives, which determines the choices we make, is our mind, which is what we are. The existence of free will follows from the nature of the human mind. The mind is separated from it's environment, it requires fuel from outside sources, but other than that, it runs totally on it's own. Free will is not anymore complicated than that.

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There is no point at which an entity becomes totally and completely separated from the "outside world." Our subunits are always, and always will be, constituent pieces of reality as a whole, and, therefore, can never be divorced entirely from "outside forces." (I am, of course, no expert on this matter, so I am completely open to any arguments against my point.) This does not, in any way, contradict free will. The way you are putting it is as if our minds existed in an entirely separate reality -- which is (a) entirely impossible, and (B) a perfect example of the mind-body dichotomy. The mind is what the brain does, and the brain is subject to outside forces -- therefore, to an extent, the mind is subject to outside forces. But, due to some complex chemical processes/reactions of which we are not currently aware, the brain manages to effect something very much like a self-contained system (a la Rand's and Aristotle's "Prime Mover").

I understand completely that we are our minds; I am not arguing against that, and I am not arguing against the existence of free will. I am merely saying that your argument is far too simplistic to explain the existence of our volitional faculty, because it does not take into account the complex nature of the mind's "physical side," so to speak.

[Edit: got rid of an accidental emoticon.]

Edited by Obdura
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There is no point at which an entity becomes totally and completely separated from the "outside world." Our subunits are always, and always will be, constituent pieces of reality as a whole, and, therefore, can never be divorced entirely from "outside forces." (I am, of course, no expert on this matter, so I am completely open to any arguments against my point.)

I don't see the relevance of this observation, please point it out. Do you agree that the human consciousness works as a single entity, rather than as part of its surroundings, or don't you?

This does not, in any way, contradict free will. The way you are putting it is as if our minds existed in an entirely separate reality -- which is (a) entirely impossible,

That's not how he put it. You just had an argument with yourself. Who won?

and (B) a perfect example of the mind-body dichotomy.

James's position, as I see it, is that a man is free to make his own decisions, because he posesses something no other creature doers: a consciousness. That consciousness's functioning, as long as it exists, is subject to his own choices, not to any outside forces. That's its nature. That's not an example of a mind-body dichotomy, no one claimed that the mind and the body are in conflict or exist in contradiction.

The mind is what the brain does, and the brain is subject to outside forces -- therefore, to an extent, the mind is subject to outside forces.

If by mind you mean a focused, aware consciousness, then no that's not what the brain does, that's what the man has and chooses to use it for. A man's thinking is not subject to outside forces: he can choose to consider outside forces (reality) and make decisions accordingly, or he can choose to ignore them and die. That's the whole point, the undeniable and obvious proof that free will exists, and determinism is false.

But, due to some complex chemical processes/reactions of which we are not currently aware, the brain manages to effect something very much like a self-contained system (a la Rand's and Aristotle's "Prime Mover").

You just described something you're not supposed to be aware of. Which is it, are you not aware of them, or do you know they are "complex chemical processes/reactions that the brain uses to effect a Prime Mover"?

I understand completely that we are our minds; I am not arguing against that, and I am not arguing against the existence of free will. I am merely saying that your argument is far too simplistic to explain the existence of our volitional faculty, because it does not take into account the complex nature of the mind's "physical side," so to speak.

I don't see why any knowledge of the human anatomy would be necessary to realize that free will exists, and determininism is therefor wrong.

There is a contradiction in your post: You claim that it would be simplistic to not account for the "physical side", and you're also saying that the physical functioning of the brain is unknown. Nevertheless, you are claiming to be convinced of the existence of free will. Why don't you need to account for the ohysical side?

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1. (Re: "Primacy of consciousness") To say that we could, theoretically, determine the path of entire galaxies light years away, in no way contradicts the principle that existence exists. It is, in fact, quite in keeping with that principle. Bluecherry mistakenly states that this view relies on the idea that these events would not have happened if we had not "determined" them; to the contrary, the belief is that events (which are not the result of any actions taken by a free-willed organism) will occur inevitably, as (i) things have natures and (ii) things can act only in accordance with those natures, ergo (iii) everything acts in a specific, relatively predictable manner, regardless of your knowledge (or ignorance) of it. So, for instance, a particle billions of light years away will continue to act in accordance with specific laws, e.g. gravity, despite the fact that we have not seen it or acted upon it. Thus, we know that a piano dropped from the top of a building will always fall to the ground -- because things act in specific ways, and a piano, under certain conditions, will always fall, and never rise.

I believe you have badly misunderstood what I was trying to say, like you got the exact opposite of what I meant almost. B) The main point of my post was not when I was addressing the quoted part about "Laplacian determinism", but instead the part before that. I did not mean all of the idea of determinism in any variant is wrong because it implies primacy of consciousness, that wasn't my argument at all. I first argued one thing in favor of the existence of free will and then brought up the primacy of consciousness thing related to one specific quote about one variant of determinism not to even argue there that it was all wrong because it implied primacy of consciousness in that case, more I just brought it up as a side observation, an after thought as long as somebody brought it up. I did not mean it implied primacy of consciousness if we could determine what would happen far away - in fact I agree strongly having what would happen there being predictable is in no way creating any contradictions. What I thought seemed to speak of primacy of consciousness there was where it was implied that what would happen was dependent upon if we knew it or not, that if we didn't know, then something was not bound to happen, it was only bound to happen if we had determined it would and otherwise, anything goes, things don't have to act in any set way as long as they aren't known ahead of time. I think instead that the law of identity would mean something particular would happen to that star whether we ever knew it or not. However, this argument about something particular being bound and determined to happen whether we know it or not is just addressing something I see to be a flaw in one variant of determinism as I said and doesn't address the subject of creatures with free will, hence why the earlier part of my post was where my general argument was in favor of the possibility of the existence of free will. So just to be clear, I don't disagree with anything you said about the law of identity at all, what I disagree with is your interpretation of what I said, since on the part about "Laplacian determinism" I indeed was trying to speak *in favor of* the law of identity, not against it.

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