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Why "Free" Will?

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d'Anconia
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I have come across two major definitions "free will":

1.Free will is the ability to choose between atleast two options within the bounds of reality.

2.Will isn't free aslong as it has to abide by the rules of reality. For example:

Your will is only free once you can decide to walk trough a rock on your path... as long as you are somehow restricted you aren't free to choose.

In my opinion the word free is meaningless since there is no non-free will. And adding free infront of it only couses confusion.

What do you think? Is there such a thing as non-free will?

I also have another confusion about the free will problem. If the world is made of atoms and you can calculate for example how far a rock will fly if you are given enough information isn't it the same with the human mind that is therefore automatic rendering "free" will impossible?

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The second definition is simply wrong. No, there is no "non-free" will, but even given that I see no problem with referring to this concept as "free will." That's just what the terminology is.

Also, the search button is your friend, in regards to your last question.

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The second definition is simply wrong. No, there is no "non-free" will, but even given that I see no problem with referring to this concept as "free will." That's just what the terminology is.

Calling it "free" will just causes confusion... see the second definition.

In regard to the second question, thanks for the link. I won't be this lazy next time :P

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I disagree, Dante. This is an important point. Redundancy is to be avoided -- by definition, it is redundant; and, due to friction/entropy effects (don't laugh), redundancy in structures, whether conceptual or physical, tends to destroy the stability of the structure.

The problem with "free will" is that it suggest there is some other kind of will, as you know. This is not brushable under the carpet. "Will" is enough, meaning "determination to do something". It is an inborn power of Man. It is, it exists, it is sufficiently encapsulated with the meaning of "will".

Modifying a good concept like "will", by prepending "free", and then claiming the add has no net effect is silly redundancy.

To regain the moral high ground from the plebes, one must think in terms of "will"; personally, I have trouble thinking of "will" when I say "free will", but then, that's me.

Cheers.

- ico

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The problem with "free will" is that it suggest there is some other kind of will, as you know. This is not brushable under the carpet. "Will" is enough, meaning "determination to do something". It is an inborn power of Man. It is, it exists, it is sufficiently encapsulated with the meaning of "will".

But see, that's where the problem lies. Yes, perhaps the most common relevant definition of will is "determination to do something," but that is not what we are referring to when we say free will. We are trying to indicate the power to choose, and "will" by itself simply doesn't mean that to anyone.

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But see, that's where the problem lies. Yes, perhaps the most common relevant definition of will is "determination to do something," but that is not what we are referring to when we say free will. We are trying to indicate the power to choose, and "will" by itself simply doesn't mean that to anyone.

Taking a gander at "will" as a verb in dictionary.com: "the faculty of conscious and especially of deliberate action; the power of control the mind has over its own actions: the freedom of the will."

This looks clear to me as it is. I don't see the reason for modifying it with "free".

However, the 5th definition of "free" on dictionary.com says: "exempt from external authority, interference, restriction, etc., as a person or one's will, thought, choice, action, etc.; independent; unrestricted."

That is what you are saying. So, by "free will", we are making a political statement. Will is given; but, in society, others (such as government authorities) can prevent one from acting on rational conclusions. FREE will points this out: that, whilst will is given to each individual, the free exercise of that will in society could be abrogated; so the prepellation "free" is used to disambiguate the political usage from the ethical/individual usage.

In the domain of Politics, where others in society may abrogate my will by force, it makes sense to speak of "free will", I now agree.

But, in all other domains (Metaphysics, Epistemology, Ethics, and Aesthetics), where the only considerations per se are individual, the use of "will" is sufficient. Does that make sense to you?

- ico

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Without getting into the etymology of the term "free will," it is sometimes appropriate to use phrases that are technically redundant when the goal is to emphasize a particular trait or to contrast a word's actual meaning with the way it is commonly used, e.g. "laissez-faire capitalism."

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"Free" does apply to epistemology and fields beyond that. Even presuming to ask "should I believe in free will?" assumes you have a choice.

I disagree. The concept "will" is sufficient to encompass the conceptual requirements of all but Politics, i.e., the science of society requires the modifier "free" to distinguish the application of will in isolation from the application of will in the context of others who may unduly interfere with one's rationally motivated actions.

- ico

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I disagree.

I disagree that you disagree. :) That "free" is applicable starting at epistemology is not a denial that "will" alone can be adequate. However, serious determinists will use the term will while denying it is free even in epistemology, definitions to the contrary notwithstanding.

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I disagree that you disagree. :) That "free" is applicable starting at epistemology is not a denial that "will" alone can be adequate. However, serious determinists will use the term will while denying it is free even in epistemology, definitions to the contrary notwithstanding.

I see your point, but I maintain that however minimal, this is still a compromise on a loose definition, and the extra wiggle room allows antagonists to hide more easily from the truth.

I take "will" to mean "the power I have to direct my actions"; and I take "free will" to means the right to exercise that power. So "will" to me is a recognition of my given, navigational power; whereas "free will" to me is a recognition of the fact that my will could be restricted in society with others.

Ideally, I'd like to have a good, single word for each idea. I suggest the word "freedom" to stand for the rational exercise of will in society.

So I end up with:

will -- power to direct one's actions

freedom -- exercise of will in society (the notion of freedom is irrelevant in the absence of others). This is what I take "free will" to mean, also.

- ico

Edited by icosahedron
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Ideally, I'd like to have a good, single word for each idea. I suggest the word "freedom" to stand for the rational exercise of will in society.

"Volition" works well to avoid the confusion of "free will". It is more epistemologically sound to use a single word instead of a phrase for a distinct (not borderline) concept as I understand Ayn Rand's guidance given in ITOE. I agree that you have a point in objecting to "free will".

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"Volition" works well to avoid the confusion of "free will". It is more epistemologically sound to use a single word instead of a phrase for a distinct (not borderline) concept as I understand Ayn Rand's guidance given in ITOE. I agree that you have a point in objecting to "free will".

Thanks, but I think we are vice versa: to me, "volition" corresponds to what I mean by "will"; still need a word for the political concept, but then, I have always found the use of the word "freedom" a bit loose in political discourse, and would like to have the term "freedom" mean "politically unfettered volition".

- ico

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The term "will" can be (falsely) attributed to certain instinctual behaviors in man as well, which adds to confusion. i.e. the "will to survive" or driving forces in man such as Nietzsches "will to power". Using the term free, implies that theres some other kind of will. If man is born tabula rasa, I dont see how there could be any other kind. (?)

I agree that "volition" is better tied to reality.

Edited by JayR
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I think I'll stop using the word "will" altogether, in favor of "volition" -- especially since "will" has too many different meanings. (The fact that words such as "will" and "rose" have wildly disparate meanings depending on usage is unfortunate, IMHO -- it sure would be nice to have a scientifically precise language to operate with.

Still I need to settle on a word for the political notion of the right to exercise volition within the constraints of society with others. I am leaning towards "freedom" - because, the concept of freedom would not occur to an individual in the absence of the restraints of others.

- ico

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Yeah, freedom works. I can see myself using the term volition freely, and "free will" in quotations. As in: A fundamental key to understanding the Objectivist epistemology is a firm grasp of Oist theories of sense perception and volition, or "free will".

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I agree, Dante. Not arguing from that context. Thinking in terms of crisp representation of ideas in a fully Objectivist context, and in that context I prefer precision over ambiguity, naturally enough.

(added via edit): Further, I don't see how Objectivists can expect to move the philosophical needle if they accept sloppy conceptual definitions amongst themselves; I would like to see more successful and vocal Objectivists, perhaps if Objectivism is seen by the general population as a good thing, then the common man on the street may then begin to adopt Objectivist lingo -- which is where I think this goes, slowly but surely. Hence I want good definitions, and IMHO, the Lexicon is not sufficiently precise -- I want to discover an accurate conceptual hierarchy, sort of "develop" it like a photographic plate from out of the "muck" of my aggregate experiences. Of course, we all do that; I intend something more formal, that we can adopt as a standard dictionary. Webster's doesn't cut it if you want to be scientific and unambiguous in representing ideas with concrete sound/symbol patterns.

- ico

Edited by icosahedron
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In conversation I prefer "Self-determinism", for freedom of the individual, and "Self-determination", for political freedom.

"Free will" is a bit sloppy, and "volition" takes some explaining.

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"Free will" or "of your own free will" colloquially means doing something not under duress, so it's definitely political in that sense. But "will" by itself isn't purely philosophical either because colloquially you can "will" something to happen which means basically "wish," there is also the term willpower which refers more to self-discipline that the ability of the mind to choose.

Perhaps it needs a new concept by AR was against making up new concepts unless absolutely necessary, she thought it was the philosopher's way of trying to stay elite and make their work inaccessible to the people.

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I always thought there was a distinction to be made between "will" and "free will".

Almost all of the 15 noun definitions of "will" on dictionary.com at least imply volition except the first one which is "the faculty of conscious and especially of deliberate action" and this states the distinction I've always made. A "faculty of conscious action" is an animal's faculty and the use of the word "especially" leaves room for this. So I usually take "will" to imply "animal consciousness" and "free will" always to imply "human consciousness".

In fact, in a serious conversation, if someone used just the term "will" I would want to specify whether they mean "free will" or not. Of course if it was a serious conversation I would use the concept "volition", though even there, if you are talking with a determinist, you would still have to nail down what they mean by "volition".

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