Examination of "free will"
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Posted 10/26/08 , edited 10/26/08
Let's define "free will"

Three words we'll be looking at.
Free: not hampered; not under compulsion or restraint;
Will: a fixed and persistent intent or purpose, want or desire;
Choice: An option; a decision; an opportunity to choose or select something;

With those definitions, let's look at the word sequence "free will", its meaning should amount to something like:
A fixed and persistent intent or purpose, not hampered, and not arrived at under compulsion or restraint.
In other words the only true "free will" (based on that definition) is a will devoid of the experiences of the consequences to an action. For that experience will urge or restrain our will. Just as the experience of sexual pleasure urges our will to have sex, and the experience of bodily pain restrains our will to cause bodily harm to ourselves.

Choice however, is slightly different and often confused with will. Will is within, it is the inner-most desire. While choice is without, it is the decision made based on the possibilities given to us by the world. In other words, will is our desire, and choice is the actualization of that desire into the real world. It can also be understood that some choices we face are the wills of others imposing themselves upon us, through the medium of the material world.

These two are also related such that Will evaluates the consequences if they are made apparent by the choices presented to us. Then according to the individual's criteria of desire, the most suitable choice is found and a decision is made. Therefor if the consequences of a choice are capable of being evaluated by our will, and if they are made apparent, then the decision we make is bound by the evaluation of our will. If that occurs, then it cannot be completely unhampered and therefor it cannot be free. The only true "free choice" is a choice where either the consequences are not made known, or they are not able to be evaluated.

Will, being the composite result of our body's feedback mechanisms for it's interactions with the world, also cannot be free as long as we retain a body which can feel and experience.

Those who speak of "free choice" are usually using it to mean
"Freedom to evaluate the choices and make a decision according to your own will."
Using our definition:
"To be unhampered in the evaluation of the possibilities given to you by the world and deciding on the best possibility based on your own inner-most desires."
And those who speak of "free will" are usually referring to "free choice"

In our world today, filled with fleshy bodies touching, tasting, seeing, hearing, smelling and feeling, belief that cognitive beings can consciously have "free will" is like believing the third dimension can harbor a round-square. The sentient can have will but they cannot be free and the insentient can be free because they do not have will.
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Posted 10/26/08 , edited 10/26/08
Was it entirely necessary to break free-will down like that? It just feels a little verbose when you can just find the definition of free will itself. Here, I’ll copy and paste it:

Power of independent action and choice: the ability to act or make choices as a free and autonomous being and not solely as a result of compulsion or predestination Encarta ® World English Dictionary © & (P) 1998-2004 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

The key-note to this definition is that it says “not solely a result of.” In other words motivation doesn’t destroy free will. Our thoughts also have a say in our decision making process, and ultimately it’s our thoughts that make a choice. Human beings are not mechanical creatures who react like a mouse-trap.

I can want to have sex and decide not to. So, I’m urged to have sex but I still have free will because I’m not forced to do it.

Even by your definition we have free will. We’re urged to our actions aren’t a result of those urgings. Our actions are based off of the choice to give into those urges. Ultimately, however, it’s our decision.
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Posted 10/26/08 , edited 10/27/08

SeraphAlford wrote:

Was it entirely necessary to break free-will down like that? It just feels a little verbose when you can just find the definition of free will itself. Here, I’ll copy and paste it:

Power of independent action and choice: the ability to act or make choices as a free and autonomous being and not solely as a result of compulsion or predestination Encarta ® World English Dictionary © & (P) 1998-2004 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

The key-note to this definition is that it says “not solely a result of.” In other words motivation doesn’t destroy free will. Our thoughts also have a say in our decision making process, and ultimately it’s our thoughts that make a choice. Human beings are not mechanical creatures who react like a mouse-trap.

I can want to have sex and decide not to. So, I’m urged to have sex but I still have free will because I’m not forced to do it.

Even by your definition we have free will. We’re urged to our actions aren’t a result of those urgings. Our actions are based off of the choice to give into those urges. Ultimately, however, it’s our decision.


In case you don't feel like reading all this, skip to end.

One of the main reasons I broke down the definition of free will so much is to compare and contrast it to free choice and to explore their actual meanings instead of their consensually accepted meanings(like Encarta's). That aside, let's first assess the assertions in your statement.

The assumption that "Human beings are not mechanical creatures who react like a mouse-trap." has no backing evidence and can be easily attacked. I could just as easily assume that "Human beings are like complex mechanical creatures who react like a complex mouse-trap." and given the discoveries on human anatomy(DNA/RNA, receptors, enzymes etc.), along with behavioral psychology(mental conditioning), I'd say my claim was more scientifically sound.

Your example: "I can want to have sex and decide not to. So, I’m urged to have sex but I still have free will because I’m not forced to do it."
I disagree with the second part. You have free choice because you're not forced to do it, but you do not have free will because you're forced to desire it. If you had read carefully what I had written above, you would see the striking resemblance to one of my examples. Let me break your example down a bit so it's easier to see. I'll also add some additional text to make it easier to see the entire structure of the thought process.

"I can want to have sex and" (Will)
--for some reason-- (Evaluation of choice consequences)
"decide not to." (Choice based on consequence that best fits Will)

End
I've made the distinction earlier between choice and will. Just because someone desires a particularity, but chooses to give it up for the sake of some reason, does not mean that individual has commanded their will to discard the desire. They simply choose to take the alternative due to some reason. That is a freedom of choice, not a freedom of will.

Will = urges, desires(remember, desire can include: desire to NOT go to jail, desire to NOT get a girl pregnant, desire to NOT catch an STD etc.)
Choice = action taken to satiate Will

*Free choice here is used in it's frequent definition, not the definition I had given it in my first post.
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Posted 10/26/08
man free will should be %100 applied! If I feel like killing some one, I should have the free will to "choose" to do so..

Not that I would want to kill some one. but its good to know that I have the option to do so.
Posted 10/27/08 , edited 10/27/08
Free will does not necessarily give you true freedom.
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Posted 12/25/08
free will, i think its another word for:
god wont help you with your problems because your suposesivly "free"
its just an excuse for christians to explain why the world is so fucked up
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