Free Will & Determinism
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From the Free Press: A belief in free will touches nearly everything that human beings value. It is difficult to think about law, politics, religion, public policy, intimate relationships, morality—as well as feelings of remorse or personal achievement—without first imagining that every person is the true source of his or her thoughts and actions. And yet the facts tell us that free will is an illusion. In this enlightening book, Sam Harris argues that this truth about the human mind does not undermine morality or diminish the importance of social and political freedom, but it can and should change the way we think about some of the most important questions in life.
Free will is the ability of agents to make choices unconstrained by certain factors. Factors of historical concern have included metaphysical constraints (for example, logical, nomological, or theological determinism ), physical constraints (for example, chains or imprisonment), social constraints (for example, threat of punishment or censure, or structural constraints), and mental constraints (for example, compulsions or phobias, neurological disorders, or genetic predispositions). The principle of free will has religious , legal , ethical , and scientific implications. [ 1 ] For example, in the religious realm, free will implies that individual will and choices can coexist with an omnipotent divinity . In the law, it affects considerations of punishment and rehabilitation . In ethics, it may hold implications for whether individuals can be held morally accountable for their actions.
Determinism is a metaphysical philosophical position stating that for everything that happens there are conditions such that, given those conditions, nothing else could happen. "There are many determinisms, depending upon what pre-conditions are considered to be determinative of an event." [ 1 ] Deterministic theories throughout the history of philosophy have sprung from diverse motives and considerations, some of which overlap. Some forms of determinism can be tested empirically with ideas stemming from physics and the philosophy of physics . The opposite of determinism is some kind of indeterminism (otherwise called nondeterminism ). Determinism is often contrasted with free will . [ 2 ] Determinism often is taken to mean simply causal determinism , which in physics is the idea known as cause-and-effect.
Hard determinists believe people are like highly complex clocks - in that they are both molecular machines [ citation needed ] Hard determinism (or metaphysical determinism ) is a view on free will which holds that determinism is true, and that it is incompatible with free will , and, therefore, that free will does not exist. Although hard determinism generally refers to nomological determinism , [ 1 ] it can also be a position taken with respect to other forms of determinism that necessitate the future in its entirety. [ 2 ] Hard determinism is contrasted with soft determinism , which is a compatibilist form of determinism, holding that free will may exist despite determinism. [ 3 ] It is also contrasted with metaphysical libertarianism , the other major form of incompatibilism which holds that free will exists and determinism is false. [ edit ] Overview
Is free will real, or is just one of our happy illusions? As it turns out, the answer might not matter as much as our belief in the answer does. A recent study showed that, when people’s belief in free will was experimentally reduced, pre-conscious motor preparation, or that activity that precedes action, in the brain was delayed by more than one second relative to those who believed in free will – an eternity in brain time. Finding free will in the brain For over fifty years, almost all the way up to his death in 2007, Benjamin Libet studied the neural correlates of consciousness.
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