The Free Will/Determinism Paradox

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The Free Will/Determinism Paradox Most of us humans, I would guess, prefer to think we have free will. That is, we prefer to think we are able to make choices or decisions based upon our own unique volitions. Such thought appeals to our vanities. If we make “good” choices and decisions, our self-esteem is elevated, and this gives us pleasure. On the other hand, most of our knowledge leads us in the direction of believing the universe’s functions are deterministic. That is, our knowledge tells us that choice is not necessary to our description of the universe. Events occur as a result of the events which preceeded them. For example, if we strike the cue-ball properly, the 8-ball will be knocked into the billiard table pocket which we intended. We have developed a paradox in our thinking. How can we have free will and the remainder of the universe be deterministic? Our attempts at resolution have been primarily religion oriented. This resolution presumes that we humans are special within the universe. The devine creator gave us free will. Simple as that! The downside of such resolution is that it is not based upon knowledge. It is faith. We might argue that it is an a priori principle. However, this position is tenuous since none of our observation or data support this principle. The logical resolution is to postulate that we do not possess free will. Rather, we have the impression of free will because we do not know all the factors and events which determine our choices or decisions. Therefore, in the presence of inadequate knowledge, we have an illusion of free will, but with more knowledge we would be able to see the determinism in our actions. Another attempt at resolution of the free will/determinism paradox has evolved from the incorporation of probability theory into modern physics. Probability theory is based upon the concept that outcomes of events can be confined within a set of possible outcomes. Further, knowing the characteristics of the set of possible outcomes allows us to make predictions as to what the most probable outcomes will be. Thus, modern physical theories may be thought of as a blend of free will with determinism. A specific event outcome is not determined, but the outcome of many such events (the set of possible outcomes) is determined. For example, we cannot say when a specific radioactive molecule will decay, but w... ... middle of paper ... ...ity is analogous to defining the characteristics of randomness even though true randomness does not exist. So what are some of the characteristics of free will? I believe the principal characteristic of free will is that whatever choices or decisions we make, these choices or decisions should be dependent upon the character or state of our individual being. That is, I make choices or decisions based upon who I am. My choices or decisions are not random, nor are they the direct result of someone else’s being. This is achieved in a determined universe, not an undetermined universe. In a determined universe, I am the product of all events which I or my ancestors have experienced. I am a unique being and my choices or decisions are the result of who I am! Thus, I have the principal characteristic of free will even though the universe is determined. In conclusion, the real paradox of free will/determinism is that free will can exist only in a determined universe. In order to exercise our free will, our actions must have the potential to effect the outcome of events. Our actions cannot effect an event outcome unless there is a cause-effect relationship. Cause-effect is determinism.
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