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Does free will exist?

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Vercetti Gangsta

There's no such thing as free will in it's literal sense. That whatever you do; however you act - you're doing it freely! Gravity is not a free will is it? I'd like to fly, but gravity forces me not to! wow.gif


Even in the sense of society... Free will doesn't exist at a lot of places. Conscription... How is that free will? Enforcement to do military duties?


Whenever we're born... That's a breach of free will. You didn't ask to be born, did ya? tounge.gif Also the same way you get linked to a country and nationality and whatever laws that country is led by...

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It's not really something that requires a discussion. An explanation perhaps, but asking if there is a free will is sort of like asking, "Do you think there is gravity?"


The state of the universe at every moment of time from beginning to whatever end it has is fully determined. When universe is viewed as a whole, it just is. There are no events and there is no time flow. The time in it is just a dimension, no different than any spacial dimension. Well, except for the metric, but that's a different discussion. Point is, in a system like that, there is no such thing as a decision. Every point in space and time is completely determined by its neighbors, these are determined by their neighbors, and so on.


The problem is that this description of the universe has very little to do with how we perceive it. When you look at the world around you, there is an inherent division of the universe into "you" and the "rest of the world". And when you start describing universe like this, some very interesting things happen. I don't want to get into details right now, because this is quantum physics. I'd need to write pages of text just to help you make some sense of it. You can pick up some details from Wiki article on Many Worlds Interpretation.* The key factors here are that in this description, you now have time, events, and even choices, if the choice of "you" happened to be an intelligent agent.


For a nice picture of what this looks like, imagine a complicated network, like a spider web. The web as a whole is the universe. It is unchanging, uneventful, and there is no such thing as choice within it. If you now trace a particular path through this web, this is a particular history**. It has a time line, sequences of events, causality, and within it, decisions matter. Your own life lies within one of such paths. Your decisions affect which turns you'll make and where you'll end up. The choice is completely yours. In a way, you have more freedom here than most people think, because it is only your choices that matter. Other people simply respond to your choices in a determined way. You are the only one who is in control of your life. On the other hand, of course, nothing you do changes the universe as a whole, and all the other ways that the events could have turned out. If you choose to help an old lady to cross the road, the other history, where you did not, still exists. What's worse, it is still you in that alternative history, and it was your choice not to help. Nothing you do changes that. Your choice is only of which history you get to watch, not what does and what does not happen. So nothing you do will ever actually matter. The universe as a whole remains absolutely unchanged.


Do you want to call this "free will"? That's really up to you. But this is all you get.



* If you do read the article, note that Copenhagen Interpretation doesn't suggest anything different. It's just an alternative way of presenting history.

** This is essentially Copenhagen Interpretation. When you treat each branching as a collapse to form a unique history line, this is exactly like selecting a single path out of all possible paths.

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