According to Stephan Hawking, “Free will is an illusion…” Who am I to argue?

Free Will Requires Determinism, John Baer


According to Stephan Hawking, “Free will is an illusion…” Who am I to argue?


“Determinism is a theory or belief that events, including acts of the will, occurrences in nature, and social or psychological phenomena, are causally determined by preceding events and natural laws…..The opposite of Determinism is indeterminism, and indeterminism is totally incompatible with any notion that we are in control of what we do.”

On the tiniest, subatomic quark level of quantum mechanics and physics there is, in our perception, randomness which leads to randomness on a larger scale.  Yes, this is the current belief system.  This subatomic randomness is so incomprehensible and so small that it may or may not affect humans in our day to day dealings.  But, energy is energy. And, according to Baer, determinism and indeterminism are not different, just variants of degree.

If we do live in a world where chance is the rule and natural laws are not, then we really don’t have any control-everything is left up to randomness and chance.  On the other hand, the very idea of free will means that the person has the ability to make a decision and implement actions according to their will or force.  There is nothing random about that. Free will must have some sort of structure. Baer argues that humans possess logic and utilize that logic to steer their way through the orderly and random universe.  This logical reasoning along with often illogical emotional reasoning shape the decisions and in turn the actions we take.  The larger question is, where does this logic come from?  Is it innate or formed as a result of our breeding, rearing, education, environment, and experience?  Well, yes. We are a sum of are parts.  But, are we more than that?  How is it that siblings can be so vastly different? How is it that twins separated at birth can be so eerily similar? Is it free will or strictly determinism?

“Free will means having the power to do different things, and to choose to so what makes the most sense at the moment. It means we will choose what it is most in out natures at any moment to do.”

The sum of your parts at any given moment matter in the way you act and react in the world.  We are predictable and follow trends.  We are easy to read and when we are random, that can be determined as well. I strongly believe in cause and effect.  I definitely see the chain reaction of life unfolding before my eyes.  I no longer believe that we have free will for the sake of independence but I also don’t think the answer is that simple.  I can select the dress I am going to wear but my taste has been determined.  I can select the dinner I will prepare, but my taste has been determined.  I can observe certain are, take in a movie, listen to music, but all of these decisions have been influenced by my past.  Everything in my past leads me to who and what I am today. I agree that the only kind of free will is deterministic free will.


Descartes’ Meditations IV


“There is nothing either good or bad,
but thinking makes it so.” Hamlet

In past work with Descartes, Meditations, and the quest to establish what is certain, I have always failed to see how he can prove the existence of god in Meditations III, and therefore everything that follows falls apart in my opinion.  Perhaps “god” (in the political and religious environment of 1639-1642) is semantics for “energy” (as in quantum physics), which I can give more credence to.  That said, I will remove my personal judgment and consider Meditations IV.

If I’ve gotten everything in me from God and He hasn’t given me the ability to make errors, it doesn’t seem possible for me ever to error… I thus understand that, in itself, error is a lack, rather than a real thing dependent on God. Hence, I understand that I can err without God’s having given me a special ability to do so… If I suspend judgement when I don’t clearly and distinctly grasp what is true, I obviously do right and am not deceived. But, if I either affirm or deny in a case of this sort, I misuse my freedom of choice. If I affirm what is false, I clearly err, and, if I stumble onto the truth, I’m still blameworthy since the light of nature reveals that a perception of the understanding should always precede a decision of the will. In these misuses of freedom of choice lies the deprivation that accounts for error. And this deprivation, I maintain, lies in the working of the will insofar as it comes from me

Essentially, Descartes is waxing that god is infinite, infallible, and good and since god created him, he must at least possess those qualities.  He ruminates, that in fact, he does not possess those qualities, because he is not god. He is able to make errors and missteps precisely because he is not god.  God gifted him with understanding and will.  If he, Descartes, adheres solely to understanding and will, he is incapable of making errors, but because he is human and not god, it is inevitable that he will make errors in life.  In some triangular or circular reasoning, Descartes is attempting to argue that because god created him, and he can’t fully understand god, he utilizes amounts of free will or understanding to make decisions both perfect and not.  He also tries to reason that because he can conceptualize god that god must be real, and because he knows god is perfect and Descartes is capable of errors, that he must be imperfect and therefore he has free will. Of course, all of this is by design because god has a macro-plan and humans can’t begin to fathom god or god’s plan.

I like Descartes, I really do.  He makes me think. But, in this instance, and for the purpose of discussing the existence or not of free will, I just can’t follow his arguments.  I would first need to be convinced, by his arguments in Meditations III that god exists in order to be convinced that god imparted understanding and free will or the lack of onto lowly, imperfect humans.  Perhaps, over the course of further discussion I will be able to consider the possibilities and then apply them to the questions at hand.  Do we have free will, are we responsible for our actions, and what role-if any, does god play in the whole scheme of our lives.  It is indifference and misunderstanding that lead us to poor choices therefore it’s not necessarily free will allowing mistakes insomuch as it is ignorance. The god concept seems to allow for a big human pass on responsibility.  God made me do it, god made me think it, god said it was right or wrong or indifferent.  Until I know for sure that there is this grand puppeteer: god, I cannot be convinced that humans deserve this kind of pass.  I also feel sorry for this alleged god, why should “he” have to bear the brunt of all of man’s failings, missteps, mistakes, and atrocities?  That seems pretty unlikely and unfair, but pretty human to me.

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