Determinism vs Free Will

Free will concerns the ability of your mind to make its independent choices.  Crucially, who makes those choices?  Consider the evidence.  When you begin to talk, your nervous system has already assigned control of your speech to an emotion. It has articulated an idea around the emotion, chosen apt words, arranged them in lexical and grammatical order and adjusted the pitch of your voice. When you have no conscious idea of what words you will use, how can you ever think that you have a free will?  But, imagine that you have, in reality, the ownership of an absolutely free will.

Actually, the causal, logical or theological determinists suggest that there is no freedom at all. According to them, an act of will, which is the inevitable result of a series of causes from the beginning of time, can never be free. Since the known cosmos is the outcome of causes and effects, all human choices can only be the result of earlier causes.

According to determinists, only an entity outside the physical world, a soul, a mind independent of the body, or “a ghost in the machine” can have a free will.  Only God can be imagined as having unlimited freedom of choice.  While it is self evident that human freedom has limits, this article defines "free will" as the freedom to make intelligent choices, (not random ones), within reasonable limits. While even such freedom can also be chalked up to be limited, imagine that, in reality, nature has uniquely designed humans to have an astonishingly sophisticated free will.

  • A plane on autopilot can be considered to have the freedom to make a few choices. In the human mind, the final choice is not made by a conscious awareness, a conscience, or even animal instincts. The mind is more or less imprisoned in a deterministic world.
  • Causal, logical and theological determinists deny the existence of a free will.
  • Christianity, Islam, Hunduism and Buddhism hold varying views on determinism.
  • Within the triune human brain, inherited codes decide the shift of controls between different levels of consciousness.
  • Benjamin Libet's experiments suggest that conscious awareness does not decide, but merely mirrors neural functions.
  • Conscious awareness may be a non physical emergent property of the mind, but it does not make decisions.
  • The Kezwer approach can help you to check out the WASP controls, which limit the freedom of your will.
  • Ultimately, inherited codes decide the switch between entities within the triune brain. Free will operates within these limitations.
  • Consequentialist approaches to crime and punishment are still justified, because they impact the deep inherited wisdom of the mind.

Determinism VS Free Will - A Deterministic Prison
Even a machine can be said to have a limited freedom, if its internal mechanisms makes a few informed choices. The autopilot on an airplane makes navigational choices.  Those are intelligent choices  made by its own internal mechanism, by responding automatically to preset destinations, wind and speed conditions.  The plane is free  to make that limited set of intelligent choices.

A choice becomes an act of will, when it is not random, but is intelligently initiated.  
Nature has designed the nervous system to be free to make good or evil decisions.  Human beings have three pivotal intelligences, which participate in the decision process  - conscious awareness, a conscience and animal instincts.  If animal instincts are in control, the mind freely makes foolish choices.  If human conscience is in charge, it is also free to make its nobler choices.  Nature has granted the system the ability to learn to control its lower instincts and allow better choices by a wiser inner intelligence.  Only the minds of a few great saints have been able to make truly wise choices.

Determinism VS Free Will -  Causal, Logical And Theological
Determinists hold that everything, including our choices, are the necessary results of a sequence of causes. Chrysippus said “Everything that happens is followed by something else which depends on it by causal necessity. Likewise, everything that happens is preceded by something with which it is causally connected. For nothing exists or has come into being in the cosmos without a cause. The universe will be disrupted and disintegrate into pieces and cease to be a unity functioning as a single system, if any uncaused movement is introduced into it.”

Causal determinists propose the Laplace's demon thought experiment. Imagine an entity, which knows all the laws of nature and all past and present facts. Such an entity will theoretically predict exactly how you will act. Logical determinists suggest that since a future event is either true, or false, your action tomorrow can only be the action, which is one of two possible true predictions today. For theological determinists, an omnipotent entity has decided and knows your action tomorrow. In all three cases, a free will is impossible. But, there are compatibilists, who believe that a free will can coexist with determinism.

Determinism vs Free Will -  Religious Views
Religions generally support the concept of a free will, while believing in an omnipotent creator. The primary approach of Christian belief makes free choice logically impossible. But, the philosopher Kierkegaard suggested that divine omnipotence cannot be separated from divine goodness. A good God could create beings with true freedom over God, because "the greatest good ... which can be done for a being, greater than anything else that one can do for it, is to be truly free."

According to Islamic doctrine free will is the main factor for man's accountability. All actions taken by man's free will are said to be counted on the Day of Judgment, because they are his own and not God's. The concept of karma in Hinduism is generally linked to the determination of a person's destiny in future lives.

For Buddhism, the idea that a person has complete freedom of choice is foolish, because it denies the reality of one's physical needs and circumstances. Equally incorrect is the idea that we have no choice in life or that our lives are predetermined. To deny freedom would be to undermine the efforts of Buddhists to make moral progress, freely choosing compassionate action.

Determinism vs Free Will -The Triune Brain
The Inherited Codes of the triune brainconfine the human mind within a deterministic prison. An intuitive decision making process swiftly switches the human levels of consciousness between the raw emotions of a reptilian brain, the social restrictions of a mammalian brain and the rational common sense of RI, a prefrontal brain. Those Codes restrict your choices. Imagine the command center of a business, where a set of rules pass controls between several competing business units. The codes restrict the access of the command center strictly to the advice of the business unit in charge. Since controls are shifted according to rules, neither the business units, nor the command center are free to make decisions. The same for you. Inherited Codes grant precedence to anger signals. Your amygdala takes charge. Your consciousness has awareness only of the reasons for anger. Deterministic rules envelop you in anger and silence the will of your common sense.

Determinism vs Free Will -  Consciousness Is Merely A Mirror
Without your permission, you shift between different levels of consciousness. You are just a belated observer of the activities of your mind. Benjamin Libet studied subjects who voluntarily pressed a button, while noting the position of a dot on a computer screen, which shifted its position every 43 milliseconds. The noted moment of depressing the button was the moment of conscious awareness; the exact instant the subject thought the button was pressed. Each time, Libet had also timed the beginning of motor neuron activity in the brains of his subjects. He discovered that awareness occurred 350 milliseconds AFTER the beginning of motor activity. When you strike out in anger, the system has already enveloped you in an angry level of consciousness. Your conscious awareness lives in a deterministic world.

Determinism vs Free Will -  An Emergent Consciousness
A free will is conceivable if your consciousness exists outside the physical world. While science has discovered the neural correlates of consciousness, nothing in the physical world can explain your subjective experience of the three dimensional world of color, sound and sensations. While billions of nerve cells fire to enable you to subconsciously recognize the ideas in this page, or manage your heartbeat and breathing, there is an entity, scientifically linked to a small fraction of the multi-billion cell network, which sees the words on this page - conscious awareness.

In the theory of complex systems, emergence is the effect, where new patterns arise out of myriad simple interactions. New properties do emerge at higher levels of complexity. Psychology emerges from biology and biology from chemistry. The whole completely differs from the sum of its parts. Could consciousness emerge into a non physical knowledge dimension as the complexity of a neural network increases? But even if consciousness is nonphysical, Libet's experiments suggest that it still does not control the system. Consciousness shifts powerlessly between its own conflicting levels.

Determinism vs Free Will -  The Kezwer Approach
A study of free will delves into the decision making processes of your mind. The best way to conduct this inquiry is to conduct a few thought experiments. Glen Kezwer advocated using your own mind as a research lab to study experience. "The cost to the government exchequer and the people is nil, no research grants need be applied for, no progress reports are necessary and there is no need to be concerned about the renewal of funding. There is also no pressure to publish papers, technical reports or books on the experiment." Look within your own mind and decide if your will is free.

Determinism vs Free Will -  A Helpless Will
Within the triune brain, the prefrontal region is known to be the seat of judgment, with the ability to decide on the moral implications of a course of action. When the will of the prefrontal region makes decisions, a person exercises his will. The philosopher Rudolf Steiner suggested that true freedom of action existed only “when conscious awareness was integrated with moral imagination in making decisions.” Free will is the freedom of the individual to choose a course of action without external coercion in accordance with his/her ideals or moral outlook.

Try this thought experiment. Can your will raise your hand? Yes, when you are sitting quietly in your room. But, suppose you are in an elevator with other passengers. Then, it is inappropriate to raise your arms. If you will this action in that situation, it will not happen. If you continue the Kezwer experiments, you will find that your will is overruled, when an action is not Worthwhile, Appropriate, Safe, or Practical (WASP). It is obvious that will, as expressed by the prefrontal regions, is by no means free.

Determinism vs Free Will -  A Coded Decision Making Process
This website describes an intuitive decision making process by the limbic system, where feedback/feed forward circuits shift controls, based on Inherited Codes, between the emotions triggered from your reptilian/mammalian brains and your will, expressed by your human prefrontal brain.

Paul Eckman, the famous emotions scientist acknowledges this lack of conscious controls. "We become aware a quarter, or half second after the emotion begins. I do not choose to have an emotion, to become afraid, or to become angry. I am suddenly angry. I can usually figure out later what someone did that caused the emotion." The Inherited Codes in the limbic system decide, whether you should be angry, or afraid. That is hardly the prescription for a free will. You live life within an undeniably a deterministic system.

It can always be argued that, within the limitations of WASP, a person, who has gained complete control over his emotions, can be expected to be able to completely exercise his free will. But, in a general view of determinism and free wiil, this limited freedom to act can hardly be considered to be an exercise of a true "Free Will." The system still will not permit you to act against the WASP controls.

Determinism vs Free Will -Moral Responsibility & Determinism
In the present day systems of justice, jurors have a libertarian view of free will and moral responsibility. At the extreme end, no person can be responsible for an action, which could have been predicted from the beginning of time. Neither can a person be blamed, if his action was randomly generated by his nervous system. In real life also, neither will, emotions, or levels of consciousness can decide, without being over ruled by the Inherited Codes, which switch controls between them, within the triune brain. Even damage to the prefrontal regions reduces a person's judgment and increases the possibility of violent crime.

The real existence of a deterministic system can lawfully question the true responsibility of a guilty party. But, the Inherited Codes, which switch control systems within the triune brain have vast inherited and acquired knowledge. Those Codes enable the system to have a powerful intuitive perception of the concept of crime and punishment.

Those Inherited Codes apply the WASP controls, which rule the system. Those Codes know the consequences of crime. Consequentialist approaches to justice, aimed to promote future welfare rather than mete out just deserts, are needed, in spite of the deterministic restrictions on free will. The Inherited Codes are determinsitic, but intuitively wise. They will respond logically to the possibility of consequences.

This page was last updated on 31-Dec-2013.

JUST THINK...   What happens when you begin to talk? Your nervous system has picked an emotion. It has articulated an idea around it, chosen apt words from a vocabulary of thousands of words, arranged them in lexical and grammatical order and adjusted the pitch of your voice. Before you speak you've no consciousness of the words you will use. Who's actually in charge?  This question leads to the question "What is consciousness itself?" Is consciousness a spirit living in a human body?  Is it a mystical life form that emerges from the nervous system?  This is the hard problem of consciousness.