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Jesse Screed

Is freewill a hoax?

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Posted (edited)

The notion of free will is mainly pushed by those who are in a position to have more choices in the first place. It is a stable of middle class capitalists for example. It goes something like this: People have the freedom to make choices in their lives, those who make good choices will have a successful and happy life and should be respected for their good choices and seen as beacons for the rest of us. Those who make bad choices will have an unsuccessful and unhappy life but it's their fault due to their incompetence in decision making and we should condemn them. They brought it upon themselves.

This is also pushed by various religious authorities who will site their written dogma as being "good choices" and if you deviate from their dogma, you are engaging in "bad choices". This notion of free will and decision making is lapped up by many as it gives us the feeling that we have total control over our lives, it makes us feel safe and secure. All we have to do is make good choices and we will be ok, those who make bad choices, well, they got what they deserve. It follows then that anyone who succeeds has done so because of their great character and decision making but anyone who doesn't make it in our society or struggles, it's their fault for their poor character, bad choices and decision making.

The problem is, people can and do end up "successful" and happy through little input of their own. They are simply born healthy into a family, society and/or business  that is already healthy and prosperous. They lead a sheltered life with little empathy for those less successful because they personally have never experienced hardship. It is essential to their self esteem that they believe they ended up where they did because of their own efforts and that those who are less fortunate ended up where they did due to their incompetence.

Conversely, people can also be born unhealthy into a family and/or society that is poverty ridden with high crime and drugs. From childhood, they learn to navigate their world according to it's rules and what they are physically and mentally capable of doing. Very often, they are just trying to survive within that world. They also very often cannot escape that world because there are no opportunities around them and because they are rejected by the more successful. They also don't have the mental framework or education to allow them to step up and all of their social resources exist in that world. they may also have physical limitations in what they can do.

It is essential to their self esteem that they believe they are doing the best they can given their circumstances and those who are better off than them were either given a silver spoon or are probably rich, distrustful criminals.

Did both these groups of people arrive at their destinations due to exercising their "free will"? We all fall somewhere in between these groups, if not align exactly with them, all of us, no exceptions. Life is more about serendipity, ladders and statistics than it is "free will". We may luckily be born into a favorable environment, we may have the ability to recognize or be given ladders by others so we can step up. These can be simple advice or practical help etc and then we may recognize or not that we can adjust our lives according to statistics. You can control a bit what happens to you by recognizing how to place yourself statistically in life. Don't want cancer? don't smoke, have a good diet and exercise. Don't want a car accident? drive sensibly, own a safe car and don't drive a black car :)

Maslow's hierarchy  of values shows that in order for anyone to reach a place of "self actualization" where they have control and power over their own direction, a number of other factors have to be taken care of first.

Edited by Tezza

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Then tell me your version. But without the personal insults thanks.

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Attacking someone's ideas is not a personal insult. 

 

But you can certainly freely choose to react as if it is....

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3 hours ago, Byron Dickens said:

You have a very childish idea of what free will entails.

 

That was an insult.   A very childish one.

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Posted (edited)
10 hours ago, Tezza said:

The notion of free will is mainly pushed by those who are in a position to have more choices in the first place. It is a stable of middle class capitalists for example. It goes something like this: People have the freedom to make choices in their lives, those who make good choices will have a successful and happy life and should be respected for their good choices and seen as beacons for the rest of us. Those who make bad choices will have an unsuccessful and unhappy life but it's their fault due to their incompetence in decision making and we should condemn them. They brought it upon themselves.

This is also pushed by various religious authorities who will site their written dogma as being "good choices" and if you deviate from their dogma, you are engaging in "bad choices". This notion of free will and decision making is lapped up by many as it gives us the feeling that we have total control over our lives, it makes us feel safe and secure. All we have to do is make good choices and we will be ok, those who make bad choices, well, they got what they deserve. It follows then that anyone who succeeds has done so because of their great character and decision making but anyone who doesn't make it in our society or struggles, it's their fault for their poor character, bad choices and decision making.

The problem is, people can and do end up "successful" and happy through little input of their own. They are simply born healthy into a family, society and/or business  that is already healthy and prosperous. They lead a sheltered life with little empathy for those less successful because they personally have never experienced hardship. It is essential to their self esteem that they believe they ended up where they did because of their own efforts and that those who are less fortunate ended up where they did due to their incompetence.

Conversely, people can also be born unhealthy into a family and/or society that is poverty ridden with high crime and drugs. From childhood, they learn to navigate their world according to it's rules and what they are physically and mentally capable of doing. Very often, they are just trying to survive within that world. They also very often cannot escape that world because there are no opportunities around them and because they are rejected by the more successful. They also don't have the mental framework or education to allow them to step up and all of their social resources exist in that world. they may also have physical limitations in what they can do.

It is essential to their self esteem that they believe they are doing the best they can given their circumstances and those who are better off than them were either given a silver spoon or are probably rich, distrustful criminals.

Did both these groups of people arrive at their destinations due to exercising their "free will"? We all fall somewhere in between these groups, if not align exactly with them, all of us, no exceptions. Life is more about serendipity, ladders and statistics than it is "free will". We may luckily be born into a favorable environment, we may have the ability to recognize or be given ladders by others so we can step up. These can be simple advice or practical help etc and then we may recognize or not that we can adjust our lives according to statistics. You can control a bit what happens to you by recognizing how to place yourself statistically in life. Don't want cancer? don't smoke, have a good diet and exercise. Don't want a car accident? drive sensibly, own a safe car and don't drive a black car :)

Maslow's hierarchy  of values shows that in order for anyone to reach a place of "self actualization" where they have control and power over their own direction, a number of other factors have to be taken care of first.

I think what you're getting at is(and I agree) that one has to take into account power relationships.  There's the power of society over us and us over society...etc, etc. most of the pseudo-sciences look at man in his milieu and not him just staring at his navel on some remote deserted island eating a coconut.  

Edited by David Sprouse
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Posted (edited)

Tezza the argument you make seems to make financial security and life status the end all of human accomplishment. The ultimate human goal. It also does not take into account that people in poverty can move beyond it and that rich people can loose their money. It also does not take into account that there are happy well adjusted people who are not rich and miserable unhappy wealthy people. If money and status were the only important goals everyone who has money would be happy and everyone who is poor  would be seeking wealth because that's the only way to be happy. Many who are poor don't ever make it outside of poverty, but many do. What is the difference between them?  There are various reasons for poverty. Local economic conditions, laziness, poor planning, bad management, addiction. Did you happen to notice that many of these are  choices ? Just because one is born into poverty does not mean they are stuck in poverty. What are some reasons people escape poverty? They think outside of the box, they work hard, they seize opportunity. You didn't mention all of the states in between poverty and wealth. Most people have enough but aren't wealthy.  This can also be a choice. Wealthy people who are born into wealth can still go out and blow daddy's fortune. I've seen it happen. Wealth is not a determining factor in success, work and ingenuity are. Wealth can guarantee more opportunity if you already have it and use it wisely. This does not negate the potential of the less fortunate. All fortunes were started from nothing. All of that involved choices...................and free will.

And yes, making bad choices makes bad outcomes. Irregardless of the choices anyone else makes or what your present circumstances are you can still make bad choices that have bad outcomes. Happens all the time.

Edited by Starise

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Yes, I agree that tragedy can happen to anyone regardless of rich or poor, the rich have a buffer to protect them to some extent but that doesn't take into account time. If somebody is injured or disabled in some way, mental or physical and it doesn't go away then 10 - 20 years later, their money runs out. I've worked with people who used to be lawyers, police, judges and bank managers as well as some high flying corporate business owners. Their money protected them for a while but then it ran out and so did their friends and family in many cases. They lost both their finances and their social resources and ended up on a pension, struggling to get by on their own and then referred to me to see what I could do to make their lives better. Everyone who came to see me had a story.

It's rarer to see rich people end up in this situation but it happens with long term problems. All of these people made good and even exceptional choices when they were healthy so it's not like the had to learn anything in this regard, it's just that through no fault of their own (usually) they ended up in a situation that was never going to change, even with good choices and "free will". The choices are no longer available and their free will has been curtailed.

In today's society a certain amount of money is necessary to be able to do things and having social resources (friends/family) is also important.

I don't agree with your concept of poverty, in my experience, usually there are reasons for poverty that go beyond blaming the individual for making bad choices. Mental illness, physical disablement, social isolation, geographic isolation, terrible parental upbringing, lack of education and of course having limited or no money. These are generally the reasons why they have poor planning, bad management etc They can't "learn" their way out of this nor can they exercise their free will to change any of it because they either don't know how to change it, don't know they even need to change it or they are mentally incapable of changing it or they just don't have the resources to change it, or all four.

We take a lot of things about our brain for granted but imagine for a moment that you suddenly lost the ability to concentrate or to make decisions or to organize your thoughts or your memory became faulty or your ability to recognize events, faces or situations disappeared or your comprehension ability disappeared. Mental illness can do this and you only need to lose one of these functions and you are in a lot of trouble. You can't learn your way out of it because it is a cognitive dysfunction, the ability just isn't there anymore. It might be temporary or it might be long term. How can people be blamed for making bad choices if their actual ability to make choices is impaired. Free will isn't going to help either, relying on intuition can be dangerous because your thought processes are so impaired. You can't get a job like this or even plot a course out of it.

Addiction is not so easy to dismiss as a choice, especially if the addiction started when they were children. I once dragged an 11 year old boy out of a toilet with a needle sticking in his arm and had to give him CPR until the Ambulance arrived. He was given drugs by his parents, should we blame him for his addiction? A lot of hardened drug addicts started in their early teens or younger in bad families, when they are not even regarded legally as being able to make responsible choices by themselves.  Once the addiction grabs hold from this age it can be very difficult to get rid of.

Do some people find their way out by themselves, yes they do but some don't and it's not necessarily their fault.

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I see your points here Tezza and can see that why you view things in this way since you work in a field that exposes you to these kinds of situations.

I guess I made a false assumption that we were talking about  mentally competent adults since bringing in the mentally handicapped,  though no fault of their own or because of their own action has caused them to be mentally unstable and incapable of making rational decisions. This, of course, opens up a whole different can of worms and I think I can correctly say that they would be a minority of the population, yet still a consideration.

Substance addiction is probably one of the most serious issues because the addiction is so strong that you need help to get past it. I compare it to the horror movies where someone is changing into a werewolf and they beg to be locked up until it passes. In my opinion they still have free will but it has been compromised by the drugs. Same as excess sugar weakens your immune system, addiction weakens your ability to make the right decisions. I have never met an addict that wanted to be addicted. They want to quit . In this case their free will can't break through their physical dependency on the drug. The part of them that WANTS to quit is their will. The part of them that keeps taking the drugs is probably physical. Yes, there are those who WANT to take the drugs too. 

This view would argue what part of "you" is really you. I would counter that it's the inner part that decides but can be overridden by external circumstances. If I was an addict I would make the choice to get help. That's free will. Their other choice is to keep doing the drugs and live a very short life. That is also a choice.

Quote

I don't agree with your concept of poverty, in my experience, usually there are reasons for poverty that go beyond blaming the individual for making bad choices. 

To be clear, I only blame the individual who is in poverty, could make a plan to get out, and doesn't. No one can be responsible for being born into poverty.People can be responsible for not attempting to get out of it if they can. I don't think there is any such thing as a person who could never make their circumstances better. I'm not saying they could be rich, just better...look at the generations of people who came to the US in the 1930's. That was a free will choice....to get out of their bad situations. The grass is sometimes greener on the other side of the fence. Those first generations that came here worked their a**es off. Lived in pretty bad conditions. By the second generation they had built businesses here and were prospering. Their grandchildren will be wealthy.

If a person is born in Somalia, South Africa one of the poorest and most violent places on earth they have far fewer choices. That's a given. They still have choices though.  If we were fish, our free will could only function within the confines of our tanks. I'm not going to lie, if I were in Somalia I would be looking to jump to another tank at any cost. Others might have found a way to coexist within that oppressive ecosystem. I think we have to define poverty since there are people here who claim to be poor but have 200.00 shoes on and 100 dollar tattoos who eat three square meals every day. They are classified as "poor" because they live in a section of town that's typically low income. To me "poor" is someone who doesn't have food , clothing or shelter.

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13 hours ago, RobertWS said:

 

That was an insult.   A very childish one.

Maybe to a little snowflake....

 

There, THAT'S an insult.  Feel better now?

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Byron, Tensions are probably higher than usual. This is a nice place to discuss music and stuff. Please let me buy you a beer.

OK I guess I can't do that. 

As I see it there's three ways to react to this. Over reaction (which seems to be the way people are responding to it). Under reaction, where I pretend it isn't happening and live life as usual. I could almost do that because as of now I'm still working. Going out every day. The third is seeing it for what it is or might be.

I'm still dealing with that third one.

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Posted (edited)
19 hours ago, Tezza said:

The notion of free will is mainly pushed by those who are in a position to have more choices in the first place. It is a stable of middle class capitalists for example. It goes something like this: People have the freedom to make choices in their lives, those who make good choices will have a successful and happy life and should be respected for their good choices and seen as beacons for the rest of us. Those who make bad choices will have an unsuccessful and unhappy life but it's their fault due to their incompetence in decision making and we should condemn them. They brought it upon themselves.

This is also pushed by various religious authorities who will site their written dogma as being "good choices" and if you deviate from their dogma, you are engaging in "bad choices". This notion of free will and decision making is lapped up by many as it gives us the feeling that we have total control over our lives, it makes us feel safe and secure. All we have to do is make good choices and we will be ok, those who make bad choices, well, they got what they deserve. It follows then that anyone who succeeds has done so because of their great character and decision making but anyone who doesn't make it in our society or struggles, it's their fault for their poor character, bad choices and decision making.

The problem is, people can and do end up "successful" and happy through little input of their own. They are simply born healthy into a family, society and/or business  that is already healthy and prosperous. They lead a sheltered life with little empathy for those less successful because they personally have never experienced hardship. It is essential to their self esteem that they believe they ended up where they did because of their own efforts and that those who are less fortunate ended up where they did due to their incompetence.

Conversely, people can also be born unhealthy into a family and/or society that is poverty ridden with high crime and drugs. From childhood, they learn to navigate their world according to it's rules and what they are physically and mentally capable of doing. Very often, they are just trying to survive within that world. They also very often cannot escape that world because there are no opportunities around them and because they are rejected by the more successful. They also don't have the mental framework or education to allow them to step up and all of their social resources exist in that world. they may also have physical limitations in what they can do.

It is essential to their self esteem that they believe they are doing the best they can given their circumstances and those who are better off than them were either given a silver spoon or are probably rich, distrustful criminals.

Did both these groups of people arrive at their destinations due to exercising their "free will"? We all fall somewhere in between these groups, if not align exactly with them, all of us, no exceptions. Life is more about serendipity, ladders and statistics than it is "free will". We may luckily be born into a favorable environment, we may have the ability to recognize or be given ladders by others so we can step up. These can be simple advice or practical help etc and then we may recognize or not that we can adjust our lives according to statistics. You can control a bit what happens to you by recognizing how to place yourself statistically in life. Don't want cancer? don't smoke, have a good diet and exercise. Don't want a car accident? drive sensibly, own a safe car and don't drive a black car :)

Maslow's hierarchy  of values shows that in order for anyone to reach a place of "self actualization" where they have control and power over their own direction, a number of other factors have to be taken care of first.

Well, I guess you slid right back into your ideology, I actually believed, and wanted to believe, that you were capable and willing to recognize the small, delicate, important and critical part of a human being: volition.  What you're saying about  political and economic  injustice, racism, institutional failures, class bigotry and bad environments are all true.  But you then go a step further, which in my opinion is where your extremism is, and declare that people have no free will, no volition, no capacity to overcome their misfortune. I'd go back and read Maslow again, he spoke of the hierarchy of needs, and that the need to self-actualize is as real as the need to eat and sleep.  Many people who've achieved something of value in their lives had crappy childhoods, many wealthy people came from  poor beginnings.  The eradication of poverty is a social problem and our institutions are failing us in nearly every way on that score.  But to then leap to the conclusion that people cannot, do not and will not act from their own volition is absurd. 

Let's do an experiment today:  Notice how many decisions you make; whether they are little, medium or big decisions.  Observe which decisions further your sense of well-being, and which decisions do not. Observe when temptations to speak or act  in a way that will increase suffering arise and how you handle them.  Observe how tensions in your body affect your thinking.  Try to be aware of your emotions without over-identifying with or exaggerating them. 

If you are willing to do these little exercises, you may begin to notice there's a power in you to shape your existence.  You can't control most of what happens in life, nobody can.  But the tiny bit that is under your control is the most vital and important part of your life.  This is why we are not merely animals, reacting to life as instincts demand.  We have choice.  It is the very thing that distinguishes us from other animals.  I've long believed that cynicism about how bad human beings are, or pollyana positivity about how good we are, are not helpful at all.  There 's a quote, I paraphrase it here:  Your thoughts create decisions, your decisions create actions, your actions create habits, your habits create character, your character creates destiny.   It's not about reward and punishment, it's about cause and effect.  Cause and effect are as true in the inner world of the psyche, the emotions, the intentions, as they are in the physical world. 

 

Edited by jsg
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Every single one of Tezza's examples he cites as evidence of "no free will " has numerous counterexamples.  

First off, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. 

 

Children think that God is some kind of great meta-parent who doles out prizes to the good little boys and girls and spankings to the bad ones. 

Children think that freedom means being able to do anything they want,  any time they want, without repercussion. 

Free will does not mean that no one else has anything to say about it.  I may not be able to choose to be 6'9" tall, but I can choose to have a killer jump shot if that's what I want to spend my time on.  Playing in the NBA? Well, see, there's a whole lot of other people involved in that decision  (presumably exercising their free will) who might have other ideas. But I can play basketball.  Somewhere.  And I can choose how I think about it. 

Closer to Starise's examples,  I  knew several people in the Army who grew up in horrible circumstances,  who joined precisely to get out so they didn't get sucked into the same trap that landed everyone around them in poverty,  despair,  crime,  prison or a grave.  

Even more telling examples come from Attachment Theory in psychology,  particularly in the area of intimate relationships.  "Did you know the last fight with your spouse began long before you met?" reads the blurb on the back of one book. 

The way we were conditioned growing up leads us to be attracted to certain types of people in certain very predictable  ways.  And leads us each to react in very predictable ways to the very predictable ways in which our partners trigger us. 

However,  we can react otherwise, contrary to that conditioning.  I know I have, and I bet you have too. In fact, given enough effort,  we can retrain our conditioned responses.

I would argue that the very fact that we are programmed since birth to have conditioned responses to certain stimuli is itself evidence of free will.  It means that we are a blank slate that can be programmed in the first place and that we could have been programmed differently

 

Additionally, free will does not mean that we have all choices open to us. The mere fact of having a mortal,  corporeal existence necessarily limits what is available. But, among what is available,  we may freely choose. 

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Posted (edited)
5 hours ago, Tezza said:

Yes, I agree that tragedy can happen to anyone regardless of rich or poor, the rich have a buffer to protect them to some extent but that doesn't take into account time. If somebody is injured or disabled in some way, mental or physical and it doesn't go away then 10 - 20 years later, their money runs out. I've worked with people who used to be lawyers, police, judges and bank managers as well as some high flying corporate business owners. Their money protected them for a while but then it ran out and so did their friends and family in many cases. They lost both their finances and their social resources and ended up on a pension, struggling to get by on their own and then referred to me to see what I could do to make their lives better. Everyone who came to see me had a story.

It's rarer to see rich people end up in this situation but it happens with long term problems. All of these people made good and even exceptional choices when they were healthy so it's not like the had to learn anything in this regard, it's just that through no fault of their own (usually) they ended up in a situation that was never going to change, even with good choices and "free will". The choices are no longer available and their free will has been curtailed.

In today's society a certain amount of money is necessary to be able to do things and having social resources (friends/family) is also important.

I don't agree with your concept of poverty, in my experience, usually there are reasons for poverty that go beyond blaming the individual for making bad choices. Mental illness, physical disablement, social isolation, geographic isolation, terrible parental upbringing, lack of education and of course having limited or no money. These are generally the reasons why they have poor planning, bad management etc They can't "learn" their way out of this nor can they exercise their free will to change any of it because they either don't know how to change it, don't know they even need to change it or they are mentally incapable of changing it or they just don't have the resources to change it, or all four.

We take a lot of things about our brain for granted but imagine for a moment that you suddenly lost the ability to concentrate or to make decisions or to organize your thoughts or your memory became faulty or your ability to recognize events, faces or situations disappeared or your comprehension ability disappeared. Mental illness can do this and you only need to lose one of these functions and you are in a lot of trouble. You can't learn your way out of it because it is a cognitive dysfunction, the ability just isn't there anymore. It might be temporary or it might be long term. How can people be blamed for making bad choices if their actual ability to make choices is impaired. Free will isn't going to help either, relying on intuition can be dangerous because your thought processes are so impaired. You can't get a job like this or even plot a course out of it.

Addiction is not so easy to dismiss as a choice, especially if the addiction started when they were children. I once dragged an 11 year old boy out of a toilet with a needle sticking in his arm and had to give him CPR until the Ambulance arrived. He was given drugs by his parents, should we blame him for his addiction? A lot of hardened drug addicts started in their early teens or younger in bad families, when they are not even regarded legally as being able to make responsible choices by themselves.  Once the addiction grabs hold from this age it can be very difficult to get rid of.

Do some people find their way out by themselves, yes they do but some don't and it's not necessarily their fault.

 

Here are the factors that can determine the trajectory of a person's life:

1.  Genetics (nature)

2.  Parenting skills or the lack thereof (nurture)

3.  Social/economic/political conditions under which that person was born

4.  Luck, both good and bad

5.  Decisions and choices made by the individual

Out of these, the only one a person has some degree of control over is #5.   There's long been the debate regarding the influence of nature vs. nurture.  I think this debate leaves out a crucial third component, and perhaps the most mysterious of all:  Personality.   By "personality" I am not referring to the outer garments, the mannerisms, our likes and dislikes,  the face we portray to the world.  Instead I mean personality in the most profound sense, the fact that each of us is a unique individual, unduplicatable throughout the cosmos.   Personality includes values, relationships, aspirations and goals that a person aspires to, it is  influenced by nature/nurture, very much so, yet at the same time the uniqueness of personality cannot be dismissed or ignored.   The subjective experience of personhood is as real as is gravity, water and stars.  And since everyone of us is interconnected, we all have the same ultimate origin, whatever that may be, the sense of "I" cannot be complete without a sense of "us" and "we".   Society breeds into us a sense of "they", and some classes add to that a sense of unearned and delusional superiority, for which there is no evidence to back it up.   Everything in this world is a means to an end, excepting relationships.  True relationship is an end in itself.   When the majority of the people in this world get that, and live by that, the world will evolve in ways we cannot even imagine.  Or, conversely, we either blow ourselves up or heat ourselves up to oblivion.   Nature doesn't care.  Caring is a human attribute.  If we stop caring, and our institutions continue to reflect that lack of caring, we're doomed.  but if we awaken to our true condition and potential, there's definitely reason for hope...

 

 

 

Edited by jsg
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Again, you are completely forgetting health, both mental and physical and you don't seem to acknowledge that people have different levels of functioning and education. Many people have difficulties with decision making. Decision making isn't just a matter of an individual being solely responsible for their good or bad decisions. You don't seem to be able to get past the point where good decision making is only possible if a whole lot of other factors are already in place. You seem to be taking it for granted that these factors are in place, that everyone is like you.  All of those things you have mentioned will impact on an individuals ability to make decisions, you can't just list them and then separate out decision making as being separate from them. Many things that are beyond an individuals control can impact on their decision making to the point where their "free will" is so constrained that it's not really free will at all.

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39 minutes ago, Tezza said:

Again, you are completely forgetting health, both mental and physical and you don't seem to acknowledge that people have different levels of functioning and education.

I'm going to wind up my contribution to this discussion now, but if you read my first post  I stressed the importance of diet and health.   Also, in the 5 factors I stated are important I guess it wasn't clear that education is a part of one's social development.  In any event, your argument seems to give scant recognition and little importance to human volition, which says to me you do believe in (if grudgingly) limited free will, even though you assert you don't believe in it...

Nice chatting with you!

Best,

Jerry

www.jerrygerber.com

 

 

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5 hours ago, jsg said:

Many people who've achieved something of value in their lives had crappy childhoods, many wealthy people came from  poor beginnings.  The eradication of poverty is a social problem and our institutions are failing us in nearly every way on that score.  But to then leap to the conclusion that people cannot, do not and will not act from their own volition is absurd. 

Saying things like many wealthy people came from poor beginnings. You don't know this is true, you just hope it is. My view is that it is extremely rare. I've not said that people cannot, do not and will not act of their own volition. People can act of their own volition or at least what they think is their own volition but very often they are doing things for reasons that are hidden from their consciousness or they are simply reacting to outside stimuli or propaganda, societal or otherwise brainwashing. It depends on the level of insight people have, not all are the same.

5 hours ago, jsg said:

Let's do an experiment today:  Notice how many decisions you make; whether they are little, medium or big decisions.  Observe which decisions further your sense of well-being, and which decisions do not. Observe when temptations to speak or act  in a way that will increase suffering arise and how you handle them.  Observe how tensions in your body affect your thinking.  Try to be aware of your emotions without over-identifying with or exaggerating them. 

All of this is subjective, drug addict might think that taking drugs enhances their well being and stop taking drugs causes suffering.

5 hours ago, jsg said:

If you are willing to do these little exercises, you may begin to notice there's a power in you to shape your existence.  You can't control most of what happens in life, nobody can.  But the tiny bit that is under your control is the most vital and important part of your life.  This is why we are not merely animals, reacting to life as instincts demand.

Animals are much more than instinct. They can have a complex social hierarchy, just like you. They can have their own languages, a mix of body language and vocalizations, just like you. They can feel emotions like love, hate, fear etc just like you. They also make decisions, just like you. They can work together for a pre-defined outcome, organize and plan, just like you. You are an animal, maybe more complex in your language and ability to physically create but an animal nevertheless. You evolved from an ape, you are a member of their species, the primates, you share about 99% of your DNA with chimpanzees.

Certain sectors of our society desperately want to separate us out from animals so we can treat them badly, eat them and use them for our own purposes without feeling guilt.

5 hours ago, jsg said:

 

  We have choice.  It is the very thing that distinguishes us from other animals.  I've long believed that cynicism about how bad human beings are, or pollyana positivity about how good we are, are not helpful at all.  There 's a quote, I paraphrase it here:  Your thoughts create decisions, your decisions create actions, your actions create habits, your habits create character, your character creates destiny.   It's not about reward and punishment, it's about cause and effect.  Cause and effect are as true in the inner world of the psyche, the emotions, the intentions, as they are in the physical world. 

 

Choice does not distinguish us from animals, they have to make choices as well about all sorts of things. What you have quoted here can be correct under certain circumstances but the relationship between thoughts, emotions and behavior isn't just a one way train. A lot of what you are saying just sounds like some sort of biblical or pop psychological preaching to me. So that I don't waste any further time with this discussion, could you answer just one question for me?  Do you believe you evolved from apes? yes or no.

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11 minutes ago, Tezza said:

Do you believe you evolved from apes? yes or no.

It's not quite that simple. 

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"Things beyond our control happen.  Therefore no free will" is hardly a cogent argument. 

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