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This reminds me of a quote from the game AlphaCentauri:
My gift to industry is the genetically engineered worker, or Genejack. Specially designed for labor, the Genejack's muscles and nerves are ideal for his task, and the cerebral cortex has been atrophied so that he can desire nothing except to perform his duties. Tyranny, you say? How can you tyrannize someone who cannot feel pain?




Can we be modified to be stripped of free will? - ColinLeung

That depends. One could argue various mental disorders that render one unable to take decisions, but I suspect that's not what you mean. Hm. For a completely different random starting point, one could say that a lot of Christians believe in a heaven where Evil is not possible, and your arguments at the bottom of the page imply that you believe Evil to be a prerequisite for free will; so if you believe in a heaven resembling the Christian one - which I guess you probably don't, but never mind - you would presumably have to accept that it is possible for people there to get stripped of FreeWill, although I suspect most people who go that way would probably choose to question the other premises instead. Oh yeah, your question presupposes that we have free will to be stripped of in the first place - [some deny that]. - MoonShadow

Who needs free will when you'll do what God wants you to do anyway? :p -ColinLeung (On the other hand can we ever do what God doesn't want us to do?)



Can we define free will non-recursively?

What's wrong with a definition like the one at the top of the [Wikipedia] article - something like "free will is the idea that our actions are somehow ultimately dictated by our selves, rather than something else"? - MoonShadow

What's wrong with it is that you then have to define 'self', which isn't easy.
For instance, imagine a computer which receives inputs and sends outputs accoring to pre-written instructions. Its actions (outputs) are not determined by any external force, but by 'itself'; but does it have free will? Most people would say no. So 'self' has to be defined in such a way as to preclude that situation, ie, free will is not simply a matter of beign free from external pressure but also from internal determinism. In some ways we are obviously deterministic: if I touch a hot stove with my hand, my arm jerks. So the 'self' referred to cannot just mean 'me', it must mean some quality inside me which is able to override the determinism.
So you end up defining 'self' as 'the bit which is not deterministic, and can override the normal deterministic reactions' (so I can enjoy the smell of my own cooking flesh). So you end up with 'free will is the idea that our actions are determined by the bit of us which is not deterministic, ie, the bit which has free will'.
Excellent point. Around now we start running into differences of worldview - I could suggest something like "the part of me which creates an internal model of the outside world, uses it to make predictions and bases decisions on that", but someone could argue that you could write a computer program that does that. I would respond that the computer program would then be self-aware and to all observable intents and purposes have the same degree of free will as people do, and whether it really does have free will or not would become an article of faith; but many would disagree. Alternatively, I could attempt to tie self and free will to the concept of a soul - but that, too, is ultimately something I believe one ultimately has to take the existence or otherwise of on faith. Perhaps I am not really qualified to continue this discussion from here, by virtue of my worldview? - MoonShadow

The best approach to a definition of free will, I think, is not to try to reduce it to something else (because as it is it's pretty basic) but to contrast it with determinism.
..but what if I believe we live in a completely deterministic universe, and yet I also believe this doesn't preclude us perceiving ourselves as having free will? - MoonShadow (currently reading [this] while stuff's compiling)

AlexChurchill doesn't think determinism normally precludes perceiving oneself as having free will.  Indeed, determinists could be very easily refuted were that the case, simply say "Well sorry, I perceive myself as having free will".  The stereotypical determinist response to that would be "It's an illusion" or some such.  I'm with ChiarkPerson on this: FreeWill is probably best characterised by contrast with what it's not.  --AC

Fair enough, then - what isn't it? - MoonShadow



Philosophy; see also SocialMatters, Evil, ReligionMatters...
See also: [Second Person]
Really fascinating story. I assume it doesn't actually represent your view, though, given that in the story the self is actually an illusion and a "joke". --Rachael

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