Measured Against Reality

Monday, October 23, 2006

Free Will and Useless Philosophy

Here is a good example of why I think that philosophy is useless.

Free will is a problem that has pretty much always been around. It certainly does feel like I’m choosing the words that I’m typing right now, but there have always been reasons to think that we aren’t totally in control. First it was gods, then Newtonian science, and now the probabilistic quantum mechanical science. There have always been arguments for us not having free will, and the persistent feeling that we do have it.

So really, what difference does it make? Right now we have absolutely no way of deciding one way or another, so why spend energy trying to think our way to a solution? Thought won’t get us there, but one day medical science just might. Until then, it’s just a waste of time on a subject that doesn’t matter.

That’s not to say that I don’t think we should work on hard problems, but I’m nearly certain that it’s going to be science that tackles them, and it’s usually pretty clear what science is capable of tackling at any given point. Consciousness and free will are far off; the Higgs particle probably isn’t.

Do I have free will? It seems like it, but even if I don’t, I really don’t care.

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  • We do have free will. We know because we know. Is it really that complicated, Stu?

    By Blogger Mr. Fantastic!, at 3:58 PM, October 23, 2006  

  • You seem like a pretty smart kid, and I wholeheartedly agree with most of your scientific analysis, being that I’m a physicist myself. I do, however, have to disagree with you on this one. You seem to be making the argument that since we have no way to currently prove that we do or do not have free will that it is a waste of our time to think on the subject. Firstly, I think you overestimate the amount of time actually being “wasted”. I’m sure there are far more frivolous things (e.g. video games, blogging, sports, etc.) that people make a living from that being a philosopher. Secondly, you seem to be forgetting that a lot of ground breaking science comes in the form of THEORY well before it is either confirmed or disconfirmed by experiment. Special relativity, general relativity, quantum mechanics and currently string theory have all been grounded far more securely in theory before they were (or are possibly to be as in the case of string theory) well established through experiment. Einstein himself was very fond of thought experiments that at the time couldn’t possibly be turned into real experiments. If he had never thought of what it would be like to run next to a beam of light, even though it wasn’t possible, where would we be now?

    By Blogger Ryan Davidson, at 10:58 PM, October 29, 2006  

  • I used to think along the same lines... But I have rediscovered the importance of the debate. One thought I have been playing around with is that Free Will is a skill that can be developed and is with people in varing amounts. This could just be called willpower but I would say that applies to those with Slave Will as well;)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:27 PM, October 31, 2006  

  • Interesting topic,
    I agree to that free will is a skill that can be developed,
    My personal view is that I think free will comes into play when the soul fully realises the predetermined line one walks on. There is a point that you `the captain` takes control of the `cruise control` one is automatically on from birth. I think it has to do with realising life as in souls living in it. I believe one can change anything if one tries.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:58 AM, April 06, 2009  

  • that would be the twin brother of philosophy that everybody confuses themselves with. The evil twin brother called institutionalized academic philosophy. This eternal academic puppet show of Kant and Mill that we wouldn't bother ourselves with if there wasn't so much money in teaching it.

    By Blogger David, at 3:23 PM, January 12, 2010  

  • Hey, there's so much useful material above!

    By Anonymous, at 9:33 AM, October 06, 2011  

  • Quite helpful material, thank you for this post.

    By Anonymous, at 5:54 AM, December 02, 2011  

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