Is Free Will an Illusion?

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Imagine a study that asks you to put a curse on your fellow participant by sticking pins into a doll. Your now cursed partner is annoying you, so you stick pins into the doll. You may think that your partner got a headache because of your control over the voodoo doll.
This study is an example of why an article from The New York Times argues that free will is an illusion. The study let you believe that you had ownership of your actions. But your fellow participant had actually been pre-informed of the experiment and told whether to act obnoxious or nice. The article argues that people are easier to fool when they think they are in control of their actions, even if it involves something impossible, like cursing and harming someone with a doll.
The article's central question was whether or not free will is an illusion. Free will refers to a person's act of choosing what to do without any kind of environmental or social influence. The counter theory, determinism, is a philosophical idea that human actions are caused by events that aren't associated with a person's will.
I personally found this article to be very confusing. I always felt that people can decide for themselves how they make their choices. I know that people base their decisions off a variety of factors, but this article made me question whether or not we think that we are in control when we actually aren't.

Overbye, Dennis. "Free Will: Now You Have It, Now You Don't." The New York Times. 2 Jan. 2007
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I have also heard many discussion on the topic of whether or not humans have free will and it is a very confusing subject. I personally believe we do have free will but our actions are limited to certain choices that our environment can allow. Overall good entry.

This is the first time I have came across this argument. I find this super interesting to think about because it is something of the taboo in a way. Our country is founded on having our own beliefs and being free. So, why is there this argument even thought of if this is what our country believes in? I can see that people may think that we do not have our own free will because of all the factors that make us choose different things. Like the media I believe plays a huge role in this. The media can go and say whats "Hot" and what is not and countless people will follow that "Ruling". So, in a sense, they do not have free will since that idea was planted in their brain. Now, people can argue that the people being affected can choose whether or not to be on the band wagon but I believe it is rather hard to do that with the media constantly around you at all times. Girls see unbelievable skinny models almost everyday so of course that makes girls self conscience. This study is confusing and has many points which makes it fun to debate about.

Ooooo, you took on a tough topic! The free will debate has been going on for centuries in philosophy, and is gaining new insights from psychology and neuroscience. So far as I know, the debate has not been settled, though some recent functional neuroimaging investigationssuggest that brain activity is highly predictive of what a subject will do in the scanner, before the subject is even consciously aware of their decision!!

At least one thing that I've read that is counter to the deterministic ("no free will") is called Freedom Evolves by Daniel Dennett. And the philosopher David Hume may have put it best, when he finished a super-freakin-long book about free will and why we probably don't have it--at the end, he says something like, "well, i've been sitting here for days working on this argument against free will, but then I leave my office and go and spend time with my family and talk with friends and the question of whether I'm choosing to do these things seems not to matter at all, or even occur to me" (something like that).

If we don't have free will, our brains are at least putting on a damn good show to convince us that we do!

Good post, great comments guys.

I'm not entirely sure why free will and determinism are always at odds with one another. Just because I can very accurately predict someone's response to me trying to give them $100 does not mean they didn't have the choice to refuse accepting it. I find people to be predictable, but predictable does not equal not in control. I think that, as humans, we are such experts at predicting human nature that when we successfully do, we see it as determinism.

A good point brought up in lecture this week is that people often come up with reasons for why they did things that they clearly had no "conscious" effort in doing. All I saw was people coming up with excuses to explain their behavior. I think we all need to stop and take a look at what we do during the day without thinking, and just accept that we do some things automatically. It's not that we had no choice, it's simply that what we do is sometimes so routine that we just do it. Some part of our brain gets assigned to do it and it gets done. Maybe you go to brush your teeth automatically at night, and do it without thinking. Some might call that deterministic. Yet, if you just went to the dentist and they did some work and told you not to brush your teeth, you'd remember not to, and you wouldn't do it. Not very deterministic anymore.

Free will is fact. We always have a choice.

This is a really interesting question about our existence and ontology, and I used to discuss this question alot in high school on the debate team. Ultimately, I don't think it is really possible for any of us to determine which is true as we lack the ability to step back and really escape the "the illusion" to evaluate if it really does exist. However, it's scary how widespread effects determinism would have on our society if it was true. For example, punishment would no longer be ethically justified, as the criminal's actions are no longer his "fault".

This is very interesting. I think it sort of ties into the ideas of "fate" and whether or not we actually control any part of our destiny. Or maybe even the idea of God and if he is leading us in one direction or another in life. I think "Free-Will" is kind of made up in people's minds though as well, like it is a reason for them to make some decisions in life.

Very interesting topic. The idea that all our our "thoughts" could be our bodies response to it's environment, instead of our own free volition is an incredibly complex argument. In my opinion it is just too hard to tell. I would argue that we only do things based on survival. ie: going to school to get a better job, to attract a mate, to procreate, in order to pass on our genes and survive, but this doesn't take into account the people that commit suicide, or thrown there lives away on other things such as drugs and alcohol. Unless of course suicide or drug dependencies could be related to chemical imbalances in the brain, causing a shift in the idea of survival.

to tell you the truth I am really no sure how to answer the question.
I think, therefore I am. But what am I ?

This is a a very interesting concept! It makes me think about whether or not I have complete control over my body like I think that I do. I know that I control my actions, but my actions are influenced by outside factors, so does that mean that I am actually not doing what I think I am? It's crazy.

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