Free Will-Determinism

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The free will-determinism debate focuses on the question of whether our behaviors are freely selected or caused by factors beyond our control. The book mentions that some psychologists believe in the idea that we all possess free will, yet others, such as B.F. Skinner; believe that we are unaware of all of the environmental influences that are imposed upon us. I'd have to say that from my own personal experiences I believe more in free will than determinism. Although there are many factors that influence the decisions we make, ultimately the decision is ours to make. I believe that too many people try to put blame on society's influences for the actions that they make and refuse to take responsibility for the fact that they could have acted differently. This isn't to say that in extreme cases, such as mental illnesses, people are influenced greatly by a factor beyond their control. However, I believe that since these extreme cases exist people find it okay to essentially extort them and use determinism as an excuse for making a bad decision. To what extent can we blame society for our own actions? At what point is something that we do out of our hands?

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Cool post! I'd have to agree that societies influences should not be an excuse for making questionable decisions, but some could be acceptable at a lesser extent. However, I think the societal framework of our decisions making processes are the least backed concerns with the free will-determinism debate. Our genetic behavior seems to have more control over our actions than things created by our society that are relatively new (speed limits, for example).

With that being said, our free will really is a questionable process. We make a lot of irrational decisions for no good reason, given our point in time. For example, if someone were to offer you $50 now, or $60 in a year, which would you choose? Most would go for the $50 now. But why? Economically, the smarter decision is the one in which you make the most money; however, we are inclined to take the quick money. The reasoning, if thinking through evolutionary psychology, is the idea that the ancestors who took quick benefits rather than waited for a better one, had better fitness(most likely to avoid defection). Point being, we have genetic responses to stimuli that, at one point, worked to increase fitness, but now might not fit into the context of rational behavior. Which leads me to ask: if we are able to use free will, why do we make irrational decisions?

As far as your questions go, I think they go hand-in-hand. Automatic responses versus big time decisions might be able to be measured objectively by the amount of neurological response. If that is true we can say that the amount of what we can control lies in the amount of stimuli created by the decision. Where society comes into play(and this is all opinion), is the amount of environmental influence there is on an individual. In class when we discussed that the more times a memory passed through our brain, the stronger the connection. Well, I'd imagine the more times we are exposed to societal cues and the severity of that cue, the stronger the connection to that belief we might hold. Then, at that point it becomes a contest, is our genetic response to a behavior stronger than the new environmental connection created? If it isn't, the brain will rationalize the behavior, even if it is something other people might find strange (simply because their genetic response might be stronger).

Anyways, awesome post, I thought it was really interesting!

Free will is a difficult concept to conceptualize. It's hard for us to imagine an effect without a cause. So when someone commits a crime, the natural tendency is to go searching for the "factors" that led the person to commit the criminal act. But is "cause and effect" simply some imaginary scaffolding that we impose on the world to better predict future events?

This is very interesting. I agree completely with the fact that a lot of people use the idea of "determinism" to make excuses for their actions. But I think this goes a lot deeper than that, I think that it also relates to faith and whether or not you believe certain things.

I like how this question spans different disciplines such as psychology, philosophy, and even theoretical physics. I don't think there we ever be an absolute answer to this question.

Very interesting blog choice! I agree with you almost completely that our free will is seemingly stronger than determinism, with a couple exceptions being reflex and faith. Reflex as in we obviously don’t get a chance to think through our reflexes, they just happen. Now they could be hardwired (genetic) or learned (environmental) but either way, we don’t willingly choose what we do in impulse response moments. Faith, being mentioned in one of the other comments, simply reminded me of the thought that we are all predestined to something which I feel like goes against both free will and determinism. That also may answer your final question because predestination is clearly out of our hands, if you believe that it exists. It is very interesting to see how people can twist things to their own benefit when we learn of them, it’s almost like when you hear of a disorder and its symptoms and you possess one or two of those symptoms and then automatically say “I HAVE _______!!! OH NO!” when there is no way you could have it. Again good choice, I enjoyed reading your opinion!

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This page contains a single entry by etoxx006 published on February 5, 2012 3:36 PM.

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