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Free Will vs Determinism: Which One Is True?

Free Will vs Determinism: Which One Is True?

Does God play dice? Do we live in a deterministic universe or one in which we have free will? These are the type of wicked questions we will attempt to answer here. So, get ready to go down one crazy and deep rabbit hole. Just remember, Alice didn’t just wonder into Wonderland… she fell.

What is Free Will?

    Just trying to define Free Will takes us down a deep rabbit. You think it would be simple, right? We are free to make whatever choice we like… not so fast. Let’s look at some of the definitions of free will.

    • The ability to choose different course of action.
    • To make choices for which the outcome has not been predetermined.
    • Philosophical term of art for a particular sort of capacity of rational agents to choose a course of action from among various alternatives. [1]

    Libertarianism

    Another way to look at free will is Libertarianism. This is the claim that determinism is completely false. Leaving the possibility of free will to be true.

    Question to ponder

    Let’s look at free will from a theological perspective. How would you answer it?

    “If God knows what we are going to choose in the future, then do we really have free will? If God knows we are going to make a certain ‘free will’ choice, then when it is time for us to make that choice, because God knows what we are going to choose, are we really free to make a different choice? Would God’s foreknowledge mean we cannot have free will? [2]

    What is Determinism?

      Again, this seems as though an easy definition should be available for Determinism; yet, there is not. Let’s take a look at how we can define determinism.

      • Common definition: Philosophical position that for every event there exists conditions that could cause no other event. [3]
      • Hard Determinism: A claim that determinism is true and that free will is not possible.
      • Causal Determinism: All effects have causes.
      • Logical Determinism: The future is already determined.

      Question to ponder

      When a criminal commits a crime, they should be punished right? We punish those who are responsible for the crime. What if we are wrong? What if the criminal is not free to choose right from wrong? What if free will is just an illusion? With that in mind, let’s look at another question.

      “Is a mass murderer born into this world predestined to kill?”

      How would you answer this question?

      Is there an alternative view?

      We can answer the first part of this question with a little more ease: Yes. However… we are now going deeper into the rabbit hole!

      Compatibilism vs Incompatibilism

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      Compatibilism, in some sense, is compatible with determinism. The alternative view to compatibilism is incompatibilism: free will is not compatible with determinism.

      Let’s take a look at compatibilism. Here we can freely choose to do only what our constraints allow us to do. This means that we are not completely free.

      Defining a simple word… trying to define the word choice is difficult to do. So, I will make the choice to define it as such: The deterministic selection of one option, from among the range of options that would be opted for by a typical range of human beings in a typical range of situations. [4]

      Here we see that there is a choice, yet a deterministic selection of choices. So, what did Einstein have to say about compatibilism?

      “Man can do what he wills but he cannot will what he wills.”

      What do you believe?

      So, what do you believe is correct? Do you think we have free will or do we live in a deterministic world? Or do you believe it is a combination of the two (i.e. compatibilism).

      Let’s take a look at how we can compare Free Will vs Determinism by way of a table demonstrating the different positions and how they relate to the two. [5] If you see determinism as true, but believe free will is possible, then you can consider yourself in the compatibilism camp. Yet, if you see determinism as true and free will as impossible, then you fall in line with the hard determinists.

      Does God play dice?

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        Let us now go further down the rabbit hole into the world of Quantum Physics. Early scientific thought (think Newtonian physics) was that our universe was deterministic. Additionally, Einstein was also a determinist. Think of his famous quote, “God does not play dice with the universe.” Well, I hate to break it to you, but Einstein was wrong. God does play dice!

        Quantum physics demonstrates that we can predict events only in terms of probabilities. Think of the wave-particle duality concept. Here, every particle can be described as both a wave and a particle. This feeds the many-world interpretations theory. Ready for your mind to be blown!

        Many-Worlds Theory: An interpretation of quantum physics that asserts the objective reality of the wave function and denies the actuality of a wave function collapse. [6]

        Basically, there are alternative versions of you for every decision you did not make. So, in one world you could be wealthy and living the good life; yet, in another, you could be in prison as a convicted felon.

        My Hypothesis!

        Ok, so here you go. Here is my theory, but first let me first share with you a quote from American theoretical physicist Michio Kaku regarding Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle and free will.

        “Heisenberg proposed the uncertainty principle and says there is uncertainty, meaning you don’t know where the electron is. It is in many places simultaneously. This of course Einstein hated as he said ‘God does not play dice with the universe’ but he was wrong. God does play dice with the universe. Every time we look at an electron it moves. There is uncertainty with regard to the position of the electron. What does that mean for free will? No one can determine your future events given your past history. There is always the wild card, there is always the possibility of uncertainty in whatever we do.” [7]

        In developing my hypothesis, I concluded that we are looking at this from the wrong angle. So, let’s look at this wicked problem and ask a new question. Are we looking at a simple “either/or” problem here? Is it just Free Will vs Determinism? My answer is no.

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        We have what is called a False Dilemma. This is where we have an informal fallacy. We are not looking at an “either/or” scenario as there is at least one additional option.

        This is like saying:

        • X is True for A
        • X is True for B
        • Therefore, X is True for C, etc. [8]

        Using Syllogistic Reasoning

        Here are two premises, which led to my hypothesis.

        Premise #1: All human choice is an event.

        Premise #2: Some events constrain free will.

        Conclusion: Therefore, the only events in which humans do not possess free will are those in which we are constrained.

        Essentially, my perspective is similar to that of compatibilism. I truly believe that we are free to choose. Yet, we are choosing from a set of options that are presented to us. Think of how ideas pop into our mind when we are making a decision. There is an infinite number of ideas that could pop into our mind, yet we receive a specific range of options. Is there a reason why we are presented with these select few? I will leave that question for you to answer. For now, I am leaving this rabbit hole!

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        Reference

        More by this author

        Dr. Jamie Schwandt

        Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt & Red Team Critical Thinker

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        Published on November 28, 2018

        How to Do Meditation at Home to Calm Your Anxious Mind

        How to Do Meditation at Home to Calm Your Anxious Mind

        The woman in yoga pants sitting in a lotus position atop a rocky cliff, overlooking a valley draped in fog — this is the glamorized version of meditation you’ll come across as you search. Yet if you’re seeking meditation to calm your mind, a fantastic setting with no distractions is rarely available.

        So how to do meditation?

        The truth about meditation is it’s an everyday practice for anybody. You could be a mountain climber or you could be an accountant — either way, your home is just as good a place for meditation as any.

        Are you seeking to corral your racing thoughts and relieve a sense of unease, awkwardness, or uncertainty? Look to home meditation to cultivate a laid-back, creative, confident, and organized frame of mind. According to extensive scientific research, meditation relieves stress and anxiety, decreases blood pressure, improves sleep, and improves your ability to pay attention. [1]

        From start to finish, this article will give you quick, easy steps to follow so that you can meditate at home regularly. You’ll begin by assessing, identifying and altering things that need to change in your home environment. You’ll end by understanding the basics of meditation so that you can let yourself do what you already know how to do deep down in the hidden reality of your mind.

        You’re ready to let your mind be, and just be, in your own home — let’s begin.

        1. Find the Right Space in Your Home

        Where is your right space for meditation at home? Is it in your basement, your bedroom, your living room, or your study?

        The right space will be one with the least distractions built in to its purpose. In that case, it may be your bedroom. If you’ve set up your bedroom to be a place for sleep and only sleep, it will lend itself well to meditation.

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        The right space will also be a reasonably spacious one. Although comfort is not your goal, you need room to sit. Choose a space that is private, spacious, and quiet. If you don’t have a space in your home like this, create one. Free it from clutter and get it ready for you to meditate there any time.

        Ultimately, your right space is one you feel comfortable meditating in, the space you can enter with no other expectations.

        2. Improve the Feng Shui in Your Home and Meditation Space

        Feng shui means “wind and water.” It’s the ancient Chinese art of placement.[2]

        Feng shui improves harmony with nature. Adherents to the principles of feng shui believe all things have energy (chi). The focus of feng shui is to send negative chi (sha) out of the space and attract positive chi (yun).

        Here’s the truth about feng shui: it’s not complicated or hard. The following will influence feng shui positively in your home and meditation space:

        • Living things, such as plants
        • Beautiful objects, such as sculptures or even a well-polished piece of driftwood
        • Mirrors in symmetrical placement with the lines in a room
        • Mellifluous sounds, such as trickling water or wind chimes
        • Furniture away from walls
        • A centerpiece, such as a small table with books or an ornate lamp on it
        • Incense or something else that smells good
        • A lack of clutter and an attention to organization that emphasizes the usefulness, purpose, and essential being of each item in your house

        Given that feng shui is connected to Taoism and Buddhism, it will complement the meditative atmosphere you want to cultivate in your home.

        3. Eliminate Pervasive Distractions That Can Harm Your Wellbeing

        In part, meditation is about accepting the existence of distractions. When you meditate, you don’t judge and assign a positive or a negative value to distractions — the ticking of a clock, an itch, the barking of a dog — you let them occur and let them dissipate like waves.

        However, in the same way that feng shui removes objects that attract negative chi, there are certain types of distractions that don’t belong in your meditative space. You must remove them.

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        In a survey of 1,700 people who visited social media sites at least 30 times per week, 30 percent reported high levels of sleep disturbance and 25 percent presented symptoms of depression. [3]

        Those individuals who experience sleep disturbances or mental health issues due to social media are not setting boundaries between themselves and their connected devices.

        Part of learning how to meditate at home is learning how and when to set boundaries between yourself and your connected devices and social media accounts. If you need your phone for a timed meditation practice, but you normally receive social media notifications on your phone, set it on Do Not Disturb or Airplane mode during your meditation time.

        4. Flow into Meditation Through Time

        Next, set aside a time for meditation each day. It’s right to be structured and disciplined about your meditation time.

        Buddhist monks whose lives revolve around meditation are very structured and organized with their tasks each day. Structure provides the balance your being needs. Once you are meditating, your mind has no need for time. Outside of your given meditation time, you are completing tasks essential to the wellbeing of yourself and your home.

        Consider meditating as the sun rises. This is a quiet and contemplative time of the day when it is natural to set your day’s balance through meditation.

        5. Recognize the Rightness of Doing Nothing

        At home, you’re probably used to always doing something. When you do meditation at home, you are being, which is doing something and nothing simultaneously.

        Maryville University points out that successful people unplug by doing nothing. [4] Not only this, but they set the right expectations for the time during which they will do nothing.

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        We oftentimes look forward to the future by expecting something to happen and by expecting something of ourselves. To meditate from home, look to that time and that space by expecting nothing. You will not do any chores. You will not catch up on work. You will do nothing but meditate for a certain amount of time each day.

        This might sound crazy, but in taking on meditation from home, you’re not expecting yourself to improve and become a better person. As Ram Dass put it, you are expecting yourself to be here now.

        6. Choose from the Incredible Variety of Meditative Practices

        As I outlined in my post on types of meditation, there are many different and not-so-different types of meditation from which to choose.

        Many beginners find it right to choose guided meditation, for which there are apps, videos, and audio tapes available.

        If you are not necessarily a beginner but are merely moving your meditative practice into the home, you can facilitate a practice such as Nada Yoga — sound meditation — by placing a fountain in your space or listening to ambient alpha wave music.

        If you’re used to meditating outside of your home — perhaps you are drawn to the outdoors because of the sounds of nature — a practice like Nada Yoga can help you transition into your home space.

        7. Understand You Can Meditate Any Time at Home

        What if I told you to throw out all of the tips that came before this? Sounds crazy but that is how radical mindfulness meditation really is. We don’t think of it as radical because it is now ingrained in our popular discourse.

        Mindfulness meditation does start as a sitting meditation practice. It goes like this:

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        1. Sit comfortably and close your eyes.
        2. Focus on breathing. Inhale through your nose slowly and exhale slowly.
        3. As distracting thoughts arise, don’t judge them and don’t hang onto them. Let each thought go as you focus on breathing.
        4. Treat all physical sensations and feelings in the same way you do thoughts: register them, then let them go, returning to breathing.
        5. Extend this practice to everyday activity, remaining “in the moment” of the body’s activity with each new breath.

        As you practice mindfulness around your home, note the physical characteristics of the things in themselves. Note physical sensations: sounds, smells, textures, appearances, tastes. Stop now and then and do a body scan from head to toe, noting what each section is doing and how it’s feeling.

        Note thoughts that come and the emotions attached to them: let them go. Concentrate on the breath and the physical activities — including the details of the objects with which you’re interacting.

        You’ll notice that your home will lend itself to a meditative state when things are in order. This is where true feng shui originates. You will naturally sense how the arrangement of things affects the energy in a room.

        Clutter will disappear because mindfulness tells you to dispose of unnecessary things. Plants will bloom. Birds will make their nests in your backyard. Your home will smell pleasing and people will naturally be attracted to it and your presence.

        You’ve Reached the Beginning and the End

        Once you are able to do mindfulness meditation even as you are attending to the normal and abnormal requirements of your home, the mundane and the unusual, you are at both the beginning and the end.

        You are at the beginning because meditation never ends. Continue setting aside time each day to do sitting meditation in the space you’ve set aside. Continue practicing mindfulness as you attend to the energy of your house, your own energy, and the energy of those around you.

        You are at the end because you grasped what it means to do meditation at home: it means letting go of cares and concerns and being in your home as you attend to the right tasks. The right tasks are those necessary for being in your home.

        As you sit in your home, rise, open the door and you leave, you are calm in your mind because you are home.

        Featured photo credit: Simon Rae via unsplash.com

        Reference

        [1]Healthline: 12 Science-Based Benefits of Meditation
        [2]Marquette University: Feng Shui: The Wind and Water
        [3]Rutgers University: Social Media and Well-Being
        [4]Maryville University: How Successful People Unplug

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