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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

        [1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Free Will
        [2] CARM: If God knows our free will choices, do we still have free will?
        [3] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Causal Determinism
        [4] Coelsblog: Compatibilism for incompatibilists: free will in five steps
        [5] Wikipedia: Determinism
        [6] Wikipedia: Many-worlds interpretation
        [7] YouTube: Michio Kaku why physics ends the free will debate
        [8] The Nizkor Project: Fallacy False Dilemma

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        Dr. Jamie Schwandt

        Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt & Red Team Critical Thinker

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        Last Updated on March 17, 2020

        4 Simple Ways to Make Boring Work Become Interesting

        4 Simple Ways to Make Boring Work Become Interesting

        Are you bored at work right now?

        Sitting at your desk, wishing you could be anywhere other than here, doing anything else…?

        You’re not alone.

        Even when you have a job you love, it’s easy to get bored. And if your job isn’t something you’re passionate about, it’s even easier for boredom to creep in.

        Did you know it’s actually possible to make any job more interesting?

        That’s right.

        Whether it’s data entry or shelf stacking, even the most mind-numbing of jobs can be made more fun.

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        Understanding the science behind boredom is the first step to beating it.

        Read on to learn the truth about boredom, and what you can do to stop feeling bored at work for good.

        VIDEO SUMMARY

        I’m bored – as you’re watching the same film over and over again, even though it’s your favorite one

        When you experience something new, your brain releases opioids – chemicals which make you feel good. [1]

        It’s the feeling you might get when you taste a new food for the first time, watch a cool new film, or meet a new person.

        However, the next time you have the same experience, the brain processes it in a different way, without releasing so many feel-good chemicals.

        That’s why you won’t get the same thrill when you eat that delicious meal for the tenth time, rewatch that film again, or spend time with the same friend.

        So, in a nutshell, we get bored when we aren’t having any new experiences.

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        Now, new experiences don’t have to be huge life changes – they could be as simple as taking a different route to work, or picking a different sandwich shop for lunch.

        We’re going to apply this theory to your boring job.

        Keep reading find out how to make subtle changes to the way you work to defeat boredom and have more fun.

        Your work can be much more interesting if you learn these little tricks.

        Ready to learn how to stop feeling so bored at work?

        We’ve listed some simple suggestions below – you can start implementing these right now.

        Let’s do this.

        Make routine tasks more interesting by adding something new

        Sometimes one new element is all it takes to turn routine tasks from dull to interesting.

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        Maybe there’s a long drive you have to make every single week. You get so bored, going the same old route to make the same old deliveries.

        Why not make it a routine to create a playlist of new music each Sunday, to listen to on your boring drive during the week?

        Just like that, something you dread can be turned into the highlight of your day.

        For other routine tasks, you could try setting a timer and trying to beat your record, moving to a new location to complete the task, or trying out a new technique for getting the work done – you might even improve your productivity, too.

        Combine repetitive tasks to get them out of the way

        Certain tasks are difficult to make interesting, no matter how hard you try.

        Get these yawn-inducing chores out of the way ASAP by combining them into one quick, focused batch.

        For example, if you hate listening to meeting recordings, and dislike tidying your desk, do them both at the same time. You’ll halve the time you spend bored out of your mind, and can move onto more interesting tasks as soon as you’re done.

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        Break large tasks into small pieces and plan breaks between them

        Feeling overwhelmed can lead you to procrastinate and get bored. Try breaking up large tasks into lots of small pieces to keep things manageable and fun.

        Try breaking up a 10,000 word report into 1000-word sections. Reward yourself at the end of each section, and you’ll get 10 mini mood boosts, instead of just one at the end.

        You can also plan short breaks between each section, which will help to prevent boredom and keep you focused.

        Give yourself regular rewards, it can be anything that makes you feel good

        Make sure you reward yourself for achievements, even if they feel small.

        Rewards could include:

        • Eating your favourite snack.
        • Taking a walk in a natural area.
        • Spending a few minutes on a fun online game.
        • Buying yourself a small treat.
        • Visiting a new place.
        • Spending time on a favourite hobby.

        Your brain will come to associate work with fun rewards, and you’ll soon feel less bored and more motivated.

        Boredom doesn’t have to be a fact of life.

        Make your working life feel a thousand times more fun by following the simple tips above.

        Reference

        [1] Psychology Today: Why People Get Bored

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