Thursday, January 04, 2007

Free Will

After a long hiatus, I am back. I will be making periodic updates whenever I am inspired to. The reason I was gone was college, in its various aspects, had consumed my life. Now that I have graduated, it should not be a problem until I (hopefully) go off to grad school. But enough of my rambling.

One question people have wrestled with is the topic of whether free will exists or not. I have come up with several ways of approaching this problem. The first is determinism, the idea that people do not have free will, and their minds, bodies, behaviors, etc follow a strict cause and effect pattern. This means that human behavior is in theory completely predictable given enough information, and that there is no unpredictable factors such as free will or other random variations that affect people.

The second way this problem can be approached is that free will does exist. First, free will is defined as a conscious, non-physical self that makes decisions about behavior, that has some level of independence from the physical mind. Free will can be divided up into two categories, unlimited and limited. Unlimited free will is the idea that people can do whatever they want whenever they want, without limitations. This is the only approach that I can reject outright, since I cannot right now start speaking in Chinese or Sanskrit because I lack the knowledge to. Thus, my own knowledge limits my free will (if I have free will). Limited free will is the idea that free will does exist, but there are limitations to it in one manner or another.

The third approach is probabilism, which is the idea that human thoughts and behavior do have variation, but it can be described using probability models. This can also be divided into two categories, free will and random. In free will probabilism free will exists, but is limited and affected by probabilities of which behaviors are more likely than others, and which ones are not likely to happen. The other possibility is that a random factor determines which behavior happens, with likelihoods affected by probabilities of certain behaviors either happening or not happening.

In conclusion, there are many ways the problem of free will can be approached, but only one can be dismissed.

I hope this little discussion adds to your knowledge of the topic.

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