Free Will

John K Clark (
Mon, 27 Jan 1997 19:54:58 -0800 (PST)


On Mon, 27 Jan 1997 Omega <> Wrote:

>I agree that your definition is clear and precise (at least in

Thanks, meaning is what counts. My definition is "A being has free will if
and only if it can not predict what it will do next".

>The problem is that many things (as in a digital slot machine) can
>be random (in the broad sense) because of Turing non-predictability,
>while yet being totally deterministic.

I agree and said as much in my post, but I don't see what the "problem" is,
at least not for me. You say that a determinist universe has no room for what
you call free will, not even with Turing non-predictability, so the only
thing you have left is events without a cause, that is randomness. Sounds
like a rather poor sort of free will to me, not much worth having.

>The classic definition (in my own words) of free will in philosophy,
>theology (ackh), and culture at large, is: The ability to select or
>to not select an action

Then we most certainly have free will, I select things and make decisions a
thousand times a day.

>free from constraints imposed by external circumstances,

Free? The term you're trying to define is FREE will, I fear we're getting a
little circular here. I gave you my definition and it is not circular.

>or by other agencies (such as divine will) that might impose
>additional constraints not found in the external circumstances.

Vague. How do you distinguish between " additional constraints" and "external
circumstances"? It all seems like exactly the same thing to me, even divine
will is just part of the external circumstances, just part of the problem to
be solved. I gave you my definition and it is not vague.

>one has free will if they are an acausal agent within some realm

Then we have free will, I certainly cause things to happen, but it's too
broad for my taste, my definition is just a subset of that.

>Where something is predictable, then free will does not exist.

Not according to my definition. I may be able to predict your behavior
perfectly (provided I don't tell you what it is) and you can do the same with
me, but we both have free will because we can't predict our own behavior.

>Unfortunately your definition is the logical negative of the classic
>definition because when stripped of the self-reference (which I will
>get to shortly) it reduces to an operative principle which says:
>? Where something is not predictable, then free will does exist.
>It is a well established fact in formal logic that the negative of a
>logical statement has a different meaning from the original, and
>furthermore derives no support as to its validity from the original

Please note, I said "if and only if", A being has free will if and only if
it can not predict what it will do next. If A = B then it is also true that
not A = not B, thus because it means exactly the same thing, I am of course
perfectly happy with the following statement: A being does not have free will
if and only if it can predict what it can do next.

>This redefinition thus leads a couple of problems: The first is
>that it changes the the established meaning of a term which goes
>back millenia in human culture.

I sure hope so, because the established meaning of the term is, well...,
it has no meaning, its not even wrong, its gibberish.

>By this definition you could have the "free will" to use your keys
>to enter a building, when in fact, you have no such free will
>because your landlord just changed all the locks.

1) I predict that in 2 minutes or less I will be inside my house.
2) I find that my key does not work.
3) My "prediction" was not a prediction at all, it was wrong.
4) I have free will.

Of course, sometimes we can make correct prediction about out behavior, and
sometimes we feel like we've fallen into a rut and are turning into robots.

>the "actuality" of free will that I'm talking about would (according
>to your above commentary) change strictly as a result of changes in
>one's knowledge regarding self and/or environment.


>it leads to local definitions of truth

No. I can always predict what I am going to do or I can not, and that is true
hear and there and everywhere.

>or worse yet solipsism

My definition does not demand solipsism, neither does it disprove it, and I
don't know of anything else that can do one bit better in that regard.

>Either free will does not exist at all, in which case this new
>definition is wholly wrong because nothing that it called free will,
>was in fact such.

According to my definition, free will defiantly exists, absolutely no doubt
about it, Turing proved it.

>Or, through some form of trancendent acausality in keeping with the
>first meaning, some limited form of free will does exist

Trancendent acausality? I have no idea what that means.

>To say that we might have some form of free will within what might
>well be a totally deterministic reality is an insult to anyone's

No not everyone, I say that sort of thing a lot and I don't feel insulted.

>yet this is what complexity based free-will theory tries to tell us
>is possible.

I don't think complexity theory has anything to do with it and never said it

>Consciousness and free will may or may not exist in actuality

There is one consciousness that I know for sure exists, my own. I can't be as
certain about yours or anybody else.

>wondering how much we really know of ourselves.

I don't wonder I know. We know very little about ourselves and will never
know much more, that's why we'll always have free will. Someday we or our
offspring will be far smarter than we are now, but the thing they will try to
understand, themselves, will be far more complex.

>>Yes, I've found that nearly everybody I meet on the street has
>>exactly the same opinions I do.

>This is not at all my experience.

Holy cow, what a revaluation! Let me write this down before I forget it.
The people who sit next to me on the buss may not have exactly the same
opinions I do about Anarchy, Atheism, Nanotechnology, Uploading or Turing's
solution of the Entscheidungproblem and its relationship to free will.
Thank you for the insight you have given me about my fellow man.

John K Clark

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