There is a big debate in philosophy over Free will (or Freedom versus Determinism) and the present theory will hopefully aid clarification.
The philosophical debate is a little more complicated than saying one side considers that people do have free will and the other doesn’t, but I won’t go through all those theories – I will just try to draw the conclusions that can be made in the light of our theory.
So do we have free will?
On the first (absolute) level – we don’t know. The truth might be so dramatic and different that we cannot even imagine it so we are not trying to draw any conclusions on this level.
On the scientific level – we can draw a conclusion.
While it is hard to define free will (because if free will doesn’t exist then there is nothing to define) – it is easier to define what free will is not.
We can safely assume that a phenomenon with a pre-determinable evolution, doesn’t have free will.
For example if you roll a sphere down a ramp, you can compute where the sphere will stop by knowing its mass, the angle of the ramp and other details.
Having a pre-determinable evolution is the property of an object with no free will.
Also you can throw a ball from the top of a mountain but you can’t tell where the ball will stop because of the complexity of the problem and lack of data. But - if you don’t know where the sphere or ball will stop when falling off a mountain, that won’t render the sphere as having free will – the sphere will still have a predetermined behavior which is mainly determined by its structure interacting with environment using the laws of nature.
The complexity of a problem doesn’t make the problem impossible to resolve – just more complex.
Another example: a chess game – if you have say only 4 pieces of chess (2 on a side and 2 in a side) you can compute absolutely all the possible moves and you can say that if player A moves first, he will always win and there is nothing B can do (if they know the correct moves). Then you add more pieces and it becomes harder and harder to find all the possible moves. But it just gets harder – never impossible.
If we can imagine a chess game with a trillion pieces – that is still determinable – (say) who move first can win each game (if he knows the correct sequence of moves).
Complexity means nothing more than complexity and our present ability to understand a certain level of complexity don’t make that phenomenon magical.
The rule to apply here is – if a basic model of a phenomenon is determinable, then all its similar instances, no matter how complex are – are still determinable.
Going back to our discussion – we can try to apply this rule to humans.
Humans have a number of needs set at an initial moment and they just follow those needs during their life. Their personality can be changed by environment – dramatic events can leave deep scars in humans’ behavior. But all that humans are - is a very complex machine following a very simple set of instructions – the needs, evolving in a very complex environment and interacting with that environment by complex laws.
A system that only evolves according to laws, makes the evolution of that system determinable (more arguments are still to come).
On the second level – our level of scientific understanding (and only on this level!!) – humans have pre-determinable evolution and that means we don’t have free will.
When thinking about humans (at the scientific level!), we are not so different from a sphere.
The decision a person makes can be determined before the decision is made, by adding together all the things that contribute to that decision such as ... genes, order of needs, education, his history and the current environment to which the person reacts.
An experiment that shows that the choices we make are determinable.
To further demonstrate this I will mix in a psychological experiment that shows how our decisions are really determinable when analyzing them in simple situations.
This small psychological experiment can be done by virtually anybody in any home and is pretty relevant – so doubters can give it a try right away.
The experiment will show that if we place 2 coins on a table then ask a subject to choose one, we will know which coin he will choose – and show that choices made in controllable environments are determinable.
Two coins should be placed on a table in front of a chair at equal distance to the right or left of a sitting subject – say 30 cm from the edge of the table and with 30 cm distance one from another.
First we must make sure that the 2 coins are identical because we don’t want them to trigger any preferences. By having no visible differences I mean they should not be damaged or dirty and they should be with the same side up and with the inscriptions having the same orientation.
Then invite the ‘subject’ to the table – ask him to sit down and pick one coin from the table.
When seeing 2 coins in similar positions the subject might try to anticipate the question and this will produce an unnatural decision – either the user anticipates the question correctly and decides to choose something unnatural to counter the test or he will imagine something different that will still make the decision unnatural.
So we need a method not to allow him to meditate at the coins.
One thing we could do is to place the coins on the table and to arrange them while the subject is not present in the room – we can invite him when it is setup. Also another method might be to ask the subject to count from 100 downwards from 3 to 3 (to keep his mind busy) while approaching the table or to place something colorful in the middle of the table that will distract the subject attention from the coins as he approaches the table – or all the methods.
Then when user sits comfortably in the chair – having in front of him on the table the 2 coins, ask him to choose one.
If all the conditions are met and the user won’t have time to meditate at what to choose, when asked to choose one coin – he will choose with his most dominant hand (right or left) the closest coin to that hand – this is because coins are the same – there is no reason to choose another coin – the subject makes the minimum effort when choosing between 2 identical situations.
I tried this test on a lot of people and the success rate is above 90%. In most of the cases the user picks the expected coin with the expected hand – even if he is left handed.
This test demonstrates that basic human decisions are determinable in controlled environments with small complexities.
If we consider the rule mentioned above: if a basic model of a phenomenon is determinable, then all its similar instances, no matter how complex – are still determinable, then this confirms that all other decisions a person makes are still pre-determinable – is only the complexity that we face to make this determination.
So on the scientific level, humans have pre-determinable behavior which means we don’t have free will. We are at the scientific level – don’t forget the level – this conclusion is not the absolute truth (the first level) and is not applicable on the human level (the third level) as we will see next.
The third level of discussion – human level.
At the third level we do can choose!
How come we do can choose if science says we have pre-determinable destiny and we can’t choose?
There are 3 things to discuss here.
1. The first one is that - simply put – this is how the mind works - we just believe that we have the possibility to chose – which is pretty nice.
The sensation of being conscious and choosing is created in the brain by biological processes of which we are not aware.
2. We don’t know the absolute truth about humans, life and universe (the first level) – science might be wrong when it claims that humans don’t have free will.
3. It is illogical to consider the fact that we can’t choose but make decisions (choose) based on this knowledge.
Because science says we “are programmed” to incorrectly believe that we can choose but actually we don’t have a free will, we might be inclined to try to find a way out of this. What can we do to fix that?
What is the correct course of action to be taken now – knowing that we can’t choose?
Maybe knowing that we can’t choose, we should not care what we choose or we should not choose at all?
Actually, that would be the most incorrect conclusion because if it is true, then destiny is still determinable – you don’t change anything. If you choose not to choose or not to care what to choose, that is your destiny set, possibly from the beginning of the Universe.
It is illogical to choose based on the knowledge that you can’t choose.
If somebody believes that his decisions are pre-determinable, and then tries to use this believe when he takes decisions, whatever decisions he makes based on that knowledge are illogical.
It might sound complicated and I guess it is a little.
What I am trying to say is that all the arguments point to the fact that we can or we should make decisions – this is what we feel – it is a great feeling and no logic can change this feeling in our brain, science might be wrong when it says our decisions are pre-determinable, and even if is true, there is really no logic in making decisions based on the fact that we can’t choose – if it is true we should ignore it.
Based on those arguments we should just choose and do it with all our hearths.
And this is how – at the human level we do can choose.
Conclusions over the impact of the order of needs theory on the free will.
Now going back to our initial question - how will this theory impact the free will debate in philosophy?
It helps us develop our knowledge in the field of psychology and our understanding of life by knowing what creates personality and what is the difference between living beings and non living systems.
We are getting closer and closer each moment to fully understand and even reproduce life. Whatever we reproduce, it is a pre-determinable process – we can run it backwards, forward, see where it stops or how it behaves even before it actually does an action.
But all this only happens on the scientific level of our understanding of the Universe.
On the absolute level we don’t know if we have free will or not and also on the human level – we are so blessed to have free will and we should enjoy it. These 2 levels – the absolute and the human – are each more important than the scientific level so we have many more arguments to consider us alive, unique and having free will.