Three possibilities come to mind:

Is there an evolutionary purpose?

Does it arise as a consequence of our mental activities, a sort of side effect of our thinking?

Is it given a priori (something we have to think in order to think at all)?

EDIT: Thanks for all the responses! Just one thing I saw come up a few times I’d like to address: a lot of people are asking ‘Why assume this?’ The answer is: it’s purely rhetorical! That said, I’m happy with a well thought-out ‘I dispute the premiss’ answer.

  • afraid_of_zombies@lemmy.world
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    5 days ago

    Things can be true on different levels and false on others. The earth is locally flat, it is as a whole a near sphere.

    I don’t know if we have free will or not, I strongly suspect that physics can explain our minds fully, but I don’t know. At the same time even if physics could fully explain our minds in practice we are so complicated we give the impression that we have a limited amount of free will. So yeah the earth is round but it is easier for us to assume flat most of the time.

  • xylogx@lemmy.world
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    7 days ago

    A better question is, is there any difference between the illusion of free will and actual free will. Is there some experiment you could conduct to tell the difference?

  • Bear@lemmynsfw.com
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    6 days ago

    Yes, there’s an evolutionary purpose for the concept of purpose. If you believe you can do something and show some initiative then you’re more likely to get it. The early bird gets the worm, and the bird that anticipated the worm is the early bird. This is true both for humans and cells in a petri dish.

  • boatsnhos931@lemmy.world
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    6 days ago

    This is the kind of pointless shit that I think of when I smoke too much. If you have a pipe in your hand, SIT IT DOWN 😜

  • bastion@feddit.nl
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    7 days ago

    Look into Kurt Gödel’s incompleteness theorem, and the philosophical implications of that.

    A lot of times, when we’re dealing with the assertion that we don’t have free will, we’re analyzing that according to rule-based systems. The system that we use to evaluate truth isn’t entirely rule-based, and is necessarily a superset of what we can consciously evaluate.

    In effect, some less-complex system that is a subset of your larger mind is saying ‘you have limits, and they are this.’ But your larger mind disagrees, because that more rule-based subset of rights is incapable of knowing the limits of its superset. Though, we just feel like it’s ‘off’.

    If it feels like it’s off, there’s a good chance that the overall way you’re thinking of it isn’t right, even if the literal thing you’re focused on has some degree of truth.

    In short, it’s possible to know something that is technically true, but that isn’t interpreted correctly internally.

    If you accept the model that you have no free will without processing the larger feelings it evokes, then whether or not your internal sense of free will is rule-based, you’ll artificially limit the way you think to filter out the internal process you think of as free will. …and that can have massive consequences for your happiness and viability as an organism, because you’ve swapped away that which you actually are for labels and concepts of what you are - but your concept is fundamentally less complex and led capable than you are as a whole.

    Fortunately, rule-based systems break when faced with reality. It’s just that it can be very painful to go through that process with what you identify with.

    • Semperverus@lemmy.world
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      7 days ago

      Help me understand if I am interpreting you correctly:

      We have free will in a deterministic universe because feelings?

      • bastion@feddit.nl
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        5 days ago

        I’ll help:

        You are not interpreting me correctly.

        Edit: give a snarky response, get a snarky response.

        • meep_launcher@lemm.ee
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          6 days ago

          If you can reword you initial post, that would be great. I was also having trouble following what you were saying.

          • bastion@feddit.nl
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            5 days ago

            If the concept of the universe being deterministic interferes with one’s concept of free will, then one of these must be true:

            • the universe is nondeterministic, or has nondeterministic elements
            • one’s concept of determinism is incorrect
            • one’s concept of the impact of determinism on one’s own free will is incorrect

            But of course, that begs:

            • ones concept of free will is incorrect

            But that cannot be, because your notion of free will is for you to decide, even if the universe is somehow determinate.

            But that doesn’t mean the universe is or is not deterministic, it just means one or more of the above three things.

            Ultimately, though, I was not making an argument concerning the fundamental nature of free will and determinism, or whether or not the universe is deterministic. I was arguing for completely processing fundamental concepts before you accept them to be true, because often times we accept a lot of false implications alongside the true things we accept.

            One’s world view holds immense power in one’s own life. People do not intentionally act in accordance with things they do not believe to be the case. To accept determinism without fully processing the implications thereof, particularly if it “feels wrong but seems true” is to enter into and sign up for those internal conflicts writ large in one’s own life.

            I also don’t believe that the universe is absolutely deterministic, but that’s a different argument that others have made better than I likely would.

            • meep_launcher@lemm.ee
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              5 days ago

              Okay, in other words we need to consider our assumptions and definitions of “Free will” and “Determinism” when answering this question?

              I really enjoyed this video on Compatibilism, and the view of Patricia Churchland (around 5:50) where she says we should reframe the question away from “what choices we have” to “how much control do we have”.

              • bastion@feddit.nl
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                4 days ago

                Close enough. This topic deserves significant care - of course, in the end, though, people buy into whatever they buy into.

                Thanks for the link, I’ll check it out when YouTube is working for me again

  • TheBananaKing@lemmy.world
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    8 days ago

    Confabulation.

    Look at split-brain patients: divide the corpus callosum down the middle, and you effectively have two separate brains that don’t communicate. Tell the half without the speech centre to perform some random task, then ask the other one why they did that - and they will flat-out make up some plausible sounding reason.

    And the thing is, they haven’t the slightest idea that it isn’t true. To them, it feels exactly like freely choosing to do it, for those made up reasons.

    Bits of our brains make us do stuff for their own reasons, and we just make shit up to explain it after the fact. We invent the memory of choosing, about a quarter of a second after we’ve primed our muscles to carry out the choice.

    I think a chunk of this comes down to our need to model the thoughts of others (incredibly useful for social animals) - we make everyone out to be these monolithic executive units so that we can predict their actions, and we make ourselves out to be the same so we can slot ourselves into that same reasoning.

    Also it would be a bit fucking terrifying to just constantly get surprised by your own actions, blown around like a leaf on the wind without a clue what’s going on, so I think another chunk of it is just larping this “I” person who has a coherent narrative behind it all, to protect your own sanity.

  • Delta_V@lemmy.world
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    8 days ago

    There was a relevant post on Lemmy the other day:

    The origin and nature of existence is an epistemological black hole that some people like to plug with “a wizard god did it”.

    The sensation of free will is an emergent property of a lack of awareness of the big stuff, the small stuff, the long stuff, and the short stuff.

    • Admiral Patrick@dubvee.org
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      8 days ago

      I like to look at the illusion of free will as if you’re falling down a pit. You can try to flap your arms or swim, and maybe move yourself a little bit, but at the end, you’re still falling down.

      Warning, I came up with this while very high one time, lol, but it’s kind of stuck with me:

      Consciousness is a 4-dimensional construct living in a 3-dimensional world. What we experience as the passage of time is just our consciousness traveling/falling along the surface of the 4-dimensional plane/shape that defines our existence.

      Feel free to poke all the holes you want in that. lol

      • Rhynoplaz@lemmy.world
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        8 days ago

        There is an old Taoist story about two people floating down a river. One has already decided where he wants the river to take him and is constantly swimming against the current to try to get there, the other just floats along taking in the sights.

        They both end up wherever the river takes them, and they both went through the same obstacles and rapids, but when asked how the trip was, one of them is complaining about the whole trip being frustrating and exhausting, while the other had a pleasant time and tells you all about the amazing things they saw on the way.

      • Feathercrown@lemmy.world
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        8 days ago

        This is basically a spacetime worldline, which is one of those terms that sounds like scifi technobabble even though it’s an actual concept

    • makyo@lemmy.world
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      8 days ago

      Couldn’t it also be argued that our lack of awareness of the big stuff also leaves open the possibility of free will?

      • Delta_V@lemmy.world
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        8 days ago

        On a sufficiently large billiards table, it does become hard to prove that some balls don’t spontaneously sink themselves.

        • makyo@lemmy.world
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          8 days ago

          That is a clever point but I think it also overly simplifies the nature of reality to such a point that it’s not likely to change any minds.

  • Cosmicomical@lemmy.world
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    7 days ago

    Here’s my take: the answer is emergent phenomena. We live in a very complex system and in complex systems there are interactions that can only be predicted using systems of equal or higher complexity. So even in case everything is predetermined, it would still be unpredictable and therefore your decisions are basically still up to you and the complex interactions in your brain.

    • frankPodmoreOP
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      7 days ago

      I think this is probably it. I think this argument is strongly related to the idea of consciousness as an emergent property of sensory experience. I find it simple to imagine the idea of a body with no will or no consciousness (i.e., a philosophical zombie). But I find it very difficult, almost impossible, in fact, to imagine a consciousness with no will, even if it’s only the will to think a given thought.

      • TechAnon@lemm.ee
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        7 days ago

        Do we have free will to think a given thought? All of my thoughts just suddenly appear in my mind or are connected to previous thoughts that suddenly appeared in my mind.

        • frankPodmoreOP
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          7 days ago

          I mean, if I said to you, ‘Calculate 13x16’ (or some other sum you don’t know off the top of your head) you could either do it or not do it. That would be a willed choice, whether or not you knew the answer.

          • TechAnon@lemm.ee
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            7 days ago

            My thoughts would be presented based the fact that you’ve asked me to calculate something. At that point, past experiences would guide my path forward. If I felt like doing math, I may do it, if I had poor childhood experiences in math class, I probably wouldn’t. At the end of the day, it’s all based on history or current questions/feelings. In every scenario my thoughts are presented to me. To prove it, ask yourself what your next thought will be. If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll see you can’t answer that question and when you try and force a thought direction, that direction itself is based on your knowledge from the past and that thought was also presented to you.

            It’s wild because it absolutely feels like we have free will, but it sure doesn’t look like it. 🤷‍♂️

            • Cosmicomical@lemmy.world
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              7 days ago

              This is the problem of original intentionality. There are studies on it, for instance they found that with an mri they can detect when you have come to a decision before your conscious mind realizes you have. Some processes in our brain are outside of our control, because the brain is not just the neocortex but also includes tens of other structures that evolved separately with specific hard-coded purposes, but that doesn’t mean they are not working as a team. I think in any case you are still reaponsible for the decisions you take.

      • jimmy90@lemmy.world
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        7 days ago

        actually this is the definition that first came up on a search

        “the power of acting without the constraint of necessity or fate; the ability to act at one’s own discretion”

        so yeah we do have free will. the rest is philosophical masturbation

        • theherk@lemmy.world
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          7 days ago

          You can also find the definition of magic or telekinesis, but that doesn’t mean we have them, and not all philosophical question are just “masturbation”. It is an interesting question. It is worth taking free will at least axiomatically as our perception of that freedom even if it is truly deterministic.

  • henfredemars@infosec.pub
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    8 days ago

    If you throw a pair of dice, do they still have to roll if their final positions are predetermined from the point that you let go?

    One view is that even a deterministic mind still must execute. An illusion of the capacity to choose between multiple options might be necessary to considering those options which leads to the unavoidable conclusion.

  • Ephera@lemmy.ml
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    8 days ago

    Our brains cannot store all the experiences we ever make. It rather only stores ‘hunches’ (via many weightings of neurons). In particular, it also mixes multiple experiences together to reinforce such hunches.

    This means that despite there being causal reasons why you might e.g. feel uneasy around big dogs, your brain will likely only reproduce a hunch, a gut feeling of fear.

    And then because you don’t remember the concrete causal reasons, it feels like a decision to follow your hunch to get the hell out of there.
    This feeling of making a decision is made even stronger, because there isn’t just the big-dog-bad-hunch, but also the don’t-show-fear-to-big-dog-hunch and the I’m-in-a-social-situation-and-it-would-be-rude-to-leave-hunch and many others.

    There is just an insane amount of past experiences and present sensory input, which makes it impossible to trace back why you would decide a certain way. This gives the illusion of there being no reasons, of free will.

  • Infynis@midwest.social
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    8 days ago

    You’re conscious of the decisions you make. Sure they’re the result of a million different variables, chemicles, memories, and predetermined traits, but some of that is active. You are making the choice. Whether you could have made a different one or not doesn’t affect what the choice feels like

  • nikaaa@lemmy.world
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    7 days ago

    I have heard somewhere that some people seemed to believe that behind each human’s actions, there is some kind of “daemon” that is invisible, but moving the humans like puppets.

    This is conceptualized in the theater mask, through which one can speak.

    The daemon speaks through the human as a theater actor would speak through a mask. (The latin word for that mask is “persona” (literally “sound-through”) and that’s why we call a person a person today (because they are controlled by a daemon who speaks through them)).

  • nondescripthandle@lemmy.dbzer0.com
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    8 days ago

    I forget which philosopher said this but he said something along the lines of if you have the desire and the capacity for an action you do, then deterministic or not, you chose that action. If the tide pulls me where I was already swimming, I still chose to swim there, even if some other force took me half of the way.

    • Glowstick@lemmy.world
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      8 days ago

      But where does your desire and capacity to do that thing come from? It arises from the physical arrangement of neurons/hormones/etc. in your brain and body