How do you know that there is such a thing as a soul?

Mr TB

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Well thought out. I'm impressed.

You can't reconcile the two concepts. One has to be tossed. Free will is a paradox because god is required to grant us free will. If there is a god (with all that is implied by that concept) there can be no free will.

The truth sucks most of the time. ;)
The truth sucks for those who can't handle it, if you are not converted i pray to god that he give me a chance in the afterlife to meet you...to sympathise with your poor decision making...
 

Debbie

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Well thought out. I'm impressed.

You can't reconcile the two concepts. One has to be tossed. Free will is a paradox because god is required to grant us free will. If there is a god (with all that is implied by that concept) there can be no free will.

The truth sucks most of the time. ;)
Nick333-

Mechanical automation vs free will

Which side is god bundled with?

Mechanical automation can't come in degrees, correct, Nick333? It either is or it isn't, right? Hard materialism cannot compromise... yes, if that be the truth (as you see it) then damn, the truth does suck.

And if we assume such a materialism, what then of meaning? Ultimately there is none, in anything, anywhere. Something that makes you mourn, laugh, or cry with joy is only such because of your constitution which you did not select or alter, and which from hereon out you cannot select nor alter. What then becomes of education or enjoyment or the pursuits of reform/justice/punishment/upliftment? The actions to bring about these things become absolutely useless since all is predetermined and not within human control. What of growing, improving yourself, changing your own perspectives, finding happiness, being love, feeling hate, experiencing jealousy or pride? These things are not in your control. Wherein lies the logic to punish the murderer or jail the rapist?!

The assumption of materialism is not diametrially opposed to the attitude of "oh it's the gods' fault!". The ideas are one and the same, hand-in-hand in a common paradigm.
 

Xarog

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Debbie2 said:
Without the existence of soul (/consciousness (well, unconsciousness is prob more accurate)/spirit), life is reduced to a mechanical, pre-determined sequence of unescapable events.

A pre-destined fate of the world and of the individual becomes reality; and in such a reality there is no such thing as free will.

How can one reconcile the idea of free will with a reality in which the human existance/the human experience of life is reduced to a series of ultimately uncontrollable sets of causes and effects? Don't tell me that you 'still have control'- look at the nature of the implications of the mechanical reality you put forth.
You could be right about this. On the other hand the quantum physicists could be right and the nature of reality could be inherently random and so our choices need not be dependent on a soul to be truly free.

Nick333 said:
Well thought out. I'm impressed.

You can't reconcile the two concepts. One has to be tossed. Free will is a paradox because god is required to grant us free will. If there is a god (with all that is implied by that concept) there can be no free will.

The truth sucks most of the time.
Just who said that the concept of the soul needs the concept of God to make any sense? I do not believe that to be the case at all. I believe all life posseses a soul of some kind. I'm not so sure about the existence of God.

Debbie2 said:
And if we assume such a materialism, what then of meaning? Ultimately there is none, in anything, anywhere. Something that makes you mourn, laugh, or cry with joy is only such because of your constitution which you did not select or alter, and which from hereon out you cannot select nor alter. What then becomes of education or enjoyment or the pursuits of reform/justice/punishment/upliftment? The actions to bring about these things become absolutely useless since all is predetermined and not within human control. What of growing, improving yourself, changing your own perspectives, finding happiness, being love, feeling hate, experiencing jealousy or pride? These things are not in your control. Wherein lies the logic to punish the murderer or jail the rapist?!
Very well said.
 

Debbie

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You could be right about this. On the other hand the quantum physicists could be right and the nature of reality could be inherently random and so our choices need not be dependent on a soul to be truly free.
Hi Xarog,
What do you mean by this? What exactly are you juxtaposing here?
 

Nick333

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Nick333-

And if we assume such a materialism, what then of meaning? Ultimately there is none, in anything, anywhere. Something that makes you mourn, laugh, or cry with joy is only such because of your constitution which you did not select or alter, and which from hereon out you cannot select nor alter. What then becomes of education or enjoyment or the pursuits of reform/justice/punishment/upliftment? The actions to bring about these things become absolutely useless since all is predetermined and not within human control. What of growing, improving yourself, changing your own perspectives, finding happiness, being love, feeling hate, experiencing jealousy or pride? These things are not in your control. Wherein lies the logic to punish the murderer or jail the rapist?!

The assumption of materialism is not diametrially opposed to the attitude of "oh it's the gods' fault!". The ideas are one and the same, hand-in-hand in a common paradigm.
It'll probably just piss you off more, but none of what you say really challenges what I said on any meaningful level.

Just because we have no free will doesn't mean that we are incapable of changing for the better. It just means some of us are not.
It doesn't mean we should not try. It does mean that we may not be capable of success.

In fact not having free will really doesn't change the human experience very much at all. It may mean we should be more compassionate towards those who appear to be incapable of changing for the better.

Isn't the concept of free will just an excuse for us to feel more deserving of what we have compared to those who haven't achieved what we have? Isn't the illusion of free will really just a creation of our egos?

There is still hope without free will. We all hope to be happier people. Some of us will be happier and some of us wont. Which is the same as saying some of us are capable of happiness and some of us aren't. The only way we can find out is by trying. So how does the human experience differ if we discard the concept of free will?

God and free will are both rationalizations for the inequities of life.
 

Xarog

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Debbie2 said:
Hi Xarog,
What do you mean by this? What exactly are you juxtaposing here?
Well, on the most fundamantal levels of physics, the experts in the field are having a great difficulty in actually measuring what's going on in the universe. The best they can do is to tell us what these individual subatomic particles will probably do - i.e. its all based on statistics. On the most basic level, scientists cannot actually be sure of what those particles are going to do next. They're inherently unpredictable, and in turn we can't really be sure that any of this is predestined because the 'rules' of cause and effect don't seem to apply.

Nick333 said:
In fact not having free will really doesn't change the human experience very much at all. It may mean we should be more compassionate towards those who appear to be incapable of changing for the better.
Without free will, i.e. if its all predertimined, how do your words make any difference at all? In a predertimined world, everything you do and choose was decided the moment the big bang occured. Compassion is not a choice it's just a reaction. My writing this right now would simply be the result of some cosmic chain of reaction.

Isn't the concept of free will just an excuse for us to feel more deserving of what we have compared to those who haven't achieved what we have? Isn't the illusion of free will really just a creation of our egos?
Only if you believe that everything in our lives are the result of what we would choose. You can still have free will and yet still have something bad happen to you because of no one's will - a meteorite could land on your head, for instance.

There is still hope without free will. We all hope to be happier people. Some of us will be happier and some of us wont. Which is the same as saying some of us are capable of happiness and some of us aren't. The only way we can find out is by trying. So how does the human experience differ if we discard the concept of free will?
What does hope matter if we don't choose it?

As a side note : saying that some of us will be happy and some of us will not is not at all the same as saying that some of us are capable of being happy and some of us aren't. Many people who are currently unhappy would become happy when their circumstances change - this in turn shows that some people who are currently unhappy definately have the capacity to be happy given the right circumstances.

God and free will are both rationalizations for the inequities of life.
Again, you seem to equate free will with omnipotence. Just because I choose not to die doesn't mean I'm going to live forever.

Why should free will be thus? You're creating a paradox that doesn't need to exist. Free will does not need unlimited power, and obviously since wills collide (free or not) and someone succeeds and another fails, there is more at play than mere wills.
 

Nick333

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Without free will, i.e. if its all predertimined, how do your words make any difference at all? In a predertimined world, everything you do and choose was decided the moment the big bang occured. Compassion is not a choice it's just a reaction. My writing this right now would simply be the result of some cosmic chain of reaction.
That is exactly the case.


Only if you believe that everything in our lives are the result of what we would choose. You can still have free will and yet still have something bad happen to you because of no one's will - a meteorite could land on your head, for instance.
Well exactly. Our circumstances aren't the result of pure decision making. We aren't even capable of making decisions until we have received sensory stimulus to use as criteria along with genetic predispositions to make decisions.

Say you have a child born with a predisposition to aggressive behavior. In one scenario the child could be born into a violent environment where aggression is expressed violently as a norm.
In another scenario the same child is born into an environment where the norm is to channel aggression into productive activities.
Which scenario is the child more likely to achieve happiness in?

What does hope matter if we don't choose it?
I've given this sentence a fair amount of thought, and I still don't get your point.

As a side note : saying that some of us will be happy and some of us will not is not at all the same as saying that some of us are capable of being happy and some of us aren't. Many people who are currently unhappy would become happy when their circumstances change - this in turn shows that some people who are currently unhappy definitely have the capacity to be happy given the right circumstances.
So what happens if we are incapable of changing our circumstances to those which would be more conducive to our being happy? Would we then not be incapable of happiness?



Again, you seem to equate free will with omnipotence. Just because I choose not to die doesn't mean I'm going to live forever.

Why should free will be thus? You're creating a paradox that doesn't need to exist. Free will does not need unlimited power, and obviously since wills collide (free or not) and someone succeeds and another fails, there is more at play than mere wills.
Free will would require us to have a soul (something not subject to predispositions and random events). If we have a soul then why are we here ? Is it because we are compelled to be here by god or some natural law? If so then we are just as much victims of circumstance as we would be if we had no soul. Or god waved his wand and ****ed with the laws of logic.

OK so we chose to be here out of free will you might say. Well if thats the case then on what criteria did we base our decision and what predisposition was there for us to judge the criteria on? If we had a predisposition towards a desired outcome then there must be a causality for that predisposition. A random predisposition would **** up free will and a predisposition granted by god would **** it up to. Unless god waved his magic wand again.

Even if we start out with identical souls and the decision to become corpereal was the only logical choice for a soul to make, then we are left with the problem of our differing present circumstances. We could have chosen our circumstances (refer to the previous paragraph for the reason why this messes with free will). Or the circumstance could be random in which case we are just victims of circumstance yet again. Or of course god could have chosen our circumstances and waved his magic wand to sort out the free will issue again.
 

Debbie

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It'll probably just piss you off more, but none of what you say really challenges what I said on any meaningful level.
Nick333, again, what makes you think I was interested in changing or challanging your beliefs? I asked you a question- in automation vs free will, what side do you think god falls on? It's a philosophical thing that you are good at explaining from your particular viewpoint so I wanted to hear what your view was. I am not angry, more bemused and excited to see what you will say. I don't get excited to see the replies of someone who posts poorly worded, confusing, grammatically incorrect, half-baked arguments. :p
Just because we have no free will doesn't mean that we are incapable of changing for the better. It just means some of us are not.
It doesn't mean we should not try. It does mean that we may not be capable of success.
Logically, there is a problem with your argument. We are dealing with an absolute- either we have free will, or we don't. No inbetween. No space for a 'some people get lucky and others don't, we should all just try in any case' argument. There appears to be a spectrum for a number of reasons I don't understand, but if we just byskip all this and go straight for the logic- free will either is, or it isn't.

In fact not having free will really doesn't change the human experience very much at all. It may mean we should be more compassionate towards those who appear to be incapable of changing for the better.
Whoa hold up. "It may mean"... looking for meaning,.. meaning which is not ultimately possible in materialism. Sure there may be temporary meaning, temporary meaning seeming (possibly even being) of no less value to the individual than ultimate meaning. But temporary meaning is temporary value nonetheless (though temporary value may actually be more valued, depending what the goal is/viewpoint is). Subscribing to materialism means foresaking the existence of ultimate meaning, which in turn means you take undue liberties when you use the phrase "it may mean" here. (You already create challanges to materialism's foundations whenever you so much as temporarily 'borrow' the idea of meaning.)

Now- "not having free will doesn't change the human experience very much"? Ok, we need to distinguish here:

1. Not having free will and not being aware of this
2. Not having free will and being aware of this

3. Not having free will, but assuming awareness of having free will
4. Having free will and not being aware of this

5. Having free will and being aware of this
6. Having free will and being aware of this and making conscious choices on:
-.1 exercising this
-.2 not exercising this
-.3 not needing to make the above choice

You say that not having free will 'doesn't change the human experience very much'. There's the obvious question hanging in the background: How would the human experience change if this were true? For that matter, how would the human experience change given any of the above 6 statements as truth? I see the human experience differently when I look through the eyes of those statements one by one. I see a difference. Some of these differences are normative and prescriptive in nature.

In one way I interpret these statements against the question of how the human experience changes, number 1 and 4 have the same implications. Likewise, 3 and 5 have the same implications; and arguably 2 and 6.3 match up. Nick, what kind of 'not having free will' are you talking about? The kind where which of the above statements are true?
 
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Debbie

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Isn't the concept of free will just an excuse for us to feel more deserving of what we have compared to those who haven't achieved what we have? Isn't the illusion of free will really just a creation of our egos?
It may be just an illusion of our egos. How would we know? We wouldn't be able to test this scientifically, because by it's nature it is a subjective thing (and science it not yet able to test such things). Add psychodynamics to the mix and scientifically testing the proposition that free will is "an illusion created by the ego" is even more difficult. The closest we can get, scientifically and otherwise, to testing this proposition is via self-testing (heh, pun). To know if it is just your ego creating the idea of free will, you have to have stepped outside your ego. You have to have seen your ego somewhat objectively. For that matter, you have to have acknowledged the existence of ego in the first place (Freud's ego, not pride ego). How well do you know your ego? I can't see you being able to give a "yes I know my ego" answer Nick, because you don't consider emotion to be a valid source of truth or 'knowing'. Because you can't say 'yes I know that I know my ego because I have felt that I have known my ego', you don't have a measure for testing whether free will is "an illusion of ego" or not, not even in your own unique case as the person Nick333 (unless you can say that you have tasted, smelt, touched, observed or heard your ego and from this you could determine being 'located' outside of your ego). Your trail runs cold... although granted, what you say is not negated. Your postulation that free will is a product of ego just becomes unable to be properly explored because you have closed a door to the best angles from which to explore the proposition from.

But, if you:
- assume emotion is a mechanism for knowledge/truth (which, between you, me and Xarog we have not been able to rule out yet); and
- can assume you have been able to step outside your ego; and
- can retain sufficient knowingness of ego on the matter
.....then this question of whether free will is an 'illusion of ego' or not can be properly discussed.

There is still hope without free will. We all hope to be happier people. Some of us will be happier and some of us wont. Which is the same as saying some of us are capable of happiness and some of us aren't... The only way we can find out is by trying.
I'm finding this a bit hard to follow because you say the reality is that there is no free will, but then advocate the non-acceptance of this as being fact...? Hope is saying that you don't accept what is likely to come.

So how does the human experience differ if we discard the concept of free will?
I can try answer this only after you tell me what kind of scenario exactly we are looking at, re my above 6 statements.

God and free will are both rationalizations for the inequities of life.
Maybe. Maybe not. :rolleyes:
 
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Debbie

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Xarog said:
What does hope matter if we don't choose it?
I've given this sentence a fair amount of thought, and I still don't get your point.
Hope exists only in the mind. It is not something tangible. For it to exist, one has to choose for it to exist. Hope cannot exist if you don't choose for it to exist. We can't choose for it to exist if we don't have free will to make the choice for it to exist. If we think hope exists in the absence of the choice for it to exist, then that is not hope we speak of, it is something else.
 
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Debbie

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So what happens if we are incapable of changing our circumstances to those which would be more conducive to our being happy? Would we then not be incapable of happiness?
Only if your assumption was that changing circumstances was the only way to 'achieve happiness' (btw, when did 'achieving happiness' come into all this?). Changing circumstances may be one way towards happiness; changing perceptions of circumstances may be another.

Free will would require us to have a soul (something not subject to predispositions and random events). If we have a soul then why are we here?
Maybe we're here partly to figure out why we're here.

Is it because we are compelled to be here by god or some natural law?
Maybe we're here just to experience what it's like to be here. Maybe we're here because it would be kinda boring to not be here. Maybe we're here to realise free will. Maybe we're here to jol. Maybe we're here to experience evil, or to choose between good and evil and everything inbetween (there's the free will thing again).

If so then we are just as much victims of circumstance as we would be if we had no soul. Or god waved his wand and ****ed with the laws of logic.
We may be victims of circumstance. Slight problem in that we haven't yet even come near to determining/agreeing what exactly those 'circumstances' that led to us being here are.
----
The rest below I'll have to respond to if/when I get the chance- but great ideas you bring up and good arguments you make.

OK so we chose to be here out of free will you might say. Well if thats the case then on what criteria did we base our decision and what predisposition was there for us to judge the criteria on? If we had a predisposition towards a desired outcome then there must be a causality for that predisposition. A random predisposition would **** up free will and a predisposition granted by god would **** it up to. Unless god waved his magic wand again.

Even if we start out with identical souls and the decision to become corpereal was the only logical choice for a soul to make, then we are left with the problem of our differing present circumstances. We could have chosen our circumstances (refer to the previous paragraph for the reason why this messes with free will). Or the circumstance could be random in which case we are just victims of circumstance yet again. Or of course god could have chosen our circumstances and waved his magic wand to sort out the free will issue again.
 
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noxibox

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Without the existence of soul (/consciousness (well, unconsciousness is prob more accurate)/spirit), life is reduced to a mechanical, pre-determined sequence of unescapable events.

A pre-destined fate of the world and of the individual becomes reality; and in such a reality there is no such thing as free will.
That's not correct. There being nothing beyond the physical body does not reduce us to merely deterministic automatons. We're dealing with a very complex set of interactions within the brain. Consciousness could just be a consequence of the complexity of the brain. Declaring that there must be something beyond the physical because we have only a limited understanding of how the brain works is premature.

It may even turn out that we do not have free will or that it's not as free as we would like to believe, but that level of understanding of the operation of the brain is some way off yet. The research going into AI may give us some insights.
 

Xarog

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nick333 said:
That is exactly the case.
Why should I believe you?

Well exactly. Our circumstances aren't the result of pure decision making.
No one said it was. Again you seem to think that free will implies that you control reality. Well, it doesn't. Free will means being able to choose how we interpret out perceptions.

We aren't even capable of making decisions until we have received sensory stimulus to use as criteria along with genetic predispositions to make decisions.
Just because we have certain genetic predispositions does not mean that that's all we have. Where's the gene that makes us cook food? Where's the gene that made us use electricity?

And certainly, that we need input to make decisions does not prove anything. That's how thinking processes work. A computer without a stream of new information is off. It just sits there and does nothing.

Interesting thing is, though, that humans can decide what they want to process and how they want to process it.

Say you have a child born with a predisposition to aggressive behavior. In one scenario the child could be born into a violent environment where aggression is expressed violently as a norm.
In another scenario the same child is born into an environment where the norm is to channel aggression into productive activities.
Which scenario is the child more likely to achieve happiness in?
Irrelevant in terms of whether or not the child has the capacity to be happy.

So what happens if we are incapable of changing our circumstances to those which would be more conducive to our being happy? Would we then not be incapable of happiness?
No.

The circumstances could change, and in doing so the person who was previously miserable could become ecstatically happy.

Free will would require us to have a soul (something not subject to predispositions and random events).
Why? If on a fundamental level the universe is inherently unpredictable then our choices are for all intents and purposes free because at a basic level there would be no cause and effect.

If we have a soul then why are we here ? Is it because we are compelled to be here by god or some natural law?
Maybe we just want to see what its like to be human.

OK so we chose to be here out of free will you might say. Well if thats the case then on what criteria did we base our decision and what predisposition was there for us to judge the criteria on?
Maybe it was decided by flipping a coin instead.

Even if we start out with identical souls and the decision to become corpereal was the only logical choice for a soul to make, then we are left with the problem of our differing present circumstances. We could have chosen our circumstances (refer to the previous paragraph for the reason why this messes with free will). Or the circumstance could be random in which case we are just victims of circumstance yet again. Or of course god could have chosen our circumstances and waved his magic wand to sort out the free will issue again.
No. Again you assume that free will cannot be subject to circumstances. Like I've already said, you can't choose to not die if someone puts a bullet in your head.

There is only one thing we can truly choose - what we think and feel about the stimulus we receive. The rest is merely choosing to use what we have available to try to achieve an outcome we want and hoping there are no other factors which make our attempts impossible.

You're also assuming that a soul that chose to live as a human knew exactly what kind of life he was going to live.

I see Debbie got to a few of these before I did. Ignore the redundancies where appropriate. ;)
 

sparklehorse

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How do you know you have a physical body?
How do you know I have a physical body. You might be talking to a computer program ;)
You only have a physical body because everybody agrees to it: otherwise you are an electromagnetic wave of pure energy, quantum soup.
Sure, but in this reality, you and I do exist. Even if it is only according to our definition. We have a set of reliable and repeatable tests, that in our reality is usable and true. To us it is beautiful soup.
Who knows the measure of reality, the existence of the soul? Certainly not us; but then how little we know in this year 2007.
I'll tell you what I do know. There is a high probability that you are alive and human and that you can type on a computer and are capable of doing basic human functions. This can all be proven in various ways and most people will agree to this. I cannot however tell you anything reliable about your soul and neither can you or anyone else in our reality. In our reality there is no evidence for it. Which brings me back to my question. How do you know that there is such a thing as a soul?
 

Electrra

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we have cracked the shell
we know exactly what is in the body
or is the shell also invisible?
 

sparklehorse

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Debbie2 said:
Without the existence of soul (/consciousness (well, unconsciousness is prob more accurate)/spirit), life is reduced to a mechanical, pre-determined sequence of unescapable events.

A pre-destined fate of the world and of the individual becomes reality; and in such a reality there is no such thing as free will.

How can one reconcile the idea of free will with a reality in which the human existance/the human experience of life is reduced to a series of ultimately uncontrollable sets of causes and effects? Don't tell me that you 'still have control'- look at the nature of the implications of the mechanical reality you put forth.
All this talk of free will is giving me a headache :D
Would it be accurate to sum up your view as: We have a soul because we have free will?
I'm not sure we have either.

Also, how do you tie this into an afterlife (if you believe in it).

And if we assume such a materialism, what then of meaning? Ultimately there is none, in anything, anywhere. Something that makes you mourn, laugh, or cry with joy is only such because of your constitution which you did not select or alter, and which from hereon out you cannot select nor alter.
Why does it have to mean anything? Even if we have no real choice in our actions, it is still very much real to us and we experience it just as if we did have free will.
What then becomes of education or enjoyment or the pursuits of reform/justice/punishment/upliftment? The actions to bring about these things become absolutely useless since all is predetermined and not within human control. What of growing, improving yourself, changing your own perspectives, finding happiness, being love, feeling hate, experiencing jealousy or pride? These things are not in your control.
Again, why is it useless because we didn't choose it. It still affects people in a real way.
Wherein lies the logic to punish the murderer or jail the rapist?!
It needn't be punishment because someone chose to commit a crime. You can still argue that even if he/she didn't really choose to commit the crime that he/she is still detrimental to society and should therefore be removed from it.
 

sparklehorse

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BTW. Some extra pondering ;)
Sometimes when watching a movie for the second time and something bad happens, although I know what is going to happen (no free will for the characters), I somehow still hope that things might turn out differently. You can maybe argue that they also hope for the best, and that they feel they are in control of their actions.
I know it is not, yet I still hope? Maybe hope and predeterminism is not so incompatible.
 

Debbie

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Sparklehorse, your comments about hope reinforce my assumption that hope is a decision to choose to believe differently about what is to come, particularly in the face of evidence suggesting a likely unfavourable outcome.

<Hmm, again the issue of faith hangs in the background of the concept of hope, but I'm not entirely complete on where and how it fits in...>
 

sparklehorse

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That's not correct. There being nothing beyond the physical body does not reduce us to merely deterministic automatons. We're dealing with a very complex set of interactions within the brain. Consciousness could just be a consequence of the complexity of the brain. Declaring that there must be something beyond the physical because we have only a limited understanding of how the brain works is premature.

It may even turn out that we do not have free will or that it's not as free as we would like to believe, but that level of understanding of the operation of the brain is some way off yet. The research going into AI may give us some insights.
I agree. The complexity of the brain and the interaction with it's environment would still be very unpredictable in a practical sense.

A very simple organism might be more predictable. I guess some will argue then that it's because it doesn't have a soul (or free will).
 
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