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Free will and determinism...


TimWake993
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Hi guys, been a while since i posted here. I decided to make a new topic since the problems i'm dealing with now are a bit different from the ones i've had a few months ago.

Anyways in my last post in early April, i said that i was going to consult a psychiatrist since the feelings of anxiety and depression i was having were getting so powerful that for the first time in my life i was beginning to consider suicide as a way out.

Unfortunately i still haven't seen a psy up to this point. When i've had my latest mental breakdown in early April, my parents (with whom i live) were about to leave on a 2 month business trip to England. I suppose that the idea of being left all alone in the house in this state scared me so much, that i finally opened up to them over what was going on inside of me for the past year.

Previously i never spoke to them about any of this. And i suppose that i'm a good actor since they didn't have the slightest idea that i was struggling so much, and were just hammered to find out what i'm really going through. Thankfully they are very supportive of me, and they decided to take me on their trip to England. So that's where i've been for the past month.

The change of scenery definitely helped me, but ultimately it didn't fix things. I've probably said this before but i'm the type of person that when there's a problem, i need to fix it, i need to find a solution. I can't simply ignore it and not think about it until it goes away.

The problem i'm suffering from now is related to metaphysical free will and determinism. I'm asking myself, am i really free to make my own choices, or is my brain wired in such a way that all of my choices are determined by something, such as the past and the laws of nature, and that our freedom to do what we want is only an illusion?

Now its a pretty interesting philosophical question. But its like i have a phobia to realise that we don't have free will. The thought of it just drives me insane with fear. The last few days have been particularly hard, right now i feel so anxious and empty that its like i'm dying inside. Its just such an unsupportable feeling, i don't know what to do anymore.

I just don't know. Every theory i try to come up with to show myself that we have free will seems to fall flat on its face. I just can't find a way to show to myself that we are free in the metaphysical sense. And if we're not...well that thought makes me feel so bad that i begin to ask myself if life's worth living, if that's the conclusion that i reach eventually.

I just don't know what to do anymore.

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I'm curious about what the source of your stress over this is?

Is it related to belief and the prospect we might really be alone with no overlord to sort out the bullies? Or is it related to your own potential to achieve desire from life that you think might be denied you indefinitely due this? Or something else or combination thereof?

Absent the answers to the above, I'll take a stab at what you're feeling:

I think maybe you are experiencing a starvation of the basic human conditions need to feel intimacy and validation for whom you are as a human individual. That is to say a cognitive affirmation of your emotional and physical self. Maybe even sexual? Some natural response from others to very genuine senses that are occurring within you absent your having called upon them.

So , in short an emotional/physiological dissonance. Poverty even - in those areas - that cognitively you are attempting to substitute with reason or the placebo of lifes purpose. In truth there is none and you know this because it is what happens.

Maybe you lack peer intimacy? Or sexual intimacy to a body that physiologically is calling out for it? Also trust and validation that you are good amongst your species?

Then there is this other zone of "spirituality" that comes in so many flavours and none of them taste of anything. A feeling you are looking for the emperors clothes in all truth and sincerity but are mortified at not being able to spot them when others are claiming they exist in complete contradiction to each other. And maybe the two areas above are linked as placebo the one to the other?

Maybe you should go to some festivals whilst you are in the UK and hang out with peers or something? Chill out. Spend days and nights with your own generation? Or is that a source of fear to you also?

I had most of my life where the source of my resolutions were the sources of my innermost fears/anxieties. And I was thus fumbling whenever in a situation to get where I needed to go to validate myself.

What do you say?

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Tim, I still wonder if the specific argument you go over in your mind is the actual difficulty you're having or whether it's not really about the need to focus on something other than the actual source of your pain. So maybe the thoughts you are pondering about, though interesting, aren't what is important, but rather your pattern of having them? What happens when you sit with a feeling?

It's great that your parents are supportive.Is it possible to see a therapist while you are there?

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Thanks for the replies.

I'm curious about what the source of your stress over this is?

Is it related to belief and the prospect we might really be alone with no overlord to sort out the bullies? Or is it related to your own potential to achieve desire from life that you think might be denied you indefinitely due this? Or something else or combination thereof?

I think its the idea that everything about us, our actions, thoughts, even our feelings are determined by something outside of our control. That's the whole concept behind the idea of determinism. If we do what we do, directly and entirely because of something we cannot control, how can we be in control of what we do?

Why does this idea make me feel so anxious? I don't quite know.

Tim, I still wonder if the specific argument you go over in your mind is the actual difficulty you're having or whether it's not really about the need to focus on something other than the actual source of your pain. So maybe the thoughts you are pondering about, though interesting, aren't what is important, but rather your pattern of having them? What happens when you sit with a feeling?

It's great that your parents are supportive.Is it possible to see a therapist while you are there?

To be honest I don't know. I've been such a mess mentally for the past couple of months that its hard for me to separate positive thoughts from negative ones, good ideas from bad ideas. Which makes it all the hardest for me to try to figure out how to overcome this problem, in which direction to head to actually find a solution.

I do believe, unfortunately, that its not normal for me to feel the way that I do because of this. At the same time i don't think i'm suffering from any kind of disorder, maybe some kind of phobia that has the effect of making me think obsessively?

As for seeing a therapist, its probably too late to do it in England, we'll be leaving in 2 weeks. I've already contacted a psychiatrist back at home though, so if he actually bother replying to my e-mails, i should start seeing him in about a month.

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'trialbylife' asked some good questions ...

"how can we be in control of what we do? Why does this idea make me feel so anxious? I don't quite know."

If everything is predetermined, so is your worrying about it, and everything you might choose (or not choose) to do about it. In other words, if we're only along for the ride, you might as well enjoy the ride while it lasts. On the other hand, if we're in charge, we'd better act like it.

In other words, the subjective experience would probably seem the same either way, so the point means nothing, except in your emotional response to it. I'm not minimizing that aspect at all; I know it must be very painful for you. But I might count the reaction itself as evidence that you can choose to react ...

The physicist types who have put forward theories regarding this lately, based on the idea that we might one day be able to determine the complete wiring of a brain, and with enough compute-power, be able to predict that brain's responses, clearly haven't read enough about Chaos Theory. The problem is very similar to predicting the weather: even with measurement stations spaced on a three-dimensional grid with a 1-foot spacing between measurements, the prediction available from that data would inevitably degenerate over time (and rather rapidly, it turns out), due to the growth of inevitable measurement errors, both in precision and in spatial granularity. The limit isn't the number of measurements or the computational power to process them accurately. The problem is inherent in the nature of measurement. It can be proven that no matter how small you make the measurement error, it will rapidly grow to dominate the measurement.

From the inside, would you expect to be able to trace your own disorder? At best, you'd be able to observe its effects on your life, such as worrying about things that you know that other people don't (as much), and the amount of time and emotion this takes away from other more valuable pursuits. Isn't that your experience? Then I'm glad you're planning to see a professional when you get home. :-)

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I think its the idea that everything about us, our actions, thoughts, even our feelings are determined by something outside of our control. That's the whole concept behind the idea of determinism. If we do what we do, directly and entirely because of something we cannot control, how can we be in control of what we do?

Why does this idea make me feel so anxious? I don't quite know.

As for seeing a therapist, its probably too late to do it in England, we'll be leaving in 2 weeks. I've already contacted a psychiatrist back at home though, so if he actually bother replying to my e-mails, i should start seeing him in about a month.

My take on things is part along the, what you see is how it plays kinda logic. So anxious people tend to steer a path of least happiness by virtue of what is fueling their living.

For you , if you have the means, maybe you could cut loose alone and tour Europe for the summer and see what happens? Work on farms or wherever it takes you?

Or maybe you could see a therapist and hope they tell you what to do? (which I doubt they would).

You sound to me like your flight fight responses are fired up to go but you don't know where GO is. Therefore they both flip back and forth upon the stalemate of where you already are. Change something is maybe worth a try. As opposed to not.

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  • 3 months later...

Hi guys,

Been a very long time since i posted here. Lots of things have happened over the past 3 months. I got admitted to university, and moved away from my parents, I now live 300 miles away from them on my own.

Unfortunately I still haven't found an answer to my problem. I don't feel as bad about it right now, whether its because my life is busier then it was 3 months ago, or maybe because I've simply gravitated to a better state of mind.

Every now and then I will have ideas on how to explain free will, on how to find a solution that explains everything, that proves that we have free will and that we are not deterministic. But every time after doing some thinking I realize that my solutions just don't work. Yesterday for example I came up with the idea that human causality (as in, everything we do is caused by something) is a freely willed state by itself. Meaning that we freely decide to be causal. But of course i then realized that for human causality to be freely willed, we need to have the power to choose not to be causal. We need to have the power to decide to do things for no reason at all. Which of course isn't possible.

Its just upsetting. The longer i go without being able to find an answer, the harder it becomes to believe that i do have free will.

On the plus side, I can now go extended periods of time without thinking about this at all, which makes me feel better, but still not quite 100%.

Anyways sorry if my post sounds like random gibberish, i had to type this in a hurry before going to work. Hope you guys are doing well, and thanks for all the support thus far. :)

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