Free Will and Intuition

In class, we discussed the issues involved in the compatibility of free will and determinism. In thoughts about these subjects, most people tend to have two intuitions:

1) People have the ability to make free choices, and

2) The choices we make are influenced or determined by our previous experiences.

Clearly, these intuitions contradict. It seems that the most rational way to mediate this intuitions is to acknowledge that they are both true, but how is this possible?

Simply, there are hard choices and easy choices, as Ruth Chang explains in her Ted Talk “How to Make Hard Choices.” The easy choices are determined by our previous experiences, and clearly have one option being better than another, like the choice between receiving one million dollars or one. Some choices, however, are not so easily decided. Imagine if you had to, say, murder an innocent animal for one million dollars or save an animal from inhumane testing and receive one dollar. Now, the decision has become hard, for most people.

I think it is very important to remember that what may be a hard choice for one person may not be a hard choice for someone else, since each person has their own individual set of values. Using my example from above, if the animal was, perhaps, a fly, then the choice may become easier. Even the choice between a piece of chocolate cake and a peach may be one of the hardest decision someone will ever make.

199 thoughts on “Free Will and Intuition

  1. I think you make a great point Kevin. Since each of our past experiences is different, a hard choice for one individual may not be so for another, like you said. For instance, if we consider someone (i.e. an athlete) who has to eat healthy to stay fit but at the same time loves dessert, then it makes sense to believe that the choice between cake and peach would be difficult for this individual. However, for me, it is clear which to choose (the cake, of course) because I would prefer dessert over fruits. In this way, I completely agree in that hard choices are relative to each individual.

  2. I agree, hard choices are undoubtedly relative to each individual. Based on past experiences, everyone will choose different things when faced with hard decisions. I thinks that the intuition factor plays a greater part in figuring out what decision some one makes. Everyone has different elements taking force in their decision making so I think your point, and Changs, of how every decision can seem like a hard one is very true.

  3. I think that hard choices being relative is probably another reason why Chang thinks that hard choices are so wonderful. Hard choices being relative is also probably why people tend to ask for help in making such difficult decisions. Someone will always have a different opinion of the situation.

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  5. As a student of Vedic way of life I am of the opinion that we carry past life Sanskaras/Impressions which impels us to choose and act as per the Vasanas/Tendencies.With good/noble impressions/Vasanas humanity will be noble with noble choices.However humanity has the capability to choose good actions by sheer effort for which proper environment has to be created through education.

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