Free Choice?

19 Jun

Quite recently, I had an argument with someone about the term of ‘free choice’. The person with whom I argued, let’s call him Gil, would probably say that we argued about the idea of free choice, but I actually believe that the argument concerned the term itself. Perhaps there isn’t an actual difference between the two, but nevertheless each one of us did indeed aim the argument for a different direction.

Gil claimed that free choice may exist (and perhaps he would have also claimed that it does exist, but we’ve never actually got there, as you will see). If I understood him correctly, he defined free choice as follows:

Free choice is what would make two yet-identical people, who were born identical and lived identical lives, in two yet-identical universes, make two different choices – and is NOT something random.

I, on the other hand, don’t like the term of ‘free choice’ at all and think it’s actually quite empty and meaningless. I don’t feel the need to believe in any kind of free choice and already got used to the fact (or opinion) that such a thing doesn’t actually exist. Perhaps, under some definitions, as Gil’s, such a thing may exist, but in this case I believe it would most probably not actually be a ‘free’ choice, but rather a random choice or a choice made by something/someone else of which we have no true control.

First, I’ll explain why (I believe) free choice as he defined it doesn’t actually exist, or yet again, why if it does exist it’s not actually a free choice we make but a choice someone/something else make for us (mind you that he said free choice was NOT something random – which is quite obvious, but essential). Then, I shall explain why the fact that two identical universes can only be changed by randomness/something external of us means that free choice as we (or at least I) see it cannot actually exist.

Do excuse me if I leave out the ‘I believe’ part from now on, I find it more interrupting than helping at this point.

I approach the matter this way: even if I do have ‘free choice’, what would make me choose two different choices in two different universes while I’m the same person, other than randomness? Why would I choose one thing in one universe and another in a different universe, if I’m the same person? What would change my decision? It’s obviously not a part of who I am, because if it were – I would have chosen the same choice in two universes in which who I am is identical. And if who I am is not identical – then what made it different in the two universes? The assumption is that I was born identical and lived identical lives. The proposition that I may choose a different choice in each universe means that either A) I was somehow changed before I chose the different choice, or B) I chose a different choice while I was the same person. This way or another, at some point the two universes were divided – and considering the fact that up until the division I was the same person, what caused the division is not part of who I am, whether it’s ‘free choice’, randomness, or something else, beyond my understanding. The inescapable conclusion is that if I have a ‘free choice’ as Gil described it, my personality and who I am don’t actually affect it – which means, at least to my opinion, that it is not really a ‘choice’, and certainly not a ‘free’ one, is it?


To summarise – and I warn you, the summary is going to be longer – the followings affect how we grow up to become (and yet not necessarily the only things that affects it, to some’s opinion):

  1. How we are born.
  2. The way our surroundings affects us through our lives.
  3. The Randomness that affects the universe, if such a thing exist. I prefer not to get into this argument and just observe both the possibility that such a thing exists and that such a thing doesn’t.

I claim that if these three things are identical in two universes (whether such a condition may actually exist or not), we’d make the exact same choices.

People who believe in free choice (or at least some of them) claim one of the followings:

  1. Even if these three things are identical in two universes, we may chose a different choice in each one, because we may be different in each one. Or:
  2. Even if these three things are identical in two universes, we may chose a different choice in each one, because we have a ‘free choice’.

I’ll answer each possibility respectively – each one of you may believe in each of these options; you have a free choice, after all. Just kidding, if you believe in one of them or the other it is because the course of the universe, of which you had no control, led you to it, of course.

  1. Again, the assumption is that we were born identical. Which means that, if this option is correct, we’ve changed at some point of our lives. What changed us? Don’t say ‘free choice’ – because this option claims that what gives us a free choice in two different universes is the fact that we are different in each one, which means that if we are identical in both of them we would still choose the same choice in each universe. Ergo, if we were born identical – we shall remain identical.
  2. This option claims that two identical people – who were born identiLogiccal and lived identical lives in identical universes – will choose differently, while they are still identical. If they are not identical while choosing different choices, then answer number 1 is the relevant one.
    As aforesaid, if two identical people in two identical conditions choose different choices, then the thing that made them choose the choice they have chosen is not part of who they are, because if it were, they would have chosen alike, of course. It is either something external or random. Personally, the idea that I may have chosen different choices in different universes while I was the same person with the same logic makes me feel much less ‘free’.

What I showed here, or at least tried to, is that free choice as Gil defined it is not actually a free choice. That was part one; it means that the only things that make us choose what we choose and make us who we are, are (1) How we are born, (2) How our surroundings affected us, and (3) The randomness of the universe if it exists. Now, I’ll try to show why this fact means that free choice, as I see it, doesn’t actually exist in any kind of way.

I know that I said before that something else may change our decision, which is not ‘free choice’, but either something random or external; but as you can see, these things fall under the category (3) and (2) respectively.

Before I move on to the second part, and show why the idea of free choice cannot exist (to my opinion) in any kind of way, I’ll try to summarise what I said again and explain why I believe only these three things affect us:


Let’s say we have two universes: Universe 1 and Universe 2, in which the persons X1 and X2 live respectively.

We know these three things:

  1. X1 and X2 were born absolutely identical.
  2. X1 and X2 lived the exact same lives, and were therefore affected by their surroundings in the exacts same way.
  3. The randomness of Universe 1 and of Universe 2 is identical.

Perhaps this hypothesis cannot de facto exist, but it is not relevant to my point. So, my dear physicists, you’d have to use you imagination a little bit.

I believe that X1 and X2 will always make the same choices, because I believe that the only things that affect the creation of out personalities are the way we are born, the way are surroundings affect us, and the randomness of the universe (if, for the billionth time, such a thing exist).

The reason I believe X1 and X2 will always make the same choices is that I also believe they are going to remain identical – because as long as they are identical they themselves cannot change themselves – for obvious reasons – so the only things that can change them are external, either random or not. And we already established the fact that their surroundings affect them alike.

And, if X1 and X2 are identical, they must make the same choices – because, unless I’m insane – and you’d have to excuse me if I am – the only things that may affect their choices are:

  1. Who they are, themselves.
  2. NOT who they are, something external.
  3. Randomness.

Funnily enough, those are the very things we assume are identical for X1 and X2!

The conclusion? The only things that affect who we are are these three: the initial state (how we are born); the external things that affect us (the way out surroundings affect us); and, perhaps, some randomness of the universe.

I’m really, truly, honestly sorry I had to repeat myself so many times in order to establish that.

Now, for the second part, which is quite obvious and yet necessary, and much (much) shorter:

Schrödinger's CatWell, why don’t I believe we have a ‘free choice’? Hmpf.

Actually, I think it’s quite obvious by now, but if I got this far I’m not going to leave it to you.

You see, I showed you why I believethere is no doubt that the only things that affect who we are and the choices we make are these three (I’m not going to count them again). Obviously, our personalities affect themselves, but because the only external things that affect it are these three, these things also determine the way our personalities affect themselves. Get it? No? Too bad.

Thanks for reading, or at least pretending to.

If you disagree with my conclusions or think I didn’t define the term of free choice well – please, say it. I’d love to know someone’s been reading this post, even if he disagrees.


Posted by on Sun, 19/Jun/2011 in Essays


Tags: ,

14 responses to “Free Choice?

  1. Doctor Shoko

    Sun, 19/Jun/2011 at 02:10

    Well, it will not be very surprising that I like this post, mainly because I agree with you. I also believe there is no, at least in the way that I see people difine it, free choice, and I also liked the pictures and photoes.

    Anyway – great essay, hope to read more from you :)

    • DewNestry

      Sun, 19/Jun/2011 at 09:59

      Thanks for replying and answering the poll ^^
      Damn it, I really want someone who doesn’t agree with me to read this lol.

  2. Gil

    Sun, 19/Jun/2011 at 14:46

    Well, I’d like to point my point of view here, mainly because I feel you weren’t able to explain it well (not on purpose of course).
    As I said in our conversation, the physics you apply to strengthen your hypothesis isn’t necessarily right. Within your arguments, there are a few hidden assumptions:
    1. Whenever a man makes a choice, it means he can only make that choice – if you decided X in a certain universe, that means you will always choose X in a parallel situation. You ignore statistics; say, I have a 60% chance of making choice X. Won’t there be a universe, which I made choice Y? Statistically, due to the face that there are a lot of universes in the multiverse (I do not wish to say infinite), it isn’t only possible, it’s almost guaranteed.
    2. All universes are treated as a singular object, without looking at them as part of the multiverse. This connects to the above assumption, but I wish to point it out again.

    To not make this response ridiculously huge, I’ll try summering it up a bit roughly: Our identity, the thing that gives us ‘free choice’, isn’t a closed function that can bear a single outcome with each single data. It gives a variety of data, all of which have a statistic probability.
    Now, does randomness decide which probability comes true in the specific universe you are in or not? Partially, in my opinion. I believe that this ‘function’ can also give priority and affect in a way on the outcome. Why? Because this function is self aware, and that’s what makes the difference.

    This isn’t optimal, but here goes…

    • DewNestry

      Sun, 19/Jun/2011 at 23:08

      Well, you haven’t answered me before now, so I couldn’t fully understand you point of view.
      1. I certainly didn’t assume it. I didn’t use physics to prove my point.
      2. I’m not sure what do you mean by this.
      Of course sometimes I may choose two different choices. But as I said, if my personality is identical in both univirses, then what make me choose differently is external. Which mean, it is not exactly my choice, is it?

  3. timethief

    Sun, 19/Jun/2011 at 23:41

    IMO the concept of “free choice” is based on the erroneous notion that all people are the same, born into the same kinds of families and social-economic conditions, have equal access to education, etc. I’m sure that’s enough for you to see what I am pointing to. Our freedom of choice is constrained by many factors.

    • DewNestry

      Sun, 19/Jun/2011 at 23:45

      I don’t think I follow. People are certainly not born the same and into the same kinds of families.
      I don’t think I’ve understood what you said.

      • timethief

        Mon, 20/Jun/2011 at 00:05

        Let me say it this way then. I do not believe that free choice exists.

        • DewNestry

          Mon, 20/Jun/2011 at 00:09

          Oh XD
          Sorry, I’m quite tired.
          Thanks for reading (:

  4. Ghost Rider

    Wed, 22/Jun/2011 at 04:27

    Interesting read! I don’t agree with the words “free” and “choice” being clubbed together. Choice would mean you have a list of options to choose from and that in itself is a restriction!

    • DewNestry

      Wed, 22/Jun/2011 at 09:13

      I do believe we can choose, it’s just that what makes us choose what we choose is who we are, and ‘who we are’ is created by two factors (or three) that we do not control.
      Thanks for reading ^^

  5. Lafemmeroar

    Tue, 12/Jul/2011 at 04:19

    We are often imprisoned by our choices …

    • DewNestry

      Tue, 12/Jul/2011 at 04:29

      I agree, even though it’s quite different feom what I tried to say here.

  6. wittyjules

    Tue, 19/Jul/2011 at 07:46

    This was an insane read (in a great way). I love both arguments, and found it to be quite the conundrum. Literally, and of the “What came first; Chicken VS. Egg”, variety! Thank you, for having a logic/statistics vs. theoretical physics debate… Honestly, I could run with the argument, either way…. I won’t go into it, here, out of the interest in NOT letting my verbosity run away with me. However, you both make an excellent point, and I love the intellectual fodder. Oh, and, if you haven’t, already, both of you should check out ‘Waking Life’, a Richard Linklater flick about different theories, in general. It’s animation over real life, but the overall idea is amazing. It touches on a couple of things you guys said.

    • DewNestry

      Tue, 19/Jul/2011 at 15:44

      You don’t know how nice it is to read a comment on an old post. I thought it were kinda doomed to ever have a comment again ^^
      It’s too bad you haven’t got into it, and it would be nice if you ever do.
      I’d chech this book, but currently there are about 50 books I wanna read, so it would take a while. But thanks ^^
      Feel free to come by and tell us you opinion ^^



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