• Robertwills
    3
    Tesla, the great inventor of the early 1900's, made an observation he thought was the most important to mankind. Basically, he said we believe that we have free will but in reality all of our movements are "pushed" by the outside environment. I am not sure if I understand this but for example, when you reply to this post you are not doing it of your free will but doing because I "pushed" you to do it. This is what Tesla said:

    We are automata entirely controlled by the forces of the medium, being tossed about like corks on the surface of the water, but mistaking the resultant of the impulses from the outside for the free will.

    Do you think this is true? Can anyone expand on this? I think this is in fact the most important discovery.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    5.9k
    Sounds like basic determinism. Why would anyone believe it, when we know that our choices and actions come from within? We eat food, it gives us energy, we store it, and use it to move in whatever direction we feel like. Looks like Tesla was missing an important feature.

    Btw, I didn't write this because you pushed me to. I wrote it to push you into thinking more clearly on this issue. You push me one way, I push back in the opposite way, doesn't that seem inconsistent with determinism?
  • Bitter Crank
    8.1k
    That there are external influences on our behavior was an important discovery -- made, as it happens, a long time before Nikola Tesla was born. At one time people believed that the stars were an influence. I agree with that -- the Andromeda Galaxy is on my case all the time. People thought that the fluids, or 'humors' in their bodies were influenced by various factors. People have thought that witches could cast spells and control your behavior. And God, of course, or the gods, and devils, angels, etc.

    Modern (like Tesla) thinkers tend to think that physics and chemistry control our behavior. In a very real sense they do because bodies behave according to the rules of chemistry and physics.

    On the other hand, most people believe that they have a will which they exercise free of outside influence some of the time, much of the time, or all of the time. It may not be the case that we have free will; it may not be the case that our behavior is externally determined, and it may not be the case that we can tell the difference.

    As conscious social beings, responsible for our needs, wants, and behavior, it is existentially necessary for us to believe that our will is real. We will be held responsible for our behavior, whether we think we are externally influenced or not. "I am merely an automata" is nowhere on earth an adequate defense in court.
  • Robertwills
    3


    I think what Tesla meant is not that each is not responsible for out actions but everything we do comes from the outside environment. For example, you can continue sit in the chair, or get up and turn the tv on or go outside for a walk. It's your choice but outside forces make those choices happen. It's a mechanical law - you do something and something else happens, and so on and so on. We all live in this world where we are all connected and all actions have reactions (Ghandi, Tutu, etc.). If you make the right "moves" things go your way. The opposite is also true, It also appears to me that good always trumps bad in this world. Tesla also said things along those lines, too.
  • Bitter Crank
    8.1k
    I am now going to perform an external influence on you: Welcome to The Philosophy Forum. You are free insofar as you obey. Follow the rules set by the grim Moderators and all will be well.
  • Bitter Crank
    8.1k
    Do you find it consistent that everything you feel/think/do comes from the outside environment? If everything you feel/think/do comes from the outside, then who are you? Do you even exist? I bet you think you exist, even though you really don't have anything to do with you (since it all comes from somewhere else).
  • foo
    45


    I think it's more or less true. What we do is a function of things we did not choose (of the body and the environment that was given to us.) Moreover, I think we are only intelligible to ourselves to the degree that we see ourselves as functions. That's largely what intelligibility is, I think --a putting of things under 'laws.'

    This is not to say that we will or should stop acting as if we are little sparks of pure freedom deserving of reward or punishment.

    Last point: some kind of partial determinism at least is implicit in the very idea of there being a human nature. What can psychology and much of philosophy be if not a search for laws that bind our actions and that can be used to predict and influence them?
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    5.9k
    For example, you can continue sit in the chair, or get up and turn the tv on or go outside for a walk. It's your choice but outside forces make those choices happen. It's a mechanical law - you do something and something else happens, and so on and so on.Robertwills

    Here's something you can try. Try holding an object between your thumb and fingers, above the floor, having decided that you will drop it to the floor. Tell yourself that you can drop it at whatever moment you wish, without any external influence, as to when you drop it. Then at some point, without any external influence, decide to drop it. I've tried this before, and I'm very convinced that I can decide for myself, the moment it will drop, without any external influence. What makes you think that you are incapable of doing this?
    .
  • Rich
    3.2k
    I think what Tesla meant is not that each is not responsible for out actions but everything we do comes from the outside environment. For example, you can continue sit in the chair, or get up and turn the tv on or go outside for a walk. It's your choice but outside forces make those choices happenRobertwills

    The concept of God has been around for eons, and there are certainly no laws of chemistry or physics that have anything to do with human behavior.
  • TheMadFool
    3.4k
    We are automata entirely controlled by the forces of the medium, being tossed about like corks on the surface of the water, but mistaking the resultant of the impulses from the outside for the free will.Robertwills

    I've been wrestling with the notion of free will for a long time and I can't seem to make any progress. It's a simple question - are we free? The answer, however, isn't easy.

    How can we find out? I used to think a simple experiment of choice would suffice. Give a person a set of options and see what he does. Then find out if what he did was free of influences he can't control.

    The problem with this is we need to know ALL possible influences before we do the experiment and that is exactly what we don't know. So the experiment fails.

    Imagine then that we do know all the influences that affect our minds. Is such a state of knowledge possible and will it bear on the issue? I think that such a level of knowledge will require omniscience. Without omniscience we would never be absolutely sure that we have all the balls in the bag. Omniscience is practically impossible (at least that's how it seems to me).

    So, no experiment can ever demonstrate the existence or nonexistence of free will. Therefore, it seems the question is an unanswerable one. It's practically impossible to demonstrate free will. I think that's why we're in the dark about the issue and will probably remain so until someone makes a breakthrough.

    Another point is at least one of us has to be free to demonstrate free will. If no one has free will then any experiment on free will will be tainted for we can't achieve objectivity, which is a necessity right? That, however, is exactly what we don't know. Back to square one.

    So, free will is one of those questions that can't be answered. Such an important question and we have no answer for it.


    Perhaps we can compromise on the strength of our claim. Yes, free will but constrained by nature, both inner and outer. I imagine it as water molecules flowing through a pipe. The pipe's walls and direction are beyond our control but within the pipe's walls the molecules may move with limited degree of freedom.
  • Rich
    3.2k
    Yes, free will but constrained by nature, both inner and outer.TheMadFool

    It's not free will, it is simply Will, the ability for the mind to create an impulse of movement in a particular direction. I can't believe this notion of free will is discussed at all. Don't people just observe their own actions and what they can and cannot do? I can look around, decide if I'm going to the living room or the kitchen and after I make that choice, create movement in that direction.

    My general feeling is that all philosophers should just shut they're books already and observe themselves and the rest of nature. They'll be better off if they do.
  • Robertwills
    3
    After reading the comments and thinking about it I have come to the conclusion: It's not that we have no free will; it's that we do not see that the outside environment as the driver for our actions. Each action of our free will is "hit off" by the outside environment. You could say we are in effect like a ball in a pinball game! This is why some people do better in different environments.

    I have a hard time believing that Tesla would believe with absolutely certainty something he says is the most important observation in his life and it not be true. I also believe what he said about further study of the subject.
bold
italic
underline
strike
code
quote
ulist
image
url
mention
reveal
youtube
tweet
Add a Comment

Welcome to The Philosophy Forum!

Get involved in philosophical discussions about knowledge, truth, language, consciousness, science, politics, religion, logic and mathematics, art, history, and lots more. No ads, no clutter, and very little agreement — just fascinating conversations.