Stephen Hawking on Free Will

I have spent a lot of time thinking about free will and determinism, and a fair bit reading others thoughts on it too. I’ve been trying to sift through my own thoughts on the matter because I am still mostly agnostic towards the whole thing though I do lean towards a form of compatibilism that I am unsure if anyone has thought of in the same way, though it is likely many minds greater than mine have considered these things and perhaps have found better arguments.

One of the more interesting things about free will is that we do not have an answer yet, and may never have an answer on the topic. Another is how we can see the symbiotic relationship with scientific fields of study and philosophy and how these thoughts and ideas created hypotheses, some of which have been tested like the Libet experiment or Stroop Effect, which feeds back into our philosophical thoughts and it really is a rich topic that I wish I had more time to study.

My position has changed a bit since we did our podcast on this matter: Free Will – Fresh AiR – S02:E03 but it is still worth having a listen to if you are interested different thoughts and ideas on the topic.


The Universe and Determinism

photo of deep sky object
Photo by Alex Andrews on

From what we can tell at the moment, on the macro, or even micro, scale the universe is deterministic. Each cause creating and effect which is the cause of another effect and so on.

At a quantum level, however, it seems the universe is probabilistic. This could mean one of 2 things. It is mostly deterministic with a probabilistic quantum level, or we just don’t know enough about quantum effects to fully determine the cause.

Of course, when I give that dichotomy, that is based on the current information, there is always the 3rd option as well… we don’t know enough about the universe to really say how deterministic it actually is, perhaps it only appears that way, perhaps it is the way we analyse things that make it appear deterministic in the way you can argue it appears designed. We should always keep our minds open for this option, but it is pragmatic to act once we have enough evidence to convince us about the state of affairs in the universe.

We do know that the quantum level necessarily affects the macro level, so if the quantum level is probabilistic we would infer that the macro level is not wholly deterministic.

Conclusion: Based on current evidence, the universe is [very nearly] deterministic, as it is probabilistic at the quantum level.

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