Does my dog have free will?

What I am trying to say is, what goes on in a Dog’s mind? My dog can sit and look at his chew toy for 5 minuets or 30 minutes until for some reason, he finally goes to pick it up and chew it. He loves to chase cars along the road but he doesn’t chase all cars all the time. At other times he sits in the shade or sits near my front door. When a dog eats he is responding to instinct, when he moves to the shade he is responding to instinct, but when he does something recreational he is making a choice, is he not? Do dogs have an internal mental life that in any way resembles a human? What I am really asking is are human the only ones considered “intelligent” and what does it really mean to “think”?

I think this is better suited to IMHO than General Questions.

General Questions Moderator

I don’t know why this is even a question. Dogs, and other sentient beings, make hundreds of decisions a day. My dog (RIP) used to choose to lay in the sun, ask to go outside, crawl under the bed, jump up in my lap, go to the front window and growl at what’s going on outside, sleep curled up in the corner and probably dozens of other things.

These were her decisions: no one elses.

I’m a bit frustrated (for lack of a better word) with not getting my point across. I’m asking what is really the meaning of concepts like choice, free will and intelligence and using this as an example to illustrate that point.

It’s too big a topic to fit in a shoebox. You tried to dumb it down, and that’s exactly the wrong thing to do. The subject fills entire libraries.

“Free Will” is a specifically religious idea. It’s also tied in with “Original Sin” in many theologies, and you’d think the two are contradictory. How can I have “Free Will” if at the same time I am “sinful” in my nature?

Even among people who believe in Free Will, you will find differences of opinion regarding animal behavior. Some say animals are only “robots,” only stimulus-response machines. Others note that animals have, in fact, performed acts of heroism, acts of love, acts of devotion, and acts of remarkable cognitive sophistication.

Volition and Choice are the ordinary, everyday decision-making functions we possess. Burgers or Hot Dogs? The fast route or the scenic route? Coke or Pepsi? These, at least, can be studied scientifically, and have been, revealing some remarkable facts about how we reason, how we assess risk, how we delude ourselves, and so on.

There are many who believe that humans have no volition, and that our every act and thought are pre-determined in a physical sense. We have no more “choice” than a falling rock does. There are equally many who don’t accept that at all, and believe we do have individual volition, and that we exercise it hundreds of times a day.

Your best bet would be to take a university-level philosophy course, or to read up on the subject at that level.

Thank you for your comments. I started a thread that was a little more specific about the topic, about a year ago. It had some interesting responses. I posed the question:

When people speak of the illusion of free will, with the combined forces of neurobiology, circumstance, genetics, upbringing, etc, which of the two are they saying:

1- i have a box of corn flakes, raisin bran and cheerios in front of me, and i think i freely choose cheerios but in reality i do not

2- i have a box of corn flakes, raisin bran and cheerios in front of me and i choose cherrios, but since my choices are limited i don’t REALLY have free will

Just don’t let the dog choose the raisin bran…raisins are dangerous to dogs.

lol :d

I must add that philosophy is pretty much bullshit and not necessarily backed up by science.

That reminds me of my aunt, who forced all her visitors to listen to her endless accolades as to how special her canine companion was. In her opinion, dogs outdid humans in terms of emotion and intelligence. “Max understands everything you say,” she would insist. “Only he can’t speak.”

Nor can he make sentient choices.

I realize we have a tendency to overprescribe our pets with abilities, but, the flip side of the coin is pets have been bred to select the ones most compatible with humans. So maybe it is a bit if imagining and also a bit of the traits actually existing.

I almost started a thread on this… Science has “The Scientific Method,” which is, basically, test it for yourself and find out.

Philosophy has a method too, which is, in essence, the making of comparisons. Philosophy operates by coming up with similar ideas and using them as analogies. If two situations resemble each other in one way, perhaps they will in another. A philosopher, to advance a proposition, searches for (or creates) metaphorical similarities. Thus, a collectivist might point to a nest of ants, while an individualist will point to a tiger, roaming its territory in solitude. Dualists look at dualities – light and dark, up and down, love and hate – while monists look at unities – the whole of nature, the integrity of mathematics.

One philosopher famously argued that there could be no eighth planet in the Solar System (counting the Sun and Moon as planets) because there were seven metals, seven colors, seven sensory apertures into the human skull, and thus there could be only seven planets.

Philosophy is at its best when it performs inquiries. It is at its worst when it makes declarations, since they are usually a priori, and based on selected metaphorical argument.

I won’t go quite as far as you have in dismissing philosophy. It is the best way we have of exploring questions that science is not yet prepared to examine. We can’t address Free Will scientifically. Philosophy and Theology are all we’ve got.

And Theology is pretty much bullshit… So…

Our domesticating of dogs has also led to their brains shrinking…

So is art, but it influences people’s lives as much as science.

Philosophy seems to me to be a way for smart and clever folks to have their way without having to prove it in a rigorous way. It is vulnerable to semantic twisting. Its not that I think it is useless but that it is just a really intelligent way of expressing opinion.

The problem with saying that there is no free will is that it excuses a lot of bad behavior. Did the SS men who forced Jews from the trains into the gas chambers at Auschwitz really have no ‘free will’?

It absolutely influences people but to say that it influences people as much as science I disagree with. Look around your house or apartment and look at the tools or devices you use that have made your life better and please tell me which ones were born from philosophy.

I’m confused. Is the OP really asking about his dog? Or is he only presenting a thinly veiled question of “Do *people *have free will?”? Because it seems to me that either we both do, or neither of us do. Either the universe is composed of clock-work mechanisms (human, canine, and otherwise) that unfold as logic dictates they must, or we all have the capacity to make decisions based on both circumstances and our own whims.

I am:

1- Actually asking “what happens in a dog’s mind”
2- Making comment/question about us humans via compare/contrast to “what is the dog thinking”

Another fault of philosophy. Either/or is BS. There is much that we know in the universe but also much that we dont know. There can be a third fourth of even a fifth way.


Even if one questions the idea that Aristotle is the father of science, one should consider that (a) the Scientific Revolution is the fruit of a change in the way scholars thought and (b) the Scientific Method is a tool produced by philosophers like Bacon or Descartes: