Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
romansh

Free Will

Recommended Posts

Video seems to suggest we live our lives as if there is free will but with most probable thought process that it is an illusion.

 

I can to some degree sympathize with this point of view. I don't worry about whether I have free will or not when I get out of bed in the morning but it is a classic moment [William James] to throw doubt on free will in our lives. It is moments like these (in fact writing is another) that allow us moments introspection that can help guide our free will beliefs.

 

Sam Harris who apparently commented on this video suggested that we don't use our capabilities of introspection deeply enough to disabuse ourselves of the belief in free will. For me it is mostly a rational position.

 

Having lost my belief in free will, I have certain trigger words like good/bad, evil/angelic, virtue, intrinsic, independent, free etc. When I find myself or others using these words I try and understand what is causing myself or others to have these thoughts.

 

Sometimes these words are descriptive to the duality embedded in our [societal] mores.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I like what Sommerset Maugham said about this topic in Human Bondage. I will misquote because I don't care to try looking it up, but the idea was that life can be viewed as deterministic in retrospect, but must be LIVED as though we have free will. When I look back over the long chain of events that brought me here, I can see a pattern woven together like an oriental carpet - Maugham's metaphor - and perhaps see the working out of God's plan for me, but here in the now, on the very precipice of the future, the next step, I must allow myself to believe, is fully mine to take, and mine alone - otherwise, fatalism might hobble me from doing anything at all; after all, why bother if everything's been worked out in advance anyway? Nevertheless, accepting that our lives are mostly or entirely shaped by determinism could be useful to a Christian. It reminds me not to judge. I do not know what forces have been brought to bear on the bigot, the misanthrope, or the fraud to make him the way he is. Perhaps, within whatever scope of action is allowed him by heredity and environment, he is a better, truer Christian than I. Nor can I take credit for my own virtues, whatever these are: I had no say in choosing my parents, my teachers, and my surroundings. The best I can hope for, is always to choose in each forward step into the future to act as if I have a choice, and to choose God.

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

No “blame”, no “credit” is interesting to me. It puts us humans in an awkward spot – one of humility if we are lucky. Still, I sense a certain “thirst” has driven us to this existence, along with the other myriad variables which account for human existence. I wonder if that drive would have been so strong had we known how limited we would become.

 

Steve

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I will misquote because I don't care to try looking it up, but the idea was that life can be viewed as deterministic in retrospect, but must be LIVED as though we have free will.

 

Martin

Thanks I thought your comments were insightful.

First on your Maugham quote, regardless of what he did write I would add something like this:

 

...life can be viewed as deterministic in retrospect, but must be LIVED as though we have free will; but ,it can be understood it will be deterministic.

 

And regarding fatalism ... while a belief in free will might drop one into the despair of fatalism, it should at 'worst' give a sense of nihilism, but with careful thought it allow you to take on a monistic view and help dispel the illusion of dualism.

 

And regarding the tapestry metaphor ... I think a cosmic cloth might be more accurate where all the weft and warp threads are connected.

 

rom

Edited by romansh

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

to keep the other free will and god thread vaguely on track I reply on the more directly relevant thread.

>> ... free will makes the experience spiritual ? This is a new one on me.<<

Burl replied

Ref: Viktor Frankl. We always retain control of our attitude and intention even in extremis. The crucifixion is a most excellent example of the transformation of suffering into praise through intention and free will as Jesus recited Psalm 22 in death.

 

While I agree if we have the feedback (awareness) of any emotions we might be experiencing there is an opportunity to modify the emotion and the resultant behaviour. eg controlling our breathing, breathing into a paper back, thinking to ourselves we love someone even when we full know we don't. Eventually we can self-regulate our patterns of behaviour/thought. But ultimately where did our desire [will] to do this come from? We can regressively ask the question about our desires, wants and wishes [wills]

Edited by romansh

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

ps just googling Victor Frankl's quote

came across this site

http://www.pursuit-of-happiness.org/history-of-happiness/viktor-frankl/

 

here he says

Human freedom is not a freedom from but freedom to.

 

In philosophical terms, he in this quote is specifically referring to freedom of action and not freedom of will. These two concepts are often confounded in philosophical discussions. Note I am not saying Frankl made this error.

Edited by romansh

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Good move on reviving this thread.

 

Would you please restate your topic? I've lost focus.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

OK Paul

Here is an essay I wrote back in 2009 with the odd update ...

Free Will

 

Here is a good place as any to start ... a ten minute read and years of digestion.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I see a basic issue here. Logic cannot be be applied to concepts or anything non-material. Will is a concept, not a materiality so this discussion falls into the category of art and not reason.

 

Choices are material. You bet on black or red. You buy the car or you do not. You kiss the girl or you do not. Specific events can be discussed logically.

 

Will may be used to enhance our aesthetic and emotional appreciation of specific choices, but discussing will divorced from specific events is not logical.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"Will" is a description of a behaviour, a set of electrochemical/biochemical reactions a pattern of fundamental "particles".

 

"Will" and other so called non material concepts are written in the physical ... brain function, air molecules vibrating, symbols on a piece of paper, light emanating from a monitor. Touch of a braille surface, purr of a cat.

 

I am reminded of a Douglas Adams quote:

Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?

I can't help thinking that this non material is an unnecessary division of the universe. The fairies being the non material.

 

There is also a paradox in your claim that logic cannot be used for the non material [concepts] in that logic itself is a concept. And that you are using logic to claim that it can't be used.

Edited by romansh

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Your definition of free will, per your essay: "The ability to act or to make choices independently of the environment or of the universe."

 

Ergo, will is making choices in this discussion. Ability/inability and dependence/independence refer to freedom. Talk of will being traces of undefined electro physical particles is pseudoscientific bafflegab.

 

The inapplicability of logic to the immaterial is an Aristotelian axiom. Logic can only be properly applied to what is physically observable. If you have a problem with that, take it up with him.

Edited by Burl

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ergo, will is making choices in this discussion. Ability/inability and dependence/independence refer to freedom. Talk of will being traces of undefined electro physical particles is pseudoscientific bafflegab.

 

I agree ... and our desires, wants, wishes etc are quite often unconscious choices. They may be choices that I have become aware of. Conscious and unconscious choices are a result of the same substrate. That the idea that all this is bafflegab to some, is in my mind, simply the recognition that some of us do not see the interconnectedness of it all. I am pretty sure without my bafflegab [matter] what passes as my consciousness will disappear. It disappears for the most part every night even with it. I do not recall experiencing it without matter.

 

And as for undefined ... Any scientific description of the processes of brain function and how it correlates with what passes as consciousness will give you some insight.

 

The inapplicability of logic to the immaterial is an Aristotelian axiom. Logic can only be properly applied to what is physically observable. If you have a problem with that, take it up with him.

 

I won't argue with Aristotle, but I will argue with those that promulgate Aristotelian axioms without inspection of those axioms. Don't you think it is worthwhile to check our axioms once in a while? After all our understanding of how the world ticks has changed in the last 2.3 millennia.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Soma

The myth of free will empowers us because we investigate the causes of our behavior, instead of saying that the supernatural caused our actions.

 

This myth has done exactly the opposite from what I can see. Have you never heard the phrase "God given free will"? It is in large part, in my opinion, the source of the buck stopping duality we experience today. Free will has been described as the Last Great Lie by an atheistically minded author. Even today many if not most atheists hang on to our belief in free will. I can't help it is a left over from our religious beliefs that derived from the Levant. Usually it is in the shape of compatibilism in some shape, form or another.

Understanding why we behave increases our ability to control ourselves as we seek peace in our life and society . It creates a situation where we are not exempt from influences so we guard our selves against manipulation and become free from outside control.

 

I agree with the understanding bit ... but the bit about free from outside control is plainly wrong. In my mind this is dualism on steroids. The "outside" shaped me, I shape the outside. I and my "outside" are one.

Rudolf Steiner explores the nature of human freedom by agreeing with the statement, "that an action, of which the agent does not know why he performs it, cannot be free," but when a person becomes conscious of the motives for acting, for example Buddha then freedom is obtained, enlightenment. He says through introspection we become come conscious of our motivations through observation; therefore' we have the possibility of freedom.

 

I can't help but think of Steiner as wrong here. Unless he is saying something like understanding that "chemistry" shapes what I experience as contemplative choices ... then I would agree it brings a certain degree of understanding to the table.

 

Steiner explains by observing nature's manifestations within our subjective nature we can see the unity in duality and become free because we renounce the autonomy of free will as B.F. Skinner said. Science is showing us to ourselves, but is up to us to become aware of the natural enlightenment and freedom from free will as we are propelled towards freedom beyond our group thinking to become free to meet the world directly beyond religion, family, country and other limits to experience the freedom of our potential as unique individuals.

 

In a world without free will it is tough to see this duality.

 

And as to Skinner's quote ... surely you can see the inconsistency there. How can it be up to us to become aware of the natural enlightenment. While I understand the supposed benefits he cites, that first step is in the hands of "my outside".

Edited by romansh

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thomas

 

As for freedom, are our choices, predetermined or merely determined by circumstances?

 

I have often stated I do not know the universe well enough to state whether our choices are predetermined or not. (I would bet against ... but this is immaterial ;-) )

 

But we can safely say, I think, that our choices are caused by the environment and the "chemistries" we find ourselves having.

 

Also in my essay near the beginning of this thread ... I ask why on Earth would I want to make a choice that was somehow independent of the universe?

Edited by romansh

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Humor is always appreciated especially in such heavy discussions.

 

I too doubt our choices are predetermined but it does get a bit vague when we talk of chemistries and the environment causing choices. If I have followed you and if by chemistries you mean we (everything) comes to be from the 'stuff' ( a rather technical term) of/from the Big Bang, then, although I have never studied this precise use of the word chemistries, it makes sense. Although I must wonder what was before the Bang? And I haven't thought about this in great detail but what exploded? And if it was 'something' then there already was existence/creation. And if it was nothing, then 'there is nothing,' meaning nothing 'is' and we're back to something that was 'before' the Bang. Was, past tense of the verb to be or when used with the first person singular, present tense: I AM :-) The mind melts.

 

So I accept that the stuff of the Big Bang, i.e. stardust becomes/evolves to us and our higher functioning brains and I get that we are interacting and reacting to the environment. However, isn't the stardust now uniquely me as other stardust is uniquely a tree or a rock? If so, it appears that my stardust higher brain is enabling me to not merely function at a higher level but also enjoy a greater, conscious participation in all this (or what some would call Being). I interact and react to the environment, but where the 'response' of the rock or the tree seems predetermined, my response, although called for or elicited from the environment, is not predetermined like the rock - but is it wholly determined? Somehow, I think there is more to it (and I don't mean the supernatural) but maybe the Big Dipper interacting with the last rays of the sun in my neighborhood made me think that. Hold it, is this idea of the stars, and their dust, acting on/with man and his the environment, astrology? So, Mesopotamia was right and Israel was wrong?

 

The next time I get caught going a bit too fast on a local road, I am going to try this one on the cops: a little addition or subtraction in his stardust, a little bit more sun or less sun, a pine or a hardwood near the road and that cop's actions might have been determined differently. But not this time - Damn, just my determination!

Edited by thormas

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

When I say chemistries ... it is more of a personal term. Which refers to things like, quantum chemistry, biochemistry, thermochemistry, electrochemistry ... no doubt I could include a few others.

 

Next time you are going too fast ... go easy on yourself and the cop giving you the ticket.

 

I can only refer you to the Buddhist's concepts of not self and dependent origination every time you think I AM.

 

Before the Big Bang? I am not sure how some uncertainty that long time ago is going help explain how you could make decisions other than those you did make?

 

Function at a higher level? Oh dear? More complexity perhaps.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Seems the speed is out of my control, the answer in the stars.

 

The Big Bang was just a curiosity that is never answered; it is intriguing but not something to lose sleep over - but one wonders about the chemistry before the chemistry.

 

Christianity too acknowledges dependent origination - in I AM.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Seems the speed is out of my control, the answer in the stars.

 

The Big Bang was just a curiosity that is never answered; it is intriguing but not something to lose sleep over - but one wonders about the chemistry before the chemistry.

 

Christianity too acknowledges dependent origination - in I AM.

 

While your speed is not completely independent of the stars, it is more of a function of the car, road, your attention, where you are going and how important the destination appears to you. Of course there are a whole of others that also can be 'large" proximate causes.

 

And yet Christians (and to a lesser extent Buddhists) believe in free will. While Christianity may acknowledge dependent origination Christians in my experience by and large don't.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Agreed, most importantly it is about me: my attention, how important 'I' think it is, where I have 'decided' to go.

 

 

You'll have to explain the Christian comment. I would think they do, they just don't think about it much - which, of course, could be a problem in and of itself.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If we believe in free will, morality, a need for forgiveness then we don't quite have the hang of dependent origination.

 

And your comment it is about me ... belies this dependent origination.

Edited by romansh

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Free will, morality and forgiveness are all a piece with, nor does the 'about me' fail, the reality of the interconnectedness of/in Being.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Free will, morality and forgiveness are all a piece with, nor does the 'about me' fail, the reality of the interconnectedness of/in Being.

 

I must admit I am having trouble understanding this thomas.

What exactly do you mean by Being?

 

From my point of view we have existence; there is no separation in that existence. The I in I am is an illusion. And there is no need for an upper case letter at the beginning of existence or the present participle of to be.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Rom,

 

All that is, is or has being. It is 'a' being. I'm reaching back but I believe Heidegger called it being-there. Being refers to that in which all beings participate, or conversely beings are emanations of Being (so there is indeed One). Being 'lets be.' I agree there is no 'separation' in Being, no multiplicity in Being in that It is all that is. However, there is diversity in Being. I guess where I disagree with you is that the I is not an illusion. We do, in the first moments of existence, 'forget' Being and focus on beings and being in the world. I also agree there is no need for the upper case but find it easier so people can distinguish and then move forward. That's the best I can do now but it is Saturday, just finished the lawn and a bit weary for philosophy.

Edited by thormas

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

How is "I" not an illusion, Thormas? Where, or what is "I" . What is the difference, in your opinion, between the universal and particular notion of "being". Is there a difference? You can quote or refer to a philosopher if you like.

 

Thanks,

Steve

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What's the difference between the universe and Being?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...