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Do We Have Free Will?


Neon Genesis
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One of the arguments that fundamentalist Christians have traditionally used to justify the doctrine of eternal hellfire is the belief in free will. According to these Christians, hell is a justified punishment because God isn't the one sending you to hell, you're the one choosing to go there by actively choosing to disobey God, but do we really have free will and is it even possible to choose your beliefs? Consider the case of a hypothetical grandma in China who's never heard of Jesus before and her only experience with religion is her Buddhist culture. According to fundamentalist Christianity, this grandma is going to hell because she "chose" not to follow Christ by following a different religion instead, but how could she possibly choose to follow a religion she didn't know about? Are all the Native Americans who died before Christians "discovered" America going to hell because they happened to die before having the opportunity to hear the gospel message?

 

The only explanation I've heard given by Christian apologists is that we can't judge the fate of the grandma who never heard Jesus or the Native Americans and only God can but if we don't want to see these lost souls go to hell, then it's all the more reason to spread the gospel. But this is just a cop-out excuse that lets God off the hook and avoids the question. If God will be gracious enough to let people who never had the chance to hear the gospel into heaven without having to convert, then why does he require conversion for salvation? And to say it's our fault if they go to hell for not hearing the gospel is just trying to shift the blame and guilt trip us into believing their nonsense. It's not a coincidence that if you grew up in Arkansas in a conservative church-going bible believing family, you're likely to grow up a Southern Baptist or something. Likewise, if you grew up in Saudi Arabia and raised in a Muslim culture, you're likely to grow up to be a Muslim. Even in the instances where people grow up and deconvert from their childhood faith, that's still not entirely a free choice. I can only speak from my own personal experience that I didn't want to deconvert from my parents' faith. I wanted to believe in God and that the bible was his holy word and to be the best Christian I could be, but I simply couldn't ignore the contradictions in the scriptures or the problems with fundamentalist theology, so I can say from my own personal experiences, that my own deconversion is not a choice and it's not like I can just choose to be a fundamentalist again like a person chooses to turn on the lightbulb.

 

Another example would be in the case of the bank robber who forces you to do their will at gunpoint. Even most Christians who believe in libertarian free will at this point will acknowledge that you were forced against your will to do what the bank robber said to do and that you had no choice yet will simultaneously continue to believe your actions are freely chosen regardless of outside events as soon as the robbery is over. The only reasonable justification I've heard is the comptabilist response that the only choice we really have is the freedom to choose, but this still isn't libertarian free will in the classical Christian sense of the phrase. Many Christians will argue that if we don't have libertarian free will, then we can't hold people responsible for their actions and we can't punish people for doing crimes if they don't have control over them. But I would say that this is why we should reform our justice system so that rather than focusing so much on punishing, we should be trying to reform criminals so they can be returned to living healthy lives in society and not be so bloodlusting for their death. So I think rather than leading to all sorts of immorality and chaos, I think a more deterministic society may help lead to greater compassion and understanding. Do you believe we have free will or is everything determined and what sort of implications do you think determinism has for morality and God if it's proven we don't have free will?

Edited by Neon Genesis
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As if . . . We have to live as if we have free will so that we will be ready when those few moments of novelty offer us total free will to do something new. Some say the moment of novelty is grace, a time when the known world and all its laws will be turned upside down giving moment of grace to do some thing new.

 

Dutch

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I think we have highly constrained will. The constraints are genetic, social and experiential. None of these are factors over which we have control and responsibility. But, I am not prepared to say that I am not personally responsible in any way for my choices.

 

I also think that will -- to the extent it might be free -- to chose a religion is not even relevant to salvation. Even if one stipulates to the idea of an afterlife in Heaven or Hell, this presupposes that (1) One religion is 'right' and all others are wrong, and (2) Salvation is determined by this affiliation. I don't accept either of these propositions.

 

George

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I agree with Dutch. It is best to act "as if" we have free will. We need to make choices in our lives and the important ones are the values we choose to guide our lives.

 

Thomas Reid pointed out that to have free will we must be able to act or not act in a given situation. This is made explicit in Buddhism. If you find it difficult to practice universal compassion then at least vow not to harm others. If "love thine enemies" is too difficult, then an intermediate step of practicing non-hate might work out better for you.

 

The best evidence we have concerning punishment (or the threat of punishment) is that it works to suppress behavior but not to change behavior, at least not very well.

 

As for grace, many Christians have adopted the view that grace is unlimited, that there is "more than enough to go around." Again, I think Dutch is correct. If we see ourselves as participating in the Creation process then we are, in an important sense, living with grace. This turns the traditional view "upside down". Grace is G_d's presence dwelling wihin us and in nature. The old boundaries between G_d and nature and between nature and humans are dissolved. Both the spiritual realm and grace move from "out there" to "in here".

 

Myron

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Neon, this psychological dilemma as you describe, that traditional Christianity presents us with, is EXACTLY the unacceptable inconsistency that arose for me even as a very young child. First they taught me to sing "Jesus loves me," and "Jesus love all the children of the world.", then they hit my with, well, no, that's not exactly the way it is...if I and any other of those little children didn't recognize their sinful state, repent, and seek forgiveness and salvation, Jesus was going to let us all roast in the eternal torment of hell.

 

This caused any number of questions to arise for me...when someone I loved and others around me professed to love died without having "accepted the Lord," they dismissed rather casually the supposed fate of that loved one, with such cavalier remarks as Well, he had the same chance to get saved as the rest of us," and a well, that's just too bad, we warned him." This horrified me! From there my thoughts proceeded to all the little children of the world that never got to hear thhe gospel message, never had a chance to "accept Jesus as their lord and savior."

 

It was often at this point they jumped from salvation by free will to some form of calvinistic explanation having to do with grace and predestination, the differentiated the 'elect' that would hear the gospel and have that choice vs those also by grace that would not, and were therefore pre-destined to damnation and hell.

 

This very point was the issue that severed my connection with, sense of identity as, a Christian in the way they defined that.

And it has never changed for me.

 

Jenell

Edited by JenellYB
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I'm pretty close to George's opinion on this one. Humanity has a degree of free will and agency. Social and biological sciences have done incredible work over the last 100 years documenting how bounded and dependent our will is on things such as context, biology, and socialization. To the degree that we define free will as a detached, autonomous thing unfettered by nature and nurture, we are increasingly told by science that free will doesn't really exist. Of course, that isn't the only, or the best, way to define free will. I prefer thinking of how biology, socialization, education, social/cultural/human capital grant us agency, give us ways of acting we would not have otherwise. Doing this of course ruins some of the lovely rhetoric some types of Christians love about how people always have a choice to be saved or damned. I'm ok with this, of course, as I generally cringe when I hear people basing an argument on free will, often defined as a human capacity to make choices viewed as so independent of anything that it borders on being magic.

 

One of the few common strands between Whitehead and Calvin (and by extension Barth & Wright) is the idea that there is a relationship between humanity and God. Though they do it in different ways, Process and Reformed theologies are very interested in how we gain agency/will through this relationship.

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I think that the only choice we really have is the "choice" to react to other cause and effects. To use an everyday example, when you're driving on the road and the traffic light changes to red, you can "choose" to either run the red light or you can "choose" to stop at the red light. If you choose to run the red light, it'll set off all sorts of other effects like the other drivers slamming their breaks to avoid running into you, which may cause the cars behind them to slam in behind them and cause a wreck, which will cause an eyewitness to call up 911, which will cause 911 to send out an ambulance, which will cause them to call up your family to let you know you were hurt etc. In all these instances, people may have been making "choices" but the "choices" were all made in reaction to other "choices" which reacted to still "other" choices and in that case, though you made a "choice," it wasn't a completely free one. Even if you had "chosen" to stop at the red light, it wasn't a "free" choice either though it was a "choice" because you were still reacting to the rules of driving that other people established.

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Oh, absolutely. I just doubt a multiplicity of goals and methods qualifies as the robust (lionized?) conception of free will needed for the beliefs about salvation that Neon Genesis and Jennell seem less than enthusiastic about (a concern I share).

Edited by Nick the Nevermet
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My opinion on this topic is influence by the book Being No One by Thomas Metzinger. In addition this question was some of my motivation in graduate school where I studied the mathematics of quantum mechanics. Here in brief is my answer to the question of free will.

 

Consider vision. We know from science that vision is light hitting a lens in our eyes and being focused on a surface at the back of our eyes where the light is transformed into an electric/chemical signal which passes through a neural path to a neural region where electric/chemical processes transform the information into signal information which are available to other parts of the brain. The picture is never reconstructed into light and you cannot find a 'screen' in the brain where the picture seen through the eyes can be 'viewed'.

 

Now no matter how hard you try you cannot observe this yourself about your own vision. No matter how hard you try, it seems to you that a spirit in your head is watching the world through your eyes. You cannot observe the translation of light into electrons and chemicals and you cannot observe the decomposition of the information and analysis of the information which informs your temporal and spatial awareness.

 

Now consider 'self'. Metzinger argues that self is similar to vision. He makes the provocative assertion that it does not exist, this is the reason for the book title, "Being No One". And like vision, no matter how hard you try you cannot observe the electronic and chemical components in your brain functioning which in their entirety are creating this illusion of a spirit in your head with a identify in traditional sense.

 

I buy this as the our current best understanding of our self-hood in terms of science and I believe this precludes any sense of free will has traditionally expressed. The electric and chemical system is determined by the rules of physics.

 

Let me head off one argument at this point. The events in your brain which are causing this self experience are at a large enough scale that quantum mechanics is likely irrelevant. Referencing quantum mechanics does not introduce room for a spirit to be influencing the path of this dynamic system. There are some mathematicians and scientist who try to introduce quantum mechanics as an opening for free will but I believe they are as fringe as the scientist who deny global warming.

 

Given this answer, which at this point in my life I totally buy, where does that leave religion and spirituality. I guess I would say that free will is a myth we necessarily live by in our culture.

 

Hear a couple of quick arguments justifying that point of view.

 

First consider again vision. Just because vision is not what it appears to me, I have not stopped seeing. I still rely on and enjoy my sight. I am comfortable ignoring what is really happening when I see. I do appreciate that my eye doctor understands what is really happening and that he/she can apply some medical magic at times to address my vision problems. Similarly then I continue to think of myself as a self and don't let it bother me to much that what is happening under the hood may be different from I think I am experiencing. And also I am happy that doctors can give me pills which help me avoid panic or depression even though it seems to me that I have some control of these things.

 

Second, consider the reliability of the information. A hundred and fifty years ago we did not even know about quantum mechanics. What new thing might we figure out in the next hundreds or thousands of years that might turn our understanding upside down. Our culture (this is a local statement) has been operating with Christianity and the concepts of free will and justice for two thousand years. I think it is premature to throw them out. I think we can look at ways to reform Christianity based on the new information we are receiving from science but I am not an atheist who believes we need to walk completely away from it.

 

My approach is that we should not try to do bad science to maintain a space for old concepts we may think are necessary for Christianity. We should work within our faith traditions to reform and progress to account for our new emerging understanding of the world. My concept of God does not need to work in the space between the cracks we have left for him/her in science. I do believe we are representing something real with our myths but that it is beyond us to really determine what that actually is in a positive sense. I know my atheist would say that I have betrayed by reason with this but I don't believe they actually have complete enough system to give society a reason to continue to function. We need our myths.

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In the physical world things happen according to the natural laws of physics. At the quantum level there are also natural laws but we don’t understand them all yet. The concept of free will suggests to me that choice is not affected by cause and is not the resulting effect of a physical cause; that seems to deny physical determinism.

 

No matter how many possibilities there are for something to occur only one thing will occur. (As in throwing dice) The law of probability will not make a seven come up because one hasn’t come up in the last 300 tries. The odds are the same at each throw of the dice. The probability is we can’t always predict what will happen, but what does happen has a cause and no other thing could have happened because at the instant of the occurrence all previous incremental truths led to only one possible outcome. Just because we don’t understand something doesn’t mean there is no proof.

 

I think some choose to believe that they have a free will but even that belief is the result of some previous cause. I am a skeptic and don’t believe anything simply on the word of another. I choose reason over belief because it seems logical that is the best way to arrive at truth. The only thing I know for sure is that I exist.

 

 

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Harry wrote: Just because we don’t understand something doesn’t mean there is no proof.

 

The weakest point in any of our reasoning process, no matter how carefully we follow sound logical arguments, is the validity of our apriori understandings (I dont say knowledge because we can so easily be misled by being too sure we "know") in the premisises from which we arrive at any conclusion. Each and every bit of that apriori understanding then also is subject to test.

 

It is also true that just because we don't understand something, yet at the same time think we've experienced the reality of whatever it is, doesn't mean we can make up our own supporting 'evidence', such as some sort of "God of the Gaps." I think we are often pressured socially and religiously to at least try to explain when we don't have the info to do so. Such is the pressure among some religious that if no one can come up with some "logical explanation" for phenomenon, then it by elimination must be God. Or the Devil, or demons, as the case may be.

 

One specific area in which I've encountered this is involving religious ideas about things like "demon possession" and the science of mental health. There are many unanswered questions in matters of mental health, diagnosis is often uncomfortably vague and subjective, and there are recognized disorders for which at least for now we really do not have proven effective treatments. In the reasoning of those religious in this context, it really seems to them that if Psychologists and Psychiatrists don't know exactly what is wrong with someone, or if diagnosed, have been unable to come up with successful treatment and 'cure', then the problem must be demons.

 

But we can also find ourself in a situation in which we personally experience something that we cannot explain to ourselves or others, or proove to anyone else. Personal experience is at once both the most reliable and most unreliable way in which we can "know" something, but no matter the level of certainty in our own "knowing", we have nothing beyond our own words, personal testimony, to support its validity.

 

I have known of people that complained about how bad they felt, how sick they were, but doctors were unable to locate and diagnose a problem, so some people treated that person as if merely a milingerer (sp?), a lazy person avoiding work. But then the person actually became undeniably sick, even died. I've actually heard some idiots intepret that as, "well, he decided he was going to die, and because he believed it enough himself, he actually did." This is a scenario I've personally witnessed, in one close personal case, it was only in the man's last hours before death someone finally diagnosed him with Adult Lymphatic Leukemia...sadly, a disease that caught early, is relatively easy to keep in long term remission with medications. It turned out the man really knew what he said he knew, that he felt horribly unwell, whether anyone else believed that or not.

 

To use a simple, easy to understand material example of this, consider the position of one that has caught their spouse "in the act" of committing adultery. Assuming there is no handy camera or cell phone that will take a piicture, no one can "know" what really happened beyond this observer, and the cheating couple. In times and situations in which laws, society, and religion requires "proof" to sustain such a charge adultery as legitamate cause for divorce, it really wasn't unusual for a married person to find themselves in exactly this situation, and where the cheating spouse and their partner enjoy "good" repuations in the community, the charge will not be heard without material evidence. Now, does this mean the one that caught them in the act, witnessed it personally, is any less "knowing" of what happened? Any less violated and wounded?

 

Now to shift gears to what might be called "spiritual" or "transcendant" personal experiences. The very nature of the experience is such that material documentation or evidence cannot be produced for the benefit of convince anyone else of the experiences, yet the person it happens to may feel as sure in his or her "knowing" as that above offended spouse.

 

Of course, here enters the problem of how our minds and senses can be deceptive....can we really be sure this was something "real", or was it some kind of hallucination? Or a product of an over active imagination?

 

To be sure, there is and I'm sure always have been a portion of the population easily decieved through tendecy to "magical thinking". And probably most such claimed events can be dismissed as that.

 

However, what of when the incident is out-of-character in a person well established otherwise to generally use quite sound and logical analytical thinking? For such a person, such an event might even lead the person to his or her self examine their own sanity quite thorough;y. I think this does happen at times.

 

So if we aren't to immediately dismiss any and all such events on grounds of lack of material evidence, and mere magical thinking or hallucinations or over-active imaginations, where do we go with this?

 

We come back to that first weakness noted in this...the validity of our apriori understandings (which we may hold as knowledge). Consider now that many things we now know and take fpr granted were in the past relegated to folklore and legend, and magical thinking. At one time, that pigs or even humans could fly was synonomous with "impossible".....that was before human technology came to understand and use such natural things as "lift" and "aerodynamics", the construction of airplanes and the like. So now we know pigs and man CAN fly, we just needed to find what it took to manipulate natural forces that make it possible.

 

I think there are things within the scope of "spiritual" experiences of which the same may turn out to be true. While we don't have material means to examine, test, or prove some of these things now, it doesn't mean they don't exist. Perahps we just haven't developed the technology yet to understand them and what makes them possible. I think we have begun to touch only the tip of the iceberg in the exploration and understanding of consciousness.

 

For this, I also can't accept that any of us really have true free will, because that would suggest we have all the information we would need to make any and all choices. To know what the consequences, the outcome will be. But we don't. There are still too much beyond the known, not yet fathomed within the unknown.

 

Jenell

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Do you believe we have free will or is everything determined and what sort of implications do you think determinism has for morality and God if it's proven we don't have free will?

 

I think that there are an infinite number of possible reactions to any given moment with an equal number of probable outcomes. I don't think that any supernatural interference or influence has anything to do with it.

 

So, I guess you could interpret that as "free will."

 

NORM

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Very good food for though Jenell.

 

My daughter makes a living as a psychic, I'm a skeptic but I also think what you explained so well is true about knowledge, belief and understanding. There is no way to prove psychic ability beyond a doubt. Many people call her an evil witch and that is difficult for her to accept. They don't live in her body so they don't know. The human mind is the least well understood human capacity. Is it inside our skull or does it reside in the energy field of the universe? If we can have self consciousness why can't we have other consciousness?

 

 

 

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Hello Scott,

 

Thanks for sharing this. Although I risk derailing the thread here, I'd just offer a few thoughts regarding a couple things you wrote.

 

Consider vision. We know from science that vision is light hitting a lens in our eyes and being focused on a surface at the back of our eyes where the light is transformed into an electric/chemical signal which passes through a neural path to a neural region where electric/chemical processes transform the information into signal information which are available to other parts of the brain. The picture is never reconstructed into light and you cannot find a 'screen' in the brain where the picture seen through the eyes can be 'viewed'.

 

Now no matter how hard you try you cannot observe this yourself about your own vision. No matter how hard you try, it seems to you that a spirit in your head is watching the world through your eyes. You cannot observe the translation of light into electrons and chemicals and you cannot observe the decomposition of the information and analysis of the information which informs your temporal and spatial awareness.

 

I'm not sure we 'know' any such thing from science, since nothing in an objective description of brain chemistry amounts to the experience of vision. In fact, nothing of the ontological status of such things as you describe is actually known, 'known' in the strong sense of the word.

 

As to the issue free will - since I don't want to entirely veer from the subject - I would just express the view already articulated here with regard to the novelty and creativity of the present moment. I don't know if "I" have any free will as a subject standing over-against an object. But I do tend to think that freedom is not necessarily something which must be opposed to structure and form. Reality can be free to be whatever it is. In other words, to be is to be free.

 

Peace,

Mike

Edited by Mike
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Hello Scott,

 

Thanks for sharing this. Although I risk derailing the thread here, I'd just offer a few thoughts regarding a couple things you wrote.

 

 

 

I'm not sure we 'know' any such thing from science, since nothing in an objective description of brain chemistry amounts to the experience of vision. In fact, nothing of the ontological status of such things as you describe is actually known, 'known' in the strong sense of the word.

 

As to the issue free will - since I don't want to entirely veer from the subject - I would just express the view already articulated here with regard to the novelty and creativity of the present moment. I don't know if "I" have any free will as a subject standing over-against an object. But I do tend to think that freedom is not necessarily something which must be opposed to structure and form. Reality can be free to be whatever it is. In other words, to be is to be free.

 

Peace,

Mike

 

How does this risk derailing a thread? You gave an opinion and Mike gave a rational scientific explanation of what happens when photons enter the cornia. You may not know what he stated is true but I understood quite well what he was saying. I think you were missing his point. It's like saying "well when it comes down to it none of us really know anything for sure"

 

As to your comment on the issue free will. "Reality can be free to be whatever it is. In other words, to be is to be free." What does that mean and how does it relate to free will?

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The subject here and diversity of views are always interesting. Rather than elaborate on my thoughts here in this thread i thought it good to reference another related thread from 2006 entitled "Free Choice".

Perhaps some will also find it interesting,

Joseph

 

Joseph,

Thank you for the link. I think your opening thoughts in the thread are most interesting. I have copied them to my library of comments and articles I want to re read and use in the future.

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Hi Harry,

 

How does this risk derailing a thread?

 

My concern was only that should my comments turn directly to the mind-body problem per se, we might lose the emphasis on free will vs determinism.

 

You gave an opinion and Mike gave a rational scientific explanation of what happens when photons enter the cornia. You may not know what he stated is true but I understood quite well what he was saying. I think you were missing his point. It's like saying "well when it comes down to it none of us really know anything for sure"

 

That's not really the point I was intending to make, and I don't believe I missed Scott's point. Questioning the ontological status of an abstract object of thought does not amount to mere doubt for the sake of doubt. It is to question the presuppositions of scientific realism, asking whether the scientific method can actually disclose 'reality-as-is.' If it can't, then what is described is not actually 'vision'. There is an epistemic (and ultimately, ontological) leap from 'photons entering the eye' to 'vision'.

 

As to your comment on the issue free will. "Reality can be free to be whatever it is. In other words, to be is to be free." What does that mean and how does it relate to free will?

 

I don't think of one's existence as standing over-against an objective world that, in turn, confronts one, as if one is somehow separate from reality. Reality is quite alive in each new moment. In this way, neither 'free will' nor 'determinism' have an objective referent to which they can 'stick'.

 

Thanks,

Mike

Edited by Mike
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That's not really the point I was intending to make, and I don't believe I missed Scott's point. Questioning the ontological status of an abstract object of thought does not amount to mere doubt for the sake of doubt. It is to question the presuppositions of scientific realism, asking whether the scientific method can actually disclose 'reality-as-is.' If it can't, then what is described is not actually 'vision'. There is an epistemic (and ultimately, ontological) leap from 'photons entering the eye' to 'vision'.

 

Very interesting comments. Yes, I opened my post by stating the conclusion which I believe is indicated by scientific realism. I have a few different world views which I can put on when thinking through problems. Because of my upbringing I can see the world through the eyes of a evangelical Christianity. Because of my college education I can see the world through the eyes of scientific realism. My graduate studies where is mathematics and my doctorate was overseen within a fundamental theories physics institute. In this period I become proficient in understanding a purely materialistic view of the world though I retained a platonic view of mathematics. I am currently working on seeing the world through the eyes of liberal Christian theology; I find that I wish to attend church and practice Christianity and neither of my prior world views are adequate. I am not inclined to be either a evangelical Christian or a hard core atheist.

 

So to state my point more clearly. Coming from a strictly scientific world view, there does not appear to be any free will in the traditional sense used by for example Arminian Christians. I am not asserting that it is therefore 'true' that we don't have a free will. In my every day life I think as if I have a free will, and pretty much as if others do also.

 

I would be interested in learning more about the philosophical objections to scientific realism, I think perhaps I can find that on other older threads. I am not familiar with the possible resolutions of this in philosophy.

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Frank, thank you for sharing about your daughter and the "psychic" thing....now, if I may be frank, the ideas I expressed about still unknown things about consciousness isn't an abstract for me. And while I've never set myself out as a "psychic", certain of my experiences have brought some very negative and hateful reactions from some people, yeah, along the line you mention in regard to your daughter..demon possessed psychic pretty much says it.

 

It is these kinds of experiences of an alternate consciousness that I refer to as what for me is 'personnal experience knowledge' that I have no way to prove to anyone else. However, some others have also has personal experience proof of these experiennces of mine, sufficient to them to accept them. These incidents have involved "knowing" real events there was no rational or material means for me to have known. I've mentioned here my gift (yes, and curse) of extraordinary empathy..that I physically internally 'experience' emotional states of people I'm around...that ability, capacity, whatever one would call it, is directly related to 'distance', in both senses, physical proximity and emotional/psychological 'distance'. While being in a room of hostile angry strangers or casual contacts is physically uncomfortable for me, I can usually shake it off within a short while of having left their presence, inserted physical distance.

It's a different matter with those I am emotionally/psychologically "close" to...physical distance does not spare me. One example incident....a few years ago, I awakened in a very agitated state, and immediately looked at my bedside clock...it was 4:06 am. I got up, could find no reason for my having awakened as I did, or for the feeling of agitation that was quickly growing ever greater, as well as a growing sense of fear and dread, so that I felt I was about to emotionally explode. At 6:00 am, my phone rang, quite early for anyone to call, and I had a sense of almost relief, as if knowing, this phone call was goiing to explain this, though also fear of what bad news it might be. It was one of my daughters, that lived 60 miles away, who in her usual morning routine, had arisen at 4:00 am, proceeded to use the restroom, wash her face with cold water to wake up good, than went to her 12 yr old daughter's (my grand daughter) room to awaken her, so the both of them could get ready for work and school. That would have placed her in her daughter's bedroom, discovering that her 12 yr old daughter, as well as the daughter's purse and backpack, were missing, 4:06 am. That incident is not an exceptionally unusual one for me.

This and similar incidents have made 'believers' out of others around me. Yet there is no way I or any of us couuld offer more than anecdotal testimony to it.

 

 

Now I do condsider myself an analytical, logic oriented person, not prone to "magical thinkiing". I also hold credible scientific inquiry valid. Since I both at once do not believe in magic, but by personal experience must accept the reality of these experiences, the only acceptable resolution I have found is to think this involved real natural phenomenon that our level of science and technology just hasn't caught up with yet.

 

To take this a step further so as to tie it into the discussion here about free will, if there really are such influences as this on us, especially when still at a more "unconscious" level than mine have become, we are looking at something that could be influencing us unnawares, (as was the case with my gift/curse much of my adult life) and beyond our conscious consideration and control, when we are making decisions and choices. As otherwise discussed here, if we trully are influenced by factors beyond our control, whether by genetics, brain disfunction, disrupted body chemistry, or, something like what I talk of here, then true free will, fully informed free choice, simply isn't possible.

 

Jenell

Edited by JenellYB
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Frank, thank you for sharing about your daughter and the "psychic" thing....now, if I may be frank, the ideas I expressed about still unknown things about consciousness isn't an abstract for me. And while I've never set myself out as a "psychic", certain of my experiences have brought some very negative and hateful reactions from some people, yeah, along the line you mention in regard to your daughter..demon possessed psychic pretty much says it.

 

It is these kinds of experiences of an alternate consciousness that I refer to as what for me is 'personnal experience knowledge' that I have no way to prove to anyone else. However, some others have also has personal experience proof of these experiennces of mine, sufficient to them to accept them. These incidents have involved "knowing" real events there was no rational or material means for me to have known. I've mentioned here my gift (yes, and curse) of extraordinary empathy..that I physically internally 'experience' emotional states of people I'm around...that ability, capacity, whatever one would call it, is directly related to 'distance', in both senses, physical proximity and emotional/psychological 'distance'. While being in a room of hostile angry strangers or casual contacts is physically uncomfortable for me, I can usually shake it off within a short while of having left their presence, inserted physical distance.

It's a different matter with those I am emotionally/psychologically "close" to...physical distance does not spare me. One example incident....a few years ago, I awakened in a very agitated state, and immediately looked at my bedside clock...it was 4:06 am. I got up, could find no reason for my having awakened as I did, or for the feeling of agitation that was quickly growing ever greater, as well as a growing sense of fear and dread, so that I felt I was about to emotionally explode. At 6:00 am, my phone rang, quite early for anyone to call, and I had a sense of almost relief, as if knowing, this phone call was goiing to explain this, though also fear of what bad news it might be. It was one of my daughters, that lived 60 miles away, who in her usual morning routine, had arisen at 4:00 am, proceeded to use the restroom, wash her face with cold water to wake up good, than went to her 12 yr old daughter's (my grand daughter) room to awaken her, so the both of them could get ready for work and school. That would have placed her in her daughter's bedroom, discovering that her 12 yr old daughter, as well as the daughter's purse and backpack, were missing, 4:06 am. That incident is not an exceptionally unusual one for me.

This and similar incidents have made 'believers' out of others around me. Yet there is no way I or any of us couuld offer more than anecdotal testimony to it.

 

 

Now I do condsider myself an analytical, logic oriented person, not prone to "magical thinkiing". I also hold credible scientific inquiry valid. Since I both at once do not believe in magic, but by personal experience must accept the reality of these experiences, the only acceptable resolution I have found is to think this involved real natural phenomenon that our level of science and technology just hasn't caught up with yet.

 

To take this a step further so as to tie it into the discussion here about free will, if there really are such influences as this on us, especially when still at a more "unconscious" level than mine have become, we are looking at something that could be influencing us unnawares, (as was the case with my gift/curse much of my adult life) and beyond our conscious consideration and control, when we are making decisions and choices. As otherwise discussed here, if we trully are influenced by factors beyond our control, whether by genetics, brain disfunction, disrupted body chemistry, or, something like what I talk of here, then true free will, fully informed free choice, simply isn't possible.

 

Jenell

 

Jenell,

 

I agree; we have much to learn about the conscious and the unconscious and other consciousness. Paranormal experiences are not uncommon and are being studied scientifically by many skeptics.

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Hi Scott,

 

I would be interested in learning more about the philosophical objections to scientific realism, I think perhaps I can find that on other older threads. I am not familiar with the possible resolutions of this in philosophy.

 

It was at first very difficult for me to get used to 'immateriality' as a concept, I had no idea what it might mean until I explored subjectivity as a (potentially) true ontological concept. In the West, we now tend to get it drilled into our consciousness that subjectivity means unreality, whereas in earlier times the opposite was supposed: subjectivity was considered the deeper, inward existence of phenomena, while objectivity was merely their outward, external surface.

 

I think the simplest way to go beyond materialism, at least for the sake of tentative philosophical reflection, is to explore the limitations objectivity. The question is raised, Do things, in themselves, really conform to the category of object - the purely external material thing? Is reality 'itself' an object, something external and existing completely independent of any trace of subjectivity? (Is there anything more to reality than what can be given in a purely objectified picture of things: for instance, can a man blind from birth, after reading exhaustively the scientific definition of 'vision', acquire what it is to see?)

 

If you answer 'Yes', then explore the presuppositions that go into that metaphysical belief. Consider that subjectivity, by definition, is all the reality that beings ever encounter, while 'matter', on the other hand, is merely a metaphysical concept that has never been experienced by anyone. This is not to argue against realism, only to deepen the criteria for what it means to be real.

 

If you answer 'no', then 'objectivity' is confessed to be a method, not an ontological truth, and there is a likelihood that one may have been 'mistaking methodology for ontology'. But lacking in a belief in the idea of 'pure objectivity', materialism seems to lose a lot of force. Instead of thinking of the universe as composed of purely externalized, reified objects with no 'inward' existence - like outsides with no insides - we can begin to reason about the universe in terms of true subjects/subjectivity - mind, meaning, value, experience, qualia, etc., all of which are more than adequately philosophically defensible.

 

A 'true subject', then, would be inherently 'free', I think, by nature of its being a true subject. A subject is always responding creatively to those inward conditions to which it gives expression. As far as neuroscience and 'free will' are concerned, I'm not sure that it can be retrospectively argued that 'She could have done otherwise'. Maybe such is true, maybe it isn't. But that's the past, and the aliveness of subjectivity is always emerging in the here and now. It may be true that those conditions make us who we are, but it the converse would also be true: who we are realizes those conditions, thereby breathing novelty and life - subjectivity - into them.

 

Peace,

Mike

Edited by Mike
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