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Friday, October 18, 2013

More about free will and stuff.

This post is just clarification of the previous one, after reading mouse's comment.  I have to admit now that I used the word "God" partly intentionally to provoke and partly because it is short to type. For me, "God" does not mean some superior separate  being, arbitrarily visiting humanity with rewards and punishments; the standard "Christian" version of a loving, all-powerful, omniscient Being who sometimes apparently "answers" petitions and most of the time apparently does not, makes no sense to me. I could better use the word "Consciousness" or "Totality." The Tao.

Now by "accept" I do not mean lie back and do nothing. If you see something that needs to be done, of course then do it if you can. Before reading mouse's comment, I had never heard of Clara Barton, but from what I have read today I think she is an excellent example of what I mean: she saw what needed to be done and did it. If a clever person wants to invent a new gadget or system, he should go ahead and use his talents. Design a railway, an aircraft, an internet, a blogging service so you and I can exchange thoughts and be grateful for the work. By that word, accept, I mean don't waste time and energy wishing things were different now, but make plans and take action to make future moments more in line with how you want them. If you have toothache, arrange a dental appointment and don't regret your neglect, just accept it. You have neglected your teeth, accept that and start taking care of them. The present moment is already happening before we can do anything about it, just act as appropriate for your situation and avoid regret over the past and worry over the future.

I say all this, but do we really have any choice over what we do? Many say NO, there is no free will, and I am inclined to agree with that, because, after all, there is no way you can show that anything you have done you could have done differently at that time you did it. You can assert that, and you probably will, but you cannot demonstrate it, so it is likely you had no choice in the matter.  Neither can you show that you have any choice over what you are about to do in the next few minutes.  

I have to admit I think this way partly because my natural inclination is to regard with suspicion anything that is accepted by the great majority.  Almost everyone thinks he has the power to choose one course of action over another, but there is no evidence for that assumption and I doubt it.  Pretty well the whole of our society is based on commending or blaming people for the "choices" they have made, but I don't believe people do make choices. Behaviour is entirely automatic.  So if you are a worrier, you are going to worry!

Some time ago, I published a post querying whether life mattered.  I meant, should we agonise over what choices we, or other people, have made or are about to make?  Is it important?  If there is no free will, the whole question is irrelevant.  One follower of my blog, well known and loved in this particular blogging community, became so indignant at this post that she promptly unfollowed me!


  1. Just for some measure of clarification, the idea or the notion of "free will" is something that mouse has grappled with. Religious friends will tell mouse that "god gave us free will," and honestly it's something that mouse has had difficulty understanding.

    Because, mouse is constrained constantly from exercising this so-called free will. Part of it is because she's a responsible person who isn't going to scream 'fire' in a crowded theater for shits and giggles. We might not agree what the government does with our money but we pay our taxes.

    There are gender constrictions as well, things that mouse does just because she's female.

    There are evolutionary ones that mouse hasn't any control over. Struggling with weight is one that's purely evolutionary to protect against famine. The burning need to be controlled and contained is probably hard-wired into her that respect it's not a choice at all. The only choice might be in choosing wisely who gets the power to control her...

    But even that is also evolutionary...what we look for in a partner for life or if there is more than one life partner...The people we look for meet very specific criteria actually. The way their bodies look is only part of it.

    Some people can't handle monogamy it's not a character flaw. Being possessive or jealous are also hard-wired into us by our DNA and millions of years of evolution.

    We have evolved, each of us, to be who we are.

    Can we change that? Yes, we can but it's a lifelong struggle that requires a good deal of commitment.

    Like an alcoholic giving up drinking. They might be predisposed for alcoholism (or other addictive behaviors) based on their DNA, you can change it but not without a lot of work.

    Free will is a big, huge all encompassing ideal that just doesn't work. What choices we do have are tiny.


  2. Hi your posts (from yesterday and today) reminded me of the serenity prayer. :) saturn.


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