Wednesday, June 08, 2011

I think, therefore I am

The principle of 'free will' is that you are free to make any decision. Examples:

  1. You are free to jump off a bridge.
  2. You are free to believe in God.
  3. You are free to go to the right instead of the left.

With 1 you are physically free, there is no thing or person holding you back. Why do you or don't you? Probably there are immediate instincts weighing in, telling you what you should do (e.g. fright). Maybe it is really high or the water below very cold. You decide not to jump because you can imagine possible consequences based on what you know.

With 2 you argue pro and cons in your head. There are a lot of emotional triggers connected to experiences from your childhood on to adulthood. And there are consequences of going either way - personally and socially - and not all are conscious. You weight these against each other and you select what sounds and feels most likely to you. With a mix of hope, maybe.

With 3 you are at this crossroad. There is an ice-cream parlor to the right and the office to the left. You know what you should do and you definitely know what you want to do. Your brain goes through the consequences and it challenges your values and principles. Based on a long life of learning you pretty much know all the pros and cons the two options have. You choose to go to work and you agree with your choice because you have the experience you know and understand the reasoning process behind it. At the same time the other option was fully possible, But all your considerations have causes even if we aren't smart enough to dissect them all.

The fact that you feel the process of processing all alternatives does not mean you are in a situation to handle the options equally. And as long as they aren't equal they aren't free. You land on your preference. This does not mean everything predestined, it means that everything has a logical cause.

Our choices feel free because we end up selecting what we agree is best. It makes most sense there and then so we do it. But you can't choose to jump off a bridge into your possible death if you aren't suicidal or have that lust for excitement. You can't choose to love the image of a god you find crazy and evil, just like you can't choose to like the taste of poop. And you did choose to go to work because of emotions and logical reasons. With a different brain or other experiences you might have chosen differently.

Free will would have to be a 'device' in your mind with the power to override your ability to reason and knowledge and experience. What is good with that? Wouldn't that just be a meaningless randomize function?

I'd much rather base my actions and choices in life on my ability to think and all my knowledge and experience, than on an ability to randomly make choices unbound by the same. I think, therefore I am.

"What we call chaos is just patterns we haven't recognized. What we call random is just patterns we cant decipher. What we can't understand we call nonsense. What we can't read we call gibberish. There is no free will. There are no variables. There is only the inevitable.”
[Chuck Palahniuk]

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