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Posts Tagged ‘free will’

Free Will Isn’t a Predictive Statistical Model

December 25, 2013 12 comments

Free will is a program guessing what could happen if resources were spent executing code before having to execute it.

I suggest that Free Will is not merely the feeling of predicting effects, but is the power to dictate effects. It gets complicated because when we introspect on our own introspection, our personal awareness unravels into a hall of sub-personal mirrors. When we ask ourselves ‘why did I eat that pizza’, we can trace back a chain of ‘because…I wanted to. Because I was hungry…Because I saw a pizza on TV…’ and we are tempted to conclude that our own involvement was just to passively rubber stamp a course of multiple-choice actions that were already in motion.

If instead, we look at the entire ensemble of our responses to the influences, from TV image, to the body’s hunger, to the preference for pizza, etc as more of a kaleidoscope gestalt of ‘me’, then we can understand will on a personal level rather than a mechanical level. On the sub-personal level, where there is processing of information in the brain and competing drives in the mind, we, as individuals do not exist. This is the mistake of the neuroscientific experiments thus far. They assume a bottom-up production of consciousness from unconscious microphysical processes, rather than seeing a bi-directional relation between many levels of description and multiple kinds of relation between micro and macro, physical and phenomenal.

My big interest is in how intention causes action

I think that intention is already an action, and in a human being that action takes place on the neurochemical level if we look at it from the outside. For the motive effect of the brain to translate into the motor effect of the rest of the body involves the sub-personal imitation of the personal motive, or you could say the diffraction of the personal motive as it is made increasingly impersonal, slower, larger, and more public-facing (mechanical) process.

Free Will and the Unconscious

December 15, 2013 Leave a comment

The key oversight, in my opinion, in the approach taken by neuroscientific research into free will (Libet et al) is in the presumption that all that is not available to us personally is ‘unconscious’ rather than conscious sub-personally. When we read these words, we are not conscious of their translation from pixels to patches of contrasting optical conditions, to loops and lines, to letters and words. From the perspective of our personal awareness, the words are presented as a priori readable and meaningful. We are not reminded of learning to read in kindergarten and have no feeling for what the gibberish that we are decoding would look like to someone who could not read English. The presentation of our world is materially altered at the sub-personal, but not ‘unconscious’ level. If it were unconscious, then we would be shocked to find that words were made of lines and loops or pixels.

In the same way, a robotic task is quickly anticipated, even 10 seconds ahead of time, without our personality getting involved. This does not mean that it is not ‘us’ making the choice, only that there is no need for such an easy and insignificant choice to be recognized by another layer of ‘us’, and reported by a third layer of ‘us’ to the personal layer of us.

When we work on the sub-personal level of neurons, we are addressing a layer of reality in which we, as persons, do not exist. Because we have not yet factored in perceptual relativity as a defining existential influence, we are making the mistake of treating a human being as if they were made of generic Legos instead of a single unique and unrepeatable living cell which has intentionally reproduced itself a trillion times over – each carrying the potential for intention and self-modifying teleology.

Free Will is a Walk in the Park

October 23, 2013 2 comments

JE: > When I say that when I walk into the park and sense that I can choose whether to go right or left, the reality is that there is only one possible outcome, is not, I think, related to presentism or eternalism…

> Let’s forget these positions. The issue is, regardless of metaphysical stance, how many outcomes will be possible if I actually walk into the park at 11.35 this morning. We are not talking of conceivability. I could conceive that I bifurcated into two people and went both ways. We are talking about what ‘options’ are possible for the universe if we believe that things will obey the laws of physics.

The universe does not just obey the law of physics though. It obeys the laws of biology, zoology, anthropology, psychology, imagination and intuition as well. It obeys the law of conscious intention.

The number of possible outcomes is potentially infinite.

You could walk in a circle. You could walk off the path. You could sit down in front of a tree. You could hail a cab to the airport and go to Spain.

If you are looking for free will you cannot look for it in a sealed box, any more than you can look for Shakespeare in the set of English pronouns and articles.

What if instead of assuming that the universe is built only from the bottom up by dumb Lego parts, we see that the opposite is also true. Legos are designed and manufactured for creative use from the top down as well. All that we have to do is realize that we ourselves are already evidence of top down causality, and to notice that our existence in the universe is impossible as a purely bottom up phenomenon. (“Up” where?)

Wittgenstein, Physics, and Free Will

October 14, 2013 1 comment

JE: My experience from talking to philosophers is that WIttgenstein’s view is certainly contentious. There seem to be two camps. There are those seduced by his writing who accept his account and there are others who, like me, feel that Wittgenstein expressed certain fairly trivial insights about perception and language that most people should have worked out for themselves and then proceeded to draw inappropriate conclusions and screw up the progress of contemporary philosophy for fifty years. This latter would be the standard view amongst philosophers working on biological problems in language as far as I can see.

Wittgenstein is right to say that words have different meanings in different situations – that should be obvious. He is right to say that contemporary philosophers waste their time using words inappropriately – any one from outside sees that straight away. But his solution – to say that the meaning of words is just how they are normally used, is no solution – it turns out to be a smoke screen to allow him to indulge his own prejudices and not engage in productive explanation of how language actually works inside brains.

The problem is a weaseling going on that, as I indicated before, leads to Wittgenstein encouraging the very crime he thought he was clever to identify. The meaning of a word may ‘lie in how it is used’ in the sense that the occurrences of words in talk is functionally connected to the roles words play in internal brain processes and relate to other brain processes but this is trivial. To say that meaning is use is, as I said, clearly a route to the W crime itself. If I ask how do you know meaning means use you will reply that a famous philosopher said so. Maybe he did but he also said that words do not have unique meanings defined by philosophers – they are used in all sorts of ways and there are all sorts of meanings of meaning that are not ‘use’, as anyone who has read Grice or Chomsky will have come to realise. Two meanings of a word may be incompatible yet it may be well nigh impossible to detect this from use – the situation I think we have here. The incompatibility only becomes clear if we rigorously explore what these meanings are. Wittgenstein is about as much help as a label on a packet of pills that says ‘to be taken as directed’.

But let’s be Wittgensteinian and play a language game of ordinary use, based on the family resemblance thesis. What does choose mean? One meaning might be to raise in the hearer the thought of having a sense of choosing. So a referent of ‘choose’ is an idea or experience that seems to be real and I think must be. But we were discussing what we think that sense of choosing relates to in terms of physics. We want to use ‘choose’ to indicate some sort of causal relation or an aspect of causation, or if we are a bit worried about physics still having causes we could frame it in terms of dynamics or maybe even just connections in a spacetime manifold. If Wheeler thinks choice is relevant to physics he must think that ‘choose’ can be used to describe something of this sort, as well as the sense of choosing.

So, as I indicated, we need to pin down what that dynamic role might be. And I identified the fact that the common presumption about this is wrong. It is commonly thought that choosing is being in a situation with several possible outcomes. However, we have no reason to think that. The brain may well not be purely deterministic in operation. Quantum indeterminacy may amplify up to the level of significant indeterminacy in such a complex system with so powerful amplification systems at work. However, this is far from established and anyway it would have nothing to do with our idea of choosing if it was just a level of random noise. So I think we should probably work on the basis that the brain is in fact as tightly deterministic as matters here. This implies that in the situation where we feel we are choosing THERE IS ONLY ONE POSSIBLE OUTCOME.

The problem, as I indicated is that there seem to be multiple possible outcomes to us because we do not know how are brain is going to respond. Because this lack of knowledge is a standard feature of our experience our idea of ‘a situation’ is better thought of as ‘an example of an ensemble of situations that are indistinguishable in terms of outcome’. If I say when I get to the main road I can turn right or left I am really saying that I predict an instance of an ensemble of situations which are indistinguishable in terms of whether I go right or left. This ensemble issue of course is central to QM and maybe we should not be so surprised about that – operationally we live in a world of ensembles, not of specific situations.

So this has nothing to do with ‘metaphysical connotations’ which is Wittgenstein’s way of blocking out any arguments that upset him – where did we bring metaphysics in here? We have two meanings of choose. 1. Being in a situation that may be reported as being one of feeling one has choice (to be purely behaviourist) and 2. A dynamic account of that situation that turns out not to agree with what 99.9% of the population assume it is when they feel they are choosing. People use choose in a discussion of dynamics as if it meant what it feels like in 1 but the reality is that this use is useless. It is a bit like making burnt offerings to the Gods. That may be a use for goats but not a very productive one. It turns out that the ‘family resemblance’ is a fake. Cousin Susan who has pitched up to claim her inheritance is an impostor. That is why I say that although to ‘feel I am choosing’ is unproblematic the word ‘choice’ has no useful meaning in physics. It is based on the same sort of error as thinking a wavefunction describes a ‘particle’ rather than an ensemble of particles. The problem with Wittgenstein is that he never thought through where his idea of use takes you if you take a careful scientific approach. Basically I think he was lazy. The common reason why philosophers get tied in knots with words is this one – that a word has several meanings that do not in fact have the ‘family relations’ we assume they have – this is true for knowledge, perceiving, self, mind, consciousness – all the big words in this field. Wittgenstein’s solution of going back to using words the way they are ‘usually’ used is nothing more than an ostrich sticking its head in the sand.

So would you not agree that in Wheeler’s experiments the experimenter does not have a choice in the sense that she probably feels she has? She is not able to perform two alternative manoeuvres on the measuring set up. She will perform a manoeuvre, and she may not yet know which, but there are no alternatives possible in this particular instance of the situation ensemble. She is no different from a computer programmed to set the experiment up a particular way before particle went through the slits, contingent on a meteorite not shaking the apparatus after it went through the slits (causality is just as much an issue of what did not happen as what did). So if we think this sort of choosing tells us something important about physics we have misunderstood physics, I beleive.

Nice response. I agree almost down the line.

As far as the meaning of words go, I think that no word can have only one meaning because meaning, like all sense, is not assembled from fragments in isolation, but rather isolated temporarily from the totality of experience. Every word is a metaphor, and metaphor can be dialed in and out of context as dictated by the preference of the interpreter. Even when we are looking at something which has been written, we can argue over whether a chapter means this or that, whether or not the author intended to mean it. We accept that some meanings arise unintentionally within metaphor, and when creating art or writing a book, it is not uncommon to glimpse and develop meanings which were not planned.

To choose has a lower limit, between the personal and the sub-personal which deals with the difference between accidents and ‘on purpose’ where accidents are assumed to demand correction, and there is an upper limit on choice between the personal and the super-personal in which we can calibrate our tolerance toward accidents, possibly choosing to let them be defined as artistic or intuitive and even pursuing them to be developed.

I think that this lensing of choice into upper and lower limits, is, like red and blue shift, a property of physics – of private physics. All experiences, feelings, words, etc can explode into associations if examined closely. All matter can appear as fluctuations of energy, and all energy can appear as changes in the behavior of matter. Reversing the figure-ground relation is a subjective preference. So too is reversing the figure-ground relation of choice and determinism a subjective preference. If we say that our choices are determined, then we must explain why there is a such thing as having a feeling that we choose. Why would there be a difference, for example, in the way that we breathe and the way that we intentionally control our breathing? Why would different areas of the brain be involved in voluntary control, and why would voluntary muscle tissue be different from smooth muscle tissue if there were no role for choice in physics? We have misunderstood physics in that we have misinterpreted the role of our involvement in that understanding.

We see physics as a collection of rules from which experiences follow, but I think that it can only be the other way around. Rules follow from experiences. Physics lags behind awareness. In the case of humans, our personal awareness lags behind our sub-personal awareness (as shown by Libet, etc) but that does not mean that our sub-personal awareness follows microphysical measurables. If you are going to look at the personal level of physics, you only have to recognize that you can intend to stand up before you stand up, or that you can create an opinion intentionally which is a compromise between select personal preferences and the expectations of a social group.

Previous Wittgenstein post here.

If You See Wittgenstein on the Road… (you know what to do)

October 10, 2013 1 comment

Me butting into a language based argument about free will:

> I don’t see anything particularly contentious about Wittgenstein’s claim that the meaning of a word lies in how it is used.

Can something (a sound or a spelling) be used as a word if it has no meaning in the first place though?

>After all, language is just an activity in which humans engage in order to influence (and to be influenced by) the behaviour of other humans.

Not necessarily. I imagine that the origin of language has more to do with imitation of natural sounds and gestures. Onomatopoeia, for example. Clang, crunch, crash… these are not arbitrary signs which derive their meaning from usage alone. C. S. Pierce was on the right track with discerning between symbols (arbitrary signs whose meaning is attached by use alone), icons (signs which are isomorphic to their referent), and index (signs which refer by inevitable association as smoke is an index of fire). Words would not develop out of what they feel like to say and to hear, and the relation of that feeling to what is meant.

>I’m inclined to regard his analysis of language in the same light as I regard Hume’s analysis of the philosophical notion of ‘substance’ (and you will be aware that I side with process over substance) – i.e. there is no essential essence to a word. Any particular word plays a role in a variety of different language games, and those various roles are not related by some kind of underlying essence but by what Wittgenstein referred to as a family resemblance. The only pertinent question becomes that of what role a word can be seen to play in a particular language game (i.e. what behavioural influences it has), and this is an empirical question – i.e. it does not necessarily have any metaphysical connotations.

While Wittgenstein’s view is justifiably influential, I think that it belongs to the perspective of modernism’s transition to postmodernity. As such, it is bound by the tenets of existentialism, in which isolation, rather than totality is assumed. I question the validity of isolation when it comes to subjectivity (what I call private physics) since I think that subjectivity makes more sense as a temporary partition, or diffraction within the totality of experience rather than a product of isolated mechanisms. Just as a prism does not produce the visible spectrum by reinventing it mechanically – colors are instead revealed through the diffraction of white light. Much of what goes on in communication is indeed language games, and I agree that words do not have an isolated essence, but that does not mean that the meaning of words is not rooted in a multiplicity of sensible contexts. The pieces that are used to play the language game are not tokens, they are more like colored lights that change colors when they are put together next to each other. Lights which can be used to infer meaning on many levels simultaneously, because all meaning is multivalent/holographic.

> So if I wish to know the meaning of a word, e.g. ‘choice’, I have to LOOK at how the word is USED rather than THINK about what kind of metaphysical scheme might lie behind the word (Philosophical Investigations section 66 and again in section 340).

That’s a good method for learning about some aspects of words, but not others. In some case, as in onomatopoeia, that is the worst way of learning anything about it and you will wind up thinking that Pow! is some kind of commentary about humorous violence and has nothing to do with the *sound* of bodies colliding and it’s emotional impact. It’s like the anthropologist who gets the completely wrong idea about what people are doing because they are reverse engineering what they observe back to other ethnographers interpretations rather than to the people’s experienced history together.

> So, for instance, when Jane asks me “How should I choose my next car?” I understand her perfectly well to be asking about the criteria she should be employing in making her decision. Similarly with the word ‘free’ – I understand perfectly well what it means for a convict to be set free. And so to the term ‘free will’; As Hume pointed out, there is a perfectly sensible way to use the term – i.e. when I say “I did it of my own free will”, all I mean is that I was not coerced into doing it, and I’m conferring no metaphysical significance upon my actions (the compatibilist notion of free will in contrast to the metaphysical notion of free will).

Why would that phrase ‘free will’ be used at all though? Why not just say “I was not coerced” or nothing at all, since without metaphysical (or private physical) free will, there would be no important difference between being coerced by causes within your body or beyond your body. Under determinism, there is no such thing as not being coerced.

> The word ‘will’ is again used in a variety of language games, and the family resemblance would appear to imply something about the future (e.g. “I will get that paper finished today”). When used in the free will language game, it shares a significant overlap with the choice language game. But when we lift a word out of its common speech uses and confer metaphysical connotations upon it, Wittgenstein tells us that language has ceased doing useful work (as he puts it in the PI section 38, “philosophical problems arise when language goes on holiday”).

We should not presume that work is useful without first assuming free will. Useful, like will, is a quality of attention, an aesthetic experience of participation which may be far more important than all of the work in the universe put together. It is not will that must find a useful function, it is function that acquires use only through the feeling of will.

> And, of course, the word ‘meaning’ is itself employed in a variety of different language games – I can say that I had a “meaningful experience” without coming into conflict with Wittgenstein’s claim that the meaning of a word lies in its use.

Use is only one part of meaning. Wittgenstein was looking at a toy model of language that ties only to verbal intellect itself, not to the sensory-motor foundations of pre-communicated experience. It was a brilliant abstraction, important for understanding a lot about language, but ultimately I think that it takes the wrong things too seriously. All that is important about awareness and language would, under the Private Language argument, be passed over in silence.

> Regarding Wheeler’s delayed choice experiment, the experimenter clearly has a choice as to whether she will deploy a detector that ignores the paths by which the light reaches it, or a detector that takes the paths into account. In Wheeler’s scenario that choice is delayed until the light has already passed through (one or both of) the slits. I really can’t take issue with the word ‘choice’ as it is being used here.

I think that QM also will eventually be explained by dropping the assumption of isolation. Light is visual sense. It is how matter sees and looks. Different levels of description present themselves differently from different perspectives, so that if you put matter in the tiniest box you can get, you give it no choice but to reflect back the nature of the limitation of that specific measurement, and measurement in general.

Determinism: Tricks of the Trade

August 16, 2013 2 comments

The objection that the terms ‘consciousness’ or ‘free will’ are used in too many different ways to be understandable is one of the most common arguments that I run into. I agree that it is a superficially valid objection, but on deeper consideration, it should be clear that it is a specious and ideologically driven detour.

The term free will is not as precise as a more scientific term might be (I tend to use motive, efferent participation, or private intention), but it isn’t nearly the problem that it is made to be in a debate. Any eight year old knows well enough what free will refers to. Nobody on Earth can fail to understand the difference between doing something by accident and intentionally, or between enslavement and freedom. The claim that these concepts are somehow esoteric doesn’t wash, unless you already have an expectation of a kind of verbal-logical supremacy in which nothing is allowed to exist until we can agree on a precise set of terms which give it existence. I think that this expectation is not a neutral or innocuous position, but actually contaminates the debate over free will, stacking the deck unintentionally in favor of the determinism.

It’s subtle, but ontologically, it is a bit like letting a burglar talk you into opening up the door to the house for them since breaking a window would only make a mess for you to clean up. Because the argument for hard determinism begins with an assumption that impartiality and objectivity are inherently desirable in all things, it asks that you put your king in check from the start. The argument doubles down on this leverage with the implication that subjective intuition is notoriously naive and flawed, so that not putting your king in check from the start is framed as a weak position. This is the James Randi kind of double-bind. If you don’t submit to his rules, then you are already guilty of fraud, and part of his rules is that you have no say in what his rules will be.

This is the sleight of hand which is also used by Daniel Dennett as well. What poses as a fair consideration of hard determinism is actually a stealth maneuver to create determinism – to demand that the subject submit to the forced disbelief system and become complicit in undermining their own authority. The irony is that it is only through a personal/social, political attack on subjectivity that the false perspective of objectivity can be introduced. It is accepted only by presentation pf an argument of personal insignificance so that the subject is shamed and bullied into imagining itself an object. Without knowing it, one person’s will has been voluntarily overpowered and confounded by another person’s free will into accepting that this state of affairs is not really happening. In presenting free will and consciousness as a kind of stage magic, the materialist magician performs a meta-magic trick on the audience.
Some questions for determinist thinkers:

  • Can we effectively doubt that we have free will?
    Or is the doubt a mental abstraction which denies the very capacity for intentional reasoning upon which the doubt itself is based?
  • How would an illusion of doubt be justified, either randomly or deterministically? What function would an illusion of doubt serve, even in the most blue-sky hypothetical way?
  • Why wouldn’t determinism itself be just as much of an illusion as free will or doubt under determinism?

Another common derailment is to conflate the position of recognizing the phenomenon of subjectivity as authentic with religious faith, naive realism, or soft-headed sentimentality. This also is ironic, as it is an attack on the ego of the subject, not on the legitimacy of the issue. There is no reason to presume any theistic belief is implied just because determinism can be challenged at its root rather than on technicalities.

David Sosa on Free Will in Waking Life

May 29, 2013 Leave a comment

(my comments:

I think that just as free will spans the entire continuum from profound mystery to ordinary fact to most-convincing illusion to least convincing reality, so too does consciousness as a whole.

Will seems to be a self-contained, primordial feature of nature – intentional force. The projection of a single motive sequence from a multiplicity of private motives into a thermodynamically irreversible public consequence. The power to participate in public realism; from motive to motor, emotion to intention to extension as a unified gestalt at the personal level, but smeared across smaller spaces and times at the sub-personal levels (cellular, neurochemical). Will is consciousness oscillating from being to feeling to doing to knowing, an Ouroboran double-binary knot of sensory-motor qualities, pushing and pulling between private times and public spaces.

The ‘free’ part of free will seems more conceptual. Free compared to what? Nevertheless, it too has an aesthetic subtext which is compelling. Freedom is somehow the epitome of will. It suggests self seeking to amplify itself by transcending itself. When people use the expression ‘willful’ there is a sense of being unpredictable or ‘wild’. This connection comes up again and again in philosophy and science and is rejected again and again as well. Vital force. Kundalini. Qi. Animal Magnetism. We are ambivalent about physicalizing this most direct of all experiences – perhaps the only truly direct experience there is.

What I propose is sort of a ‘if you can’t beat em, join em’ strategy. Put the phenomena which we can’t explain in the center of the model. Neither sensory perception nor motive participation can, in my view, be reduced in any way. They are primordial, such that any conceivable physical force or field, any mathematical principle or information process would by definition supervene on some form of aesthetic presentation – some detection-participation capacity. Without such a capacity, nothing which has sense, or is itself defined by sense could possibly contact this non-sensed existence in any way. In this way, we can begin to see that being and sensory-motive participation are ultimately the same thing.

The effects of free will are cumulative, and as we free ourselves again and again from our own collective inertial consequences, initiating novel sequences out of personal preference, we also cut ourselves off from many experiences. We de-cide; kill off possibilities…we make a difference not only by what we choose but what our choice makes us indifferent to. The wild personal impulse gradually pivots to its opposite, and Homo sapiens raw nomadic drive to explore becomes the impersonal impulse of self-domestication. Now that the pendulum has perhaps reached the apogee of its swing, we seek to define the impulse in terms of its absence. This is an opportunity to step out of the system and look at the phenomenon as a whole – as we modulate with it through history. The unexpected truth – that free will and mechanism are two sides of the same oscillating coin is hard to consider, but like free will itself, we should place this enigma in the center of the model rather than try to flatten it into either mechanism or spirituality. Let it be what it is. Let us be who we are.)

Who’s In Control?

February 8, 2013 12 comments

Quora:

About freewill, thought origination, etc.  I do not claim to have the answers but share the following observations.

Our experience reflects two phenomena which can be summed up as the totality of our existence.  Those two are the physical and the mental.  I believe a little further contemplation reveals that the two can be reduced to one.  We are aware of the separation and boundaries of the physical, this thing, that thing, etc.   However, when it comes to the mental we experience no such separation.  Does not the mental comprise it all?  If the mental, awareness or consciousness was divided, bounded, separated or limited how could one thing have awareness of the other?  If you and I are defined by our awareness, mentality, consciousness, knowing or whatever you wish to call it and are separate how can we be aware of each other and where or what defines the boundary between us?  Obviously, our brain does not confine our consciousness.  If it did we could not be aware of anything else.  By definition there cannot be an Infinite and anything separate.
Does not the fact that I am aware of me, other people, the world and the universe mean that I AM beyond the aforementioned?

We are aware of physicality changing, seemingly coming and going, etc. and in a constant state of flux.  However, awareness remains changeless, invulnerable and cannot be created or destroyed.  Can we not then conclude that there can be no limit, boundary or separation within Consciousness?  If so, we can further conclude that there is only Consciousness because if there is no separation in Consciousness there can obviously be nothing existing separate from it.  There is only, All that Is and we are IT.  Many will say claiming to be God is a flagrant affront to God or a terrible sacrilege.  But, in fact, the opposite is actually the case.  If we claim to be separate from God we necessarily limit Him/Her/IT.  God cannot be infinite or limitless and be separated by other “stuff”.

How then do we explain individuality?  Since we have established by deductive reasoning that there can be no separation, we can now conclude that there is no separate you and I.  Further, since nothing can exist separate from Consciousness, nothing but Consciousness exists.

Yet we are aware.  Can we not now further conclude that we are all that is or the Consciousness that we have already established is all?  Taking this line of reasoning a little further, while we have awareness, we are at the same time aware of not being fully aware.  We seemingly are aspects of infinite intelligence but not infinite or at least not aware of it.

From here we can only speculate.  I suggest that Infinite intelligence chose to express and Its only means of so doing was to project an illusion of physicality or that which we experience as this universe with inhabitants of limited awareness.  They could not have full awareness or they would cease to be the projection but the Projector.

The next question then is, do we really have individual thinking, freewill and are we really capable of changing or controlling anything?  I am, of course, totally aware of how we think we are and how difficult it is to give up such an idea and I’m not going to make judgment one way or the other at this point except to say I have struggled a lot with the question and will simply throw out some thoughts on the subject.

Back to the physical and the mental.  We have already established that the physical does not really exist.  Only the mental is capable of creating a thought.  The physical is nothing but objects including our body and brain.  I do not believe a brain ever created a thought.  The physical cannot possibly create.  The brain may very well act as some sort of filter or receiver but I do not believe it can ever be creative.  Further substantiating this is the fact that we do not have much idea what our next thought will be.  Nor can we control what it will be or how long or often it may reoccur.  Likewise, we have many thoughts we would rather not have at times.  If we were controlling them why would we have undesirable ones?  You have no idea what your next thought will be but I do and you cannot possibly avoid it unless you stop reading right now.  Your next thought will be visualizing a flying elephant.   So, I believe it obvious that our thoughts are originating from somewhere beyond the physical brain.

About control of life otherwise. We did not control when or where we were born. We had no control of who were our parents, siblings or status, financial, fame or otherwise.  We  had no control of our gender, original health, inherent tendencies,  etc.  We had no control of our early upbringing, how we were treated,  what we were exposed to, nourishment, etc. We had no control of our  early education or exposure to outside influences, etc.  We had no control whether we were bullied or abused sexually or otherwise.

We now do not control our bodily functions, heartbeat, digestion, respiration, etc.  We have little if any control over viruses, infections, immune systems, accidents, etc.

We do not control when, where or how we die.  We do not control all those little or sometimes big unexpected events occurring daily in our lives.  Yet, we think we are in control of our lives.

Of What?

We  think we are making decisions between multiple choices but are we  really?  We say we could have chosen the other option.  But why didn’t we?  We weighed the options, consequences, etc and made a decision.  In  other words it would have required different consequences or circumstances for us to have  made a different decision.  But only what is, IS.  So, was a different decision ever in the picture?  Who could deny that things would be a lot different if we were truly determining the events of our lives?

It is very obvious that our lives are being greatly influenced if not totally controlled by outside forces.

So, you ask, what then is the point in it all?  Why this essay?  Why make the effort to be good?  Why not just live fast, love hard and die young?  You are what you are and you’re not going to deviate from it.  Afterall, you’re not really in control!

Does it really matter whether or not we are in control?  If it makes us feel better, than fine.  What difference does it really make if we get over there and realize that, hey, we weren’t really in control afterall?  Will we not just laugh and say, I sure as hell thought I was.

Or could it be that within the projection, the mentality of the inhabitants really does have freedom of choice?  It’s all illusion anyway but as Thomas Troward said, even though it is illusion, because it is a projection of the Almighty it is real as far as we’re concerned.

In keeping with the spirit of the question, I will answer it not in the way that I would like to ideally, but in the way that my circumstances seem to compel me. Having to get to sleep soon, I don’t have time to craft a thorough answer, (which nobody will probably bother reading) and if I leave it until tomorrow I might not remember what I was going to say. Here then is my circumstantially compromised, short order version of my contribution. I’ll be happy to go into it in further detail later on if anyone is interested.

1. Mental and physical are neither the same thing nor different things, they are opposite ends of a continuum of sensory-motor participation, which is, in my estimation, the fundamental component of the cosmos.

2. Free will and determinism are similarly not mutually exclusive but are defined by and help to define the aforementioned opposite ends of the universal continuum, which can be best understood as public and private ranges of experiential ontology. Public experiences are based on spatial extension, and private experiences are based on temporal narratives, and the two aspects are orthogonal/perpendicular in every way. They two ends also merge in another range of the continuum, which I call the profound edge, where transcendent experiences blur the boundary of private and public.

3. Physical matter actually is ‘real’ in the sense that the foundation of realism lies in the persistence of matter’s spatial extension, which acts as the single firmament of public interaction. All other interaction is biographical and private.

4. The nature of free will is complicated because our understanding of the nature of human consciousness is still very primitive, made more difficult by the seemingly irreconcilable approaches of what could be called the Oriental program, which places subjectivity as the absolute foundation and materiality as derived illusion, and the Western program which leads to the opposite and mutually exclusive conclusion. In my analysis, the opposition of these two programs to each other is a critically important revelation of the nature of consciousness itself, as the capacity to select either extreme and to dial between them mirrors the function of human culture and individual psychology in general.

In my opinion, strict adherence to either the Eastern or Western extremes tends to lead to a pathological worldview, in the sense that fanatical defensiveness and hypocrisy replace a respect for the plain truth. Moving forward to a new synthesis requires, in my opinion, that we keep the Eastern model of hierarchical levels of awareness (chakras, alchemical monochord, etc) but reconcile it with the Western model of physical scale (molecular, cellular, somatic, geological-evolutionary, astrophysical). The way that I propose arranges the sensory-motor experiences hierarchically so that our personal awareness and participation is flanked by a sub-personal or root range of qualia and a super-personal or meta range of intuition and inspiration flavored feelings, insights, and connections.

Anyhow, yes, our personal will does have a modicum of freedom, which expands in proportion to how deeply ‘within’ the context is. Within our own imagination, we have a fantastic degree of freedom, but are still limited ontologically by our human description and by the physics of privacy itself. The further we get from the immediacy of our private realm, the more that our freedom is constrained by the confluence of our own sub-personal and super-personal agendas as well as the nearly infinite impersonal agendas which surround our body in the public presentation of our world. To make things happen in the public world requires slowing our will down, ordering it strategically and persistently, matching the conditions of our environment, and making all manner of compromises. In the end, we may not see that much is left of what we thought we had intended personally, but nevertheless, we were the ones who had to pay attention and care about the outcome, so that’s something. Besides, often we find that the surprises that we discover in the public world are beyond what we could have intentionally dreamed up for ourselves, for better or worse…and that, I suspect is usually part of the larger (super-personal) agenda… if there is one.

Chosen

January 28, 2013 Leave a comment

 I wondered about what anyone/everyone thought about the notion of ‘chosenness’ as a way to understand where we are here in the world.

What I propose is that a complete description of the universe must include:

1. The experience of significance.

This speaks to the idea of chosen-ness, of choice, of free will, of improbability as a quality as the subject of appreciation.

2. The experience of the significance of the idea of insignificance.

I word “the significance of the idea of insignificance” in this convoluted way to reflect the natural sequence in which the revelation of objectivity has occurred across all human societies. As far as I know:

a.  *all* cultures begin their history steeped in animistic shamanism, divination, creation myths and charismatic deities and
b.  *no* cultures develop eliminative materialism, mathematics, and mechanism earlier than philosophy or religion, and
c.   *all* individuals experience the development of their own psyche through imaginative, emotional, and irrational or superstitious thought
d.   *no* individuals are born with a worldview based only on generic facts and objectivity. Healthy children do not experience their lives in an indifferent and detached mode of observation but rather grow into analytical modes of thought through experience of the public world.

We are so convinced by the sophisticated realism of objective insignificance that we tend to project it into a default position, when in fact, it does not occur naturally that way. It is we who choose subjectively whether or not to project objectivity beneath our own ability to choose it.

The fact is, if were it that simple; were objectivity the final word, then we should have had no reason to be separated from it in the first place. The whole notion of illusion depends on the non-illusory capacity of our own reason to deduce and discern illusion from reality, so that to question our own ability to freely choose, to some extent, how we reason, gives us no possibility of ever contacting any truth to deny.

Looking at 1. and 2. more scientifically, I would link significance with teleology (choice) and insignificance with teleonomy (chance). I have proposed that while these two opposite potentials seem mutually exclusive to us from our subjective experience, that from an absolute perspective, they are in adjacent ranges of the same continuum. I suggest that the subjective experience of sensation, and nested layers of meta-sensation constitute significance, and that this significance is what allows the possibility of choice based on personal preference. It is the choice capacity itself which divides the sense of the world for the chooser between the chosen and the unchosen. This ontological fracture is what gives the impression that there is a difference between chance and choice and creates the possibility of feedback loops in which we can question both:

a.  the reality of choice by choosing to adopt the perspective of impersonal chance, as well as
b.  the reality of chance by choosing to adopt the perspective of super-personal choice.

In both cases we cannot arrive at a perspective without exercising our will to choose one over the other, even for hypothetical consideration. There is no ontological possibility of our abdicating our choice altogether, although the position which elevates insignificance compels through an appeal to do just that. This is true of contemporary forms of science in general, as the outside-in bias inherently demands compulsory and involuntary acceptance of facts and unambiguous inferences between them rather than recognizing the self-same subjective autonomy which drives the scientific consideration from beginning to end. Science relies on peer-review to enforce the belief in disbelief – the faith that peer-review itself is an unexplained artifact of human weakness, and that the rest of the universe has no need for such deliberations, nor could it generate them even if it were useful.

In practical terms, what this means is that

a.  you can choose to pursue the chosen-feeling significance of your experience, but you risk increasing possibility of delusion and conflicting intuitions.

b.  you can choose to pursue the unchosen analytical feeling of the significance of insignificance, but you risk cutting yourself off from the most unbelievable experiences of personal truth and participation.

In both cases the potential rewards are equally intense. If you open the door, you open the door to Heaven and Hell. If you close the door, you can be more effective as a practical agent on Earth. Sometimes the choice seems to be coerced by circumstance. Sometimes we open the door in some contexts more often and close it more in others. Our choices can change and evolve. Sometimes it doesn’t matter either way.

The universe that we find ourselves in is chosen on the inside, chance on the outside, but it is only because we are inside that we can discern the difference. Without an inside, nothing can choose to recognize a difference.

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