Free Will and the Unconscious

By default, the degree of freedom of our will is directly proportionate to the degree of privacy that it is applied to. In our innermost thoughts, we have a relatively high degree of freedom to imagine what we like. The further that we get into the public realm, the more that social and physical constraints impinge on that freedom. Just as human self-hood entails self-awareness, human free will is reflexive also in that it gives us the power to seek more power…the freedom to try to extend our personal freedom into the social and physical contexts of the world.

MSR emphasizes the universality of awareness as well as it its capacity to mask its qualities in different ways. The 20th century brought revolutionary insights into human psychology that shattered simple minded assumptions about what we know about our own minds. With Freud’s flawed but pioneering study of the id, ego, and superego, and Jung’s fascination with the shadow and collective unconscious, the world changed the way that it treated the psyche. In the documentary The Century of the Self, Adam Curtis describe how the rise of psychoanalysis led to the development of the modern advertising and public relations industry. No longer was it assumed that people make decisions based on conscious deliberation, but were instead reacting to subconscious fears and desires.

As the popularity of psychoanalysis waned in the latter decades of the 20th century, it seems that people have forgotten much of what had been gained and returned to a kind of folk behaviorism. It should be pointed out that behaviorism was considered discredited in the in the 1960s, partly because of Noam Chomsky’s critique of B.F. Skinner’s approach. In that critique, Chomsky details the ways that ‘modern objective psychology’ doesn’t stand up to even the most superficial challenges. It is surprising the extent to which these objections are now overlooked. Even though there is a common awareness among highly educated people of the pervasiveness of cognitive bias, that awareness does not seem to extend to the sciences, and it has become perfectly acceptable to presume the pre-psychoanalytic, pre-psychedelic model of the brain as a machine programmed by blind natural forces.

No longer considered a part of the psyche, ‘unconscious’ influences are considered to be part of the brain function rather than a deeper context of little explored levels of sub-personal and super-personal psychic content. This key oversight, in my estimation, of the approach taken by neuroscientific research into free will (Libet et al) is in this presumption that all subjective influence that is not available to us to casual introspection is ‘unconscious’ rather than conscious sub-personally. I think that this is demonstrably false.

When we read words on a computer screen, for example we are not conscious of their translation from pixels to optical display, to graphic loops and lines, to letters and words. From the perspective of our personal awareness, the words are presented as readable and meaningful as soon as we look at them. We are not reminded of our experiences of learning how to read 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 have not make any connection between how language looks and what it means, but would instead receive information like a computer, as an invisible data transfer.

In the same way, a robotic task like Libet studied quickly pushed to the sub-personal, reflex level of awareness. Even though there is brain activity 10 seconds ahead of the time that our personal level of consciousness is able to detect and report on this reflex, 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 human beings as if we were made of generic Legos instead of a single unique and unrepeatable event. Living organisms bodies divide from a single cell into billions, each one carrying the potential for intention and self-modifying teleology. This is nothing like a machine that has been assembled from dumb parts by outside agents.

Advertisements
  1. No comments yet.
  1. September 20, 2014 at 2:00 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

I can't believe it!

Problems of today, Ideas for tomorrow

Rationalising The Universe

one post at a time

Conscience and Consciousness

Academic Philosophy for a General Audience

yhousenyc.wordpress.com/

Exploring the Origins and Nature of Awareness

DNA OF GOD

BRAINSTORM- An Evolving and propitious Synergy Mode~!

Musings and Thoughts on the Universe, Personal Development and Current Topics

This is a blog where I explore spiritual and personal development themes and ideas. © JAMES MICHAEL J. LOVELL, MUSINGS AND THOUGHTS ON THE UNIVERSE, PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT AND CURRENT TOPICS, 2016-2020, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Paul's Bench

Ruminations on philosophy, psychology, life

This is not Yet-Another-Paradox, This is just How-Things-Really-Are...

For all dangerous minds, your own, or ours, but not the tv shows'... ... ... ... ... ... ... How to hack human consciousness, How to defend against human-hackers, and anything in between... ... ... ... ... ...this may be regarded as a sort of dialogue for peace and plenty for a hungry planet, with no one left behind, ever... ... ... ... please note: It may behoove you more to try to prove to yourselves how we may really be a time-traveler, than to try to disprove it... ... ... ... ... ... ...Enjoy!

Creativity✒📃😍✌

“Don’t try to be different. Just be Creative. To be creative is different enough.”

absolutephilosophy

An idealistic blog where those who are searching/wandering/questioning can find an absolute qualia.

zumpoems

Zumwalt Poems Online

The Traditionalist

Revolt Against The Modern World

dhamma footsteps

postcards from the present moment

chandleur

Bagatelle

OthmanMUT

Observational Tranquillity.

Gray Matters

Traversing the blood-brain-barrier.

Writings By Ender

The Writer's Adventure

%d bloggers like this: