Monday, April 4, 2016

Free Will - not so much

Do we have free will or is it all the interweaving of our actions, needs and desires?  Is it all determined... no, not until it happens. It could change, maybe. Not much, but at any moment, I could decide to do something different.  My simple answer is we have a tiny bit of free will; but it is biased on the past; or on our body training and chemistry; hence, free will is mostly an illusion.

Epictetus said some things are up to us, and some are not. He goes on to list the things we have complete control over: our opinions, our ability to accept or reject propositions, mentally controlled desires and aversions, and the mental side of impulse to move. Not our bodies. Perhaps, after examining our lives, as Socrates suggested, even our beliefs. Not very much that we have complete control over. And as our unconscious mind does some of that leaving us, the conscious mind, even less. When the decision is made by our unconscious part of our mind, we have no control. The unconscious mind relates to our past, and uses our trained in beliefs, values, and behaviors. These of course, we have no control over until we examine them and clean our the garbage from our early learning. So we have free will over our rational decisions, but little else, and we make so few rational decisions outside of work. The real illusion is the "I", it does not exist, it is a concept of self, that is flawed.

Moving down the line, beyond what we have complete control over, is a category of things that we have influence over, but nothing like control. Here is where we live most of the time, where we have the illusion of control, but the unconscious mind's automatic decision making and our body decisions, what will yield the highest dopamine dose, are really in control. This is where eating falls, and that is the essential reasons that diet fail. And the world tells us that we can be anything we want to be. One more myth perpetrated on us by the ignorant... unthinking adults... and we swallowed it for a while, until we ran into reality, and had to examine the idea.

Moving down further, there are all those other things we have no control over but others have influence over. We may be able to influence them, or jump through their defined hoops to become whatever, and perhaps the hoop is moved, or changed, or we do not have the required skill set, or whatever. So if we want it bad enough and it is within the realm of possible, we may be able to acheive it maybe. It may not be what we thought it was either. All the negatives are filtered out of marketing. In terms of education, the only available jobs may be to teach more people those same skills, and how many replacement teachers do they really need. Job dry up and blow away with technology also.

Then there are all those things that we have no control over; that no one has any control over, truly deterministic, or nearly so. Consider global warming; are we really going to freeze to avoid using carbon based fuels? There are too many people. Oh well, we could have some control over that, but the government chooses not to do anything.

But what do I know?


  1. Don't get me started on climate change, Fred...
    Are 7 billion human beings affecting the planet? Darn tooting!!!
    But are we primarily responsible for the ongoing cycles of warming & cooling trends? Doubtful - might as well blame the woolly mammoths for our most recent Ice Age!

  2. We are responsible for the rise in Co2 in the atmosphere... to some extent. It has raised 100 ppm in 50 years, and we have put about 2000 ppm into the atmosphere. The oceans are good buffers, but not quite enough. If we were able to stop producing Co2, it would be back to(1960) 280ppm, rather than the 400ppm we are now at.

    It does not matter, the earth will survive. The question is will humans? The deserts are getting larger, and near deserts are getting dryer. Once the short cycle rainfall stops, we will not be able to produce the current foods. Last summer was zero short cycle here, and we have never had that before. It will stay a zero until we get a major long cycle event. We had no major long cycle events in two years now.

    All those of us that live and grow in marginal rainfall areas will be in the dry for a while, so the crops will be poor. Oh well, I am retired.


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