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April 19, 2011


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You might enjoy Arthur Schopenhauer's work "The World as Will and Representation".
He posit there are basically two things, The Will and it's Forms.
All form ultimately being representations of the will.
Schopenhauer is purely rational and he was unfamiliar with
Buddhism at the time he wrote it. It's
the most solid substantiation by reason of that metaphysics I've ever encountered. Probably the most that has ever be written to date.

Anyway, one popular quote of his, and one
Einstein (is said to of) liked to remember was "you can do what you want but, you can't want what you want". Meaning that ultimately,
we are just responding to Will of which
our bodies are a representation and through
which we know the Will - vaguely.
On this point he differed from Kant who
said "The Thing in Itself" could not be known.
Because the brain and senses can only
provide images. For instance, have
you ever seen your face? No,only
a reflection thereof.


In my ebook on comparative mysticism is a chapter call "Outside the box." Here are three paragraphs from it:

What if you had to make all your decisions about living while detained in a jail cell? The cells may be open for brief periods each day, but the prisoners are still surrounded by walls. There are also walls around cells of everyday life. We are restricted by our ability to control our emotions, mind and body. Even with full command of our “self,” we must live within the restraints of Nature and society. Freedom is relative.

“Free will” is really quite limited, despite belief that we control ourselves and our lives. We think we have endless choices...until we try to make them. Each decision must not only be based on what we “want to do,” but also on our own capabilities and what is expected of us. Nature and society imprison us, whether we like it or not. The key to release is mystical realization. All in One and One in All, the divine unity, opens the gate between heaven and Earth...between a universal consciousness and most people’s constrained awareness.

Outer walls are the boxes of Nature and of society. Inclement weather, lack of sunlight, gravity, and/or other natural phenomena may restrain our movements. Our own natural aptitudes, practiced talents and learned skills are always lacking in some areas. Human nature is controlled mostly by society. What we believe that other people expect of us greatly influences how we feel, think and act. Considering the reactions of our family, friends, business associates, community, and/or nation determines much of what we do. Those “laws” of Nature and society govern our lives, usually more so than we wish. Mystical awareness can allow us to obey divine law here and now.

Well there you go then. We're all just meat robots, fundamentally dead, twitching to the meaningless rhythm of cascading neuropeptides until they finally cease.

Existence is so utterly mindless, random and pointless, wouldn't you have to agree?

Brian from Colorado, you're projecting your own feelings onto my post, not mine. Where did I say, or even imply, that existence is mindless, random, and pointless?

Read more closely and carefully, not just this post but the whole magnificent corpus of my churchless writings.

I find tremendously satisfying meaning in the realization that we humans are intimately interconnected with the cosmos, that we aren't isolated creatures -- souls or spirits cast from heaven into an inhospitable land.

Rather, we are part and parcel of the universe. That's why most scientists find it so difficult to believe in unfettered free will. As I said in the post, we are connected in countless ways with the world around us. The universe acts upon us, and we act upon the universe.

Meaning comes from that interrelatedness, our relationships, our mutual giving and taking. If you don't feel that yourself, that's fine. But you shouldn't ascribe feelings to me that aren't true and aren't reflected in my writings.

I'm hugely positive about life and enjoy it a lot. Not perfectly (who does?), but my basic outlook is strongly optimistic. (One of my wife's criticisms of me is that I don't worry enough. She may be right, but I'm not going to worry much about it.)

They say that the definition of a Liberal is: a Conservative who hasn't been mugged - yet.

Atheist/nihilist/fatalist/pessimist that I am - I am inclined to say that a person who enjoys life is a person who has not suffered much.

To all those who enjoy life and have every intention of remaining in that disposition, I sincerely hope you do. Please accept my apology for even suggesting that things could be otherwise.

Sorry Churchless I...I...had no choice. ; )

You confuse me, however, as your worldview seems to explicitly preclude the possibility of genuine meaning. I guess I would have to respond that I don't see how you did not imply that the nature of conscious being is anything other than random and meaningless.

Just to clarify, isn't your position that the cosmos is a souless material conglomerate? That everything is readily explained by simple mechanistic principles of cause and effect? Don't you pretty much say precisely the same thing on a regular basis?

That the very essence of our conscious being is solely an illusory electrochemical artifact that temporarily deceives us into believing that we are more than a collection of inert particles, all too soon to be re-dispersed into an empty, unknowing void? When are you not very consistent on these very points?

That being the case, what in the world do you, or any of us, have to be "optimistic" about? Isn't your avowed sense of wonder, optimism and interconnectedness just a meaningless and arbitrary personal stance that you've happened to come upon? For goodness sakes, you've just stated that we even have no free will to decide these things! By your own assertions, haven't you arrived at your worldview solely as a result of a verrrrry long chain of deterministic events that ultimately made you who you are and what you believe? Holy moly!

So I ask you once again: by your own lights, isn't your avowed sense of wonder and optimism (which I very much respect, btw) to be understood only as an arbitrary personal stance you've just happened to settle on strictly as a result of causal mechanisms of which you are not and can not even be consciously aware?

Help me out here a bit, old chum!

Brian, my namesake, all I can say is what I experience, what I feel. Life is good. That's how it seems to me. I go to my Tai Chi class. I walk the dog. I mow the lawn. I cook spaghetti. I work on my Strange Up Salem "happening."

What you wrote in your comment just doesn't connect with how I feel. I read the words, but they don't represent how I experience life. I have no idea what life or the cosmos is all about. It just feels deeply meaningful to me.

That's about all I can say (but I'm sure I'll say more soon).

If free will is an illusion, then karma is too.

Individuals cannot be accountable for actions that are not their own.

If there is a cosmic consciousness from which all was created then this is the only ‘will’ in the universe. A will that creates a universe with so much suffering and karma, which compounds suffering to beings whose actions aren’t even their own, is sadistic not loving.

Laplace and Newton’s classical science pointed to a deterministic universe, but modern science points to random (stochastic) processes. Maybe there are various levels of reality, in which predictability emerges from unpredictability or vice versa. For example, classical deterministic laws emerge from quantum indeterminacy, or even the opposite, complex unpredictability (mind) emerges from simple predictable rules (neurons).

More philosophically, 'free will' is hard to define, since the human mind has unconscious and conscious processes. Perhaps our ‘will’ is our baser emotions and/or psychological predispositions that are more hardwired into our makeup, as opposed to our conscious thoughts. People say that they go with their head or heart, in other words taking either a reasoned or intuitive decision.

If ‘will’ is related to more conscious decisions, then such a will is free insofar as no-one else can actually have such thoughts or make such decisions. We might be influenced by the thoughts of other, but ultimately we decide for ourselves how to act. You cannot think my thoughts, nor I yours. You cannot move my leg, nor I yours. Also, some decisions may be taken independently of our minds, for example with a coin toss.

There are many that go into our makeup that are beyond our conscious control (some of which may be random), but this also does not mean they are under the control of anyone else and so in this sense we perhaps have free will in having a unique mind.

Don't know about free will but it does seem like a continuous, spreading free for all -- esp. through the eyes of Hubble.

The puny intellect is commentator, not composer, oft caught muttering and pacing and being hubristic.

Often thought it there really was a God he'd put one of these around our intellect:


Karma *is* an illusion, in just the same way that our sense of self is an illusion. Both are constructs we use to give us a best approximation of how things work.

I like "The Robot Rebellion" view of free will: that our genes granted it to us when we became so complex that they could no longer hard-code all possibilities and best-responses to important situations we encounter. Granting us "choice" optimized our ability to survive. It's not "totally free will" no, but a little goes a long way.

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