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May 03, 2017


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This battle between "free will" and "determinism" has been the supreme enigma for all thoughtful devotees and keen thinkers forever. I certainly agree with the following: "...We must remember that this analysis suggests that the real causal mechanisms underlying behavior are never present in consciousness. Rather, the engines of causation operate without revealing themselves to us and so may be unconscious mechanisms of mind."

Thank you, Brian. In my experience, the only answer to the great enigma is that both free will and determinism are co-existent. It seems impossible but the paradox is easily resolved if we can surrender the egotism involved with every choice we make. But this surrender goes deep and the greatest sages, mahatmas and saints spend their entire lives trying to perfect submission and surrender to a "higher authority" (instead of the often desecrated word "God"). It is a different situation if surrender is not a priority or goal.

Not my will but Thy will be done.

YES You are right

Everything when entering the 1/7 time_spac_environment_heaven is illusion
not to speak of what we have here
Only in the Love is a particle of the reality we take with us

Next by ascese one can come up to the 3/7 sphere ( in the golden yoga )
and of course also with love, even the Love for the illusoir proctor there
All these places are states of consciousness

But if Love on this planet can be excited a lot, Big Time by a meeting
you can only exist in the 7/7 heaven
and be very exalted being The Almighty Creator, without hate without fear,
the Being without time, Self existent, Yes The Master, Many Masters
flowing in from all possible creations and other things where even time never existed
a wonder and you never stop enjoying all that

Perhaps looking for a new adventure among Zillions to the power of Xillion examples

Lots of not IQ_plagued RSSB Satsangis do it in a week, some years perhaps
and you don't even have to be the best meditator

And this Love
so nice that you can effectively ask for that phenomenon


Many of these writers first read Brian's blog
next repeat what they found


Brian, I continue to follow (albeit somewhat sporadically, and without comment) your discussions on Free Will / No Free Will with great interest (although, sadly, still without quite being able to agree). This article, especially, was extremely interesting. And thanks for photographing the diagram to show to us here : you are right, that diagram alone is well worth many thousands of words, and helps clarify things and bring them into focus.

Thought I’d come in here this time round, with three questions :

First, about the souls :

I need hardly qualify that I mean absolutely no offense, Brian, when I point out that one recurring motif in your No-Free-Will discussions is your stress (quite unnecessary, in my view) on the whole immaterial-souls theme : you often try to show the unscientific nature of Free Will, as here in this article itself, by saying that science does not bear out some kind of extra-physical soul or immaterial spirit or some consciousness that transcends corporeal bounds.

No one can possibly contest that view (that science does not validate the existence of some kind of physical-life-transcending soul, so that soul-theories are unscientific, and therefore free-will theories if derived directly from soul-based worldviews also turn out to be unscientific). On the other hand, that argument is simply the decimation of a poor defenseless strawman looking on mournfully and helplessly at you as you torch it down. In discussing free will, why bring in some non-corporeal soul/spirit/consciousness at all – unless, of course, in response to those who choose to discuss this topic with you by themselves bringing in such concepts to the table? Whether or not we have free will, that is a compelling enough discussion without the introduction of such gross strawmen, isn’t it?

Second, about properly defining the free-will / no-free-will problem, by whittling it down to essentials :

This diagram of Daniel Wegner’s, that you’ve reproduced here, can help isolate the issue. In that diagram, if the arrow on top (which reads “apparent causal path”) were to read, instead, as “actual causal path”, then THAT would, to my mind, be a nice slimmed down Occam’s-Razor-ish argument for free will. Can we agree that, in that figure, if our thoughts were to be shown to lead directly to our actions, then that would be free will? Quite irrespective of the existence or otherwise of incorporeal souls, and also irrespective of the truth-value of unprovable hypotheticals like whether we could possibly have acted differently at some point in time from how we actually did act then? That seems reasonable to me : would you agree to whittle down the free-will issue to that simple either-or proposition?

I realize that you can try to push this back one step further, and analyze where our thoughts themselves come from (“we can’t will what we will”, as I recall someone saying about this, perhaps someone your yourself quoted over here, I can’t remember exactly) : but if we do that, then first of all, Daniel Wegner’s argument (at least as encapsulated within that elegant diagram) then becomes wholly redundant; and besides, that pushes the question back to who “we” actually are (if “we” are, in Buddhistic fashion, no more than the sum total of our thoughts “arising and falling”, if that in fact is how “we” are defined, then again the question of whether we can control our thoughts becomes pointless), and that too skirts around the free will question itself.

So, can we simply pose the question of free will as simply this : can our thought cause our actions? If yes, then yes, we do have free will ; and if no, then sure, we don’t have free will. Agreed?

And third, about the diagram : what about feedback?

After you’ve finished going through all of this book, I wonder if I can piggyback on your reading and knowledge (as I have so many times before this!) to ask you : Is the view expressed here (the diagram, specifically) the current scientific consensus? That is, is it actually borne out by neuroscience research? Or is it simply one of many hypotheses or even speculations (irrespective of whether the scientists agree with that view generally -- as opposed to agree with it based directly on their actual scientific work)?

Also, might the book shed light on some questions that come up when one sees this picture? Specifically :

(a) How much is known of that “unknown path” in the diagram? (Yes, I realize they say it is “unknown”, not known, but surely the mechanism of that path is of overriding importance : so do they make any educated guesses or informed speculations about it?)

(b) There can be no gainsaying (from subjective, anecdotal experience) that there is overwhelming correlation (even if no direct causality, as the diagram shows) between thoughts and actions. Do they discuss this remarkable (and non-trivial) correlation, and possible causes for it?

(c) The diagram does not indicate any kind of feedback mechanism there. That seems counter-intuitive. I realize that’s exactly what you’re saying, that this whole business of No-Free-Will is indeed essentially counter-intuitive. Nevertheless, do the author/s speak of some kind of feedback mechanism, or specifically talk of the absence of such? (I ask, because as you must realize, the presence of a feedback mechanism can end up effectively dismantling the no-free-will argument, as presented here, in an indirect manner even if there is no direct causality between thought and action. If, for instance, your thoughts can end up acting on that “unknown path” via some kind of feedback mechanism and thus indirectly end up influencing your actions after all -- a not unlikely possibility, and one that very simply explains the correlation between thoughts and actions despite the lack of direct causality -- then that’s simply Free Will back in through the back door, albeit with a better and more detailed understanding of the mechanism underlying such free will.)

You're free. In this moment you see, you think, you decide, you act. Who else? Nobody else. It's on you.

That will never change.

From a higher perspective outside of you, you are a biochemical robot.

But you will only be you. There is no other perspective outside your consciousness, whatever that becomes. So, yah, it's always on you. Complete free will, complete responsibility for your actions.

I agree with you, Spence Tepper. What you say makes a great deal of sense.

There seem to be two ways of looking at this. Seen from our own perspective, we do have free will, like you say. And seen from some “higher” perspective, that of an all-knowing observer (not necessarily supernatural, let me hasten to clarify), our actions may probably be deterministic and predictable (provided every other variable at some point is known -- a tall order, but, like infinity and eternity, something that is theoretically conceivable).

So perhaps the apparent paradox when we talk of free will might be resolved by simply understanding that there are two perspectives, the perspective of the individual -- from where we do have free will -- and an eternal omniscient perspective (the point of view of the observer who is cognizant of every single one of the infinitely many variables, including the exact state of the insides of our brains), from which all-knowing perspective our apparent free will collapses (potentially and in theory) into wholly predictable reactions.

Any difficulty or paradox that might creep up here is the result of conflating these two perspectives. Keeping clearly in view the fact that there are two possible perspectives, and knowing when one speaks which perspective one is (implicitly) choosing to speak of and from, should dispel any confusion around this issue.

Thank you. This clears the issue up, as far as I can make out. You seem to have very simply clarified the confusion around this issue. (Unless I am -- and you are, as well -- missing something? We may well dismiss the efforts of theologians as the muddle-headed chasing of superstitions, but why would so many rational people, philosophers and scientists alike, be spending so much time and effort talking and arguing away at something that can be so easily and simply resolved?)

If you’re reading this, Brian : perhaps you could talk about Spence Tepper’s observation, and the conclusion I draw from it?

This second issue, incidentally, says nothing about the causality (or absence of causality) of action vis-à-vis thought that the diagram talks about, and which I had commented on earlier. That was a separate issue altogether, more to do with the mechanism of free will (or otherwise).

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