Free will as people almost always understand it is an illusion. There's little or no doubt about that, as I noted in a recent post.
Here's an idea that is well worth pondering. I've enjoyed doing just that as I go to sleep, letting my mind wrap itself around an intriguing notion.
So far as we know, we humans are the only entity in the universe that doesn't exist in full accord with determinism -- causes and effects operating in a lawful, orderly manner.
Oh, but what about randomness?
Sure, randomness is real. Every programmer knows about random number generators. Quantum physics is based on probabilities of things happening at the atomic and subatomic level.
But randomness is lawful.
Certain rules determine whether a sequence of numbers, for example, truly is random. And quantum phenomena also are lawful. That's why quantum physics is so amazingly successful in serving as a foundation of modern technologies.
Thus here we are, some 13.8 billion years after the big bang that brought our universe into being, with everything in the cosmos going along with the laws of nature, galaxies forming, stars appearing and disappearing, our planet forming from primordial material, single celled life becoming multicellular life, mammals eventually evolving, then primates, and finally Homo sapiens, while sunlight strikes Earth, continents drift into their current configuration, millions of species come and go, volcanoes erupt, hurricanes form, mountains rise and are eroded away.
All without a single trace of free will. Everything occurring naturally. No one wondering other than we humans, "Should this be happening?"
Human consciousness is the only known place in the universe where a belief in the illusion of free will, and a downplaying of lawful determinism, introduces a sense of It could have been otherwise.
Should we be proud of this? Or is this a flaw in what evolution has brought about, an unfortunate side effect of a human brain that is able not only to be aware, but to be aware of our own awareness?
I enjoy looking on myself as a very, very, very small cog in the vast machinery of the cosmos. I find peace in viewing my life as fully determined, causes and effects leading to the sort of person I am now, in the place I am now, surrounded by the circumstances that affect me now.
Human consciousness is wonderful.
But it isn't perfect. Or infallible. Sometimes what seems to be, actually isn't. That's how I've come to view my sense that I'm in control of my life, that I possess free will, that I can stand outside of the deterministic laws of nature.
Lying in bed, pondering this stuff as I gradually fall asleep, I have a glimpse of another way of viewing my place in the universe that doesn't make me something separate and distinct from the rest of nature.
And that feels good.
Consciousness is the cream of creation, the ultimate product of billions of years of evolution.
And it can be raised.
Posted by: Spence Tepper | November 19, 2021 at 05:16 AM
"Human consciousness is wonderful."
..........Absolutely, it is!
Is it just us, though? All this wonderful-ness, as well as all this all-twisted-up-ness --- in short, all of this complexity (that results in a sense of self, and this illusion of free will, this thinking about death and what might lie beyond, all of that) --- is that necessarily an exclusively human attribute?
We'd thought we were unique, we humans, about so very many things. We've discovered, one by one, so very many ways in which we're far less special than we'd once imagined. Might this be yet another such instance?
I don't know about all animals, but I don't think we're the only ones. I'm pretty sure there are at least some species, other than us homo sapiens sapiens, that go in for this psycho crap (this complexity, to put it more politely). I don't have citations handy, but, for instance, apparently Neanderthals had some kind of religion, if I remember correctly. Apparently, and again, provided I'm not misremembering this, some other animals, some apes for instance, elephants also, dolphins as well maybe, have a sense of self.
Of course, none of this speaks to free will (or the illusion of such, to be more precise), of course. Still, it's an interesting question I guess: Do other animals also possess this sense of free will?
On a different note, and as far as the illusion of free will : Are we really possessed of this illusion, every one of us?
In the past, when you'd brought up this subject of free will, Brian, I remember always being kind of underwhelmed with the subject and the discussion. To me it's always been trivially true, and a direct corollary of a materialist worldview, tautological really if you accept that a materialist worldview is what's reasonable given the evidence available, that "spooky free will" doesn't exist.
I just tried a spot of introspection, just now, and tried to think about this illusion of free will. Am I myself possessed of, or possessed by, this illusion? That is the question I spent some minutes introspecting about.
And you know, the answer's a No. I know I don't have a separate sense of self; and yet, absolutely, I'm fully possessed of a sense of self. I know full well the earth goes around the sun, but the illusion that it's the sun that goes around is is what comes instinctively, and needs to be countered with intellectual reasoning to the contrary. Likewise, that the earth is flat seems instinctual, and a spheroidal earth is an intellectual construct, that one accepts, but not at an instinctual level.
Free will, though? As far as I can make out, I don't think I'm possessed of (or possessed by) this illusion of "spooky free will" at all !! I've no clue if I'm atypical in this, or not. It's very clear to me, at an instinctual level, that I do have a wide degree of choices; and it is equally clear to me, at that same instinctual level, that the range of choices open to me (choice of what I will, that is to say, not choice of what I can actually accomplish) is entirely a function of my conditioning. It's not stand-alone, that's very clear to me, even at an instinctual level.
Unless my introspection --- which, after all, is nothing more grand than a mere three or four or five minutes' worth of self-observation and, well, introspection, that's all! --- somehow misleads me into imagining that what is intellectually derived understanding is instinctual, then I'd say that it entirely clear to me that what we're possessed of is conditional free will, that is predicated on a whole host of things that condition our thinking.
Therefore, and as before, the discussion, while I agree with it cent per cent, leaves me, once again, underwhelmed.
Let me throw this out there, and actually ask you guys --- you, Brian, as well as all of you who're reading this --- is this "illusion of free will" that people keep talking about, is it really a thing? Or at least, clearly in times past it used to be, and clearly religious people are big on it, but let's leave aside second- and third-person perspectives and speak first-person POV : First-hand, and as far as you yourself, what would you say? Do you suffer this illusion, that you intellectually cast aside with reasoning; or are you directly and instinctually aware (as I am, or at least as I imagine I am) that we don't have this "spooky" unlimited unconditioned free will?
Posted by: Appreciative Reader | November 19, 2021 at 05:38 AM
If there is such a thing as free will (the ability to make choices that are neither determined by our own natures or by fate or divine will) it invites the idea that somehow, we are influenced by an intangible inner agent that makes decisions for us. Some may say this is the mind, perhaps consciousness, or a soul - free will is still very much a religious notion. And, when we say ‘we’ (or ‘I’) have free will, who or what is this ‘we’?
The mind is the nearest we can define as the non-physical attribute of the body. My favourite definition of mind is that it is the accumulation of information, gathered from birth which gives rise to our identities, sense of self - and perhaps consciousness. Which all of course means it is an emergent property of the brain/body complex. And this amazing mind with its vast store of accumulated knowledge, on making choices, can give the impression that such choices are independently arrived at - that is, independent of the natural processes of the brain/body.
Why would we need free will when our inherited natural, social and cultural conditioning, already determine that we make sound choices to aid our survival and to enable us to live in the cultural society we happen to have been born into. Both nature (including our own natures) and society have built into them relevant rewards and punishments.
Many animals also have complex social structures and have the ability to reflect, to think and plan (have minds) and like us, apparently display what can only be seen as superstitious behaviour. We are not alone with our tendency to imagine that mysterious entities exist – it is natural!
Posted by: Ron E. | November 19, 2021 at 08:24 AM
It feels indescribably good to me that the Universe in its deterministic wisdom impelled the Rittenhouse jury to decide as it did.
Posted by: Tendzin | November 19, 2021 at 01:57 PM
Random number generator is not conscious mind. It is random unconscious memory/ mind. Period. Osho Rajneesh like Gurdjieff created a device / Rajneesh puram in Oregon to demo Americans their unconscious mind.
Posted by: Vinny | November 19, 2021 at 02:57 PM
There can/could be harmful and non-harmful preconditioning. A daily self challenge to the "harmful" is in order. Preconditioning that brings the least harm to oneself, others, etc. is in order. Free will or not so, is a Semantics issue.
Posted by: roger | November 19, 2021 at 07:00 PM
I whole heartedly agree that the posters on this blog have absolutely no free-will, and that their behaviours, beliefs, reactions, posts etc etc can be predicted to the finest degrees of accuracy.
It is entirely predictable that materialists will have the a priori necessity and requirement of "free-will" being an "illusion", otherwise their strict ideological position of reductive materialism would be inherently incomplete if not downright mistaken, and hence will formulate pseudo-scientific arguments in support of this a priori assumption and even go as far as to argue the overtly delusional position that they are observing or engaging with "reality as it is" when indulging in these abstract, conceptual beliefs, when it is in fact the appearance of "free-will" that is the "reality as it is" of the human experience.
It is entirely predictable that followers of the RS religion will parrot the words their own religious leaders, or "satgurus", parrot when they say things like "there is no free-will", and that these followers talk about abstract notions of "from an absolute perspective" or "from a top-down perspective" despite these followers, and indeed probably their "satgurus" too, in the main, not personally or experientially being able to recognise an "absolute" or "top-down" perspective if it pinched their bottom and stroked their cheek. Ie., in their ONLY LIVED AND EXPERIENTIAL reality, or bottom-up, free-will is "reality as it is". Yet it is predictable they will parrot abstract beliefs, believing it is reality.
It is entirely predictable that certain people will mistakenly reframe their fear, hatred, suffering and sadness as feeling "indescribably good" due to vindications of acts of violence, terror, hatred, fear, suffering etc solely due to the pigmentation, social standing or political beliefs of a person.
All of this is entirely predictable, I agree. My commiserations on your imprisonment.
May some of you awaken from this slumber of belief and disbelief.
On a side note, at brief correction of some blatant misconceptions floating about:
1) Free-will does not mean, as for eg. Gurinder seems to think it does, that I can wake up one morning and will "I am the King of Zimbabwe today" and that it becomes true. Free-will does not mean or imply one can do whatever one wants, or that whatever one wills will happen. It simply means being able to make a choice from a given SET of choices that may be as low as 2 in number. Let's please not be silly and fall for this nonsensical definition of free-will that Gurinder repeats frequently, as if it means anything remotely coherent.
2) Abandoning notions of the "self", "giving up", "going with the flow", "having no inner narrative", being "egoless" etc does NOT, obviously and factually speaking, preclude the possibility to ASSERTING or RE-ASSERTING one's own "will", or ability to make a choice. We should try not to conflate temporal outbursts of mystics in ecstatic states of consciousness with absolute and inviolable laws applicable to all states of consciousness. This is, obviously, absurd. Even more absurd is religious leaders who, clearly not in ecstatic states of any sort, parrot these historic outbursts in rote and dogmatic fashion.
3) Even if from an "absolute" point of view everything that has or ever will happen has already happened, and that one is "outside of time and space" and therefore from an "absolute" pov everything is predetermined, it doesn't logically require or even suggest that from WITHIN that "time and space" that course of events didn't occur due to the choices of sentient agents. To conflate the two perspectives, as is done commonly, is indicative of a purely conceptual understanding of the subject, imo, a mind unable to grasp the paradoxical enormity of the reality we are actually faced with, and essentially just giving up by retreating into a conceptual perspective detached from reality.
But alas, what choice do any of us have?
Posted by: manjit | November 20, 2021 at 06:06 AM
When people act thoughtfully, or emotionally, in both cases they act in a way coordinated by mind under their own volition.
And this has to do with consciousness.
A drunk does not act with free will. We say they are drunk.
A sober person acts with greater awareness and this we say is therfore their free will. For which the law holds them accountable.
Level of free will is associated with level of conscious awareness.
The notion of freedom is really at the core of free will. People act with greater or lesser freedom to the extent they are driven internally or by external forces.
A child is not aware of that is going on around them, so we say they are not old enough to act with responsibility, hence we do not hold them to the same accountability as we hold adults.
Free will us connected to our awareness, our level of consciousness. And that determines our level of responsibility. To claim their is no free well is irresponsible. It is a poor excuse.
Consciousness can be raised. And therefore our freedom, and our free will.
Posted by: Spence Tepper | November 20, 2021 at 08:48 AM
A Vipassana teacher once said....
´We have free will but it is not ours´
Yes!! that is my experience idd..
Posted by: s* | November 20, 2021 at 12:26 PM
Free will is part of the human mind, not the universe
Free will equals a Free mind
To make decisions and choices for our lives to play out somewhat how we'd like them to.
And we all do have that choice...
But when we give our decisions and choices away to a cult like Radha Soami and Gurinder Singh Dhillion we cut at the very root of spirituality and our free will.
The contract of control which Gurinder Singh Dhillion gets the disciples to sign in saying so means that whatever free will you did have, is now my free will to control you.
Selfishly snidly adding the limit and restrictions to your life and making it a living hell.
Whilst himself Gurinder Singh Dhillion enjoys the very perks of living an example of free will doing whatever the heck he likes!
Check the resume here we go...
Robbing his own Nephews out of Millions and having his hands dirted for helping to put them in Jail
Robbing Film Producers also out of Millions
His wife dying on very suspicious circumstances
Gurinders sons becoming Millionaires overnight
I think you get the picture of a full free dirty handed will in action here.
So the moral of the story is.
We all have free will don't waste your free will on a Messed up Fool like Gurinder Singh Dhillion & Radha Soami Cult
Enjoy & Express your Free Will & Live a Life of No Regrets
And that will feel so good!!!
Posted by: Manoj | November 20, 2021 at 01:18 PM
@manoj well put, I can't believe I went to babaji satsangs. What a CV Gurinder baba has. He's such a hypocrite. I been on the path for years and I looked on line and found Babaji has alot to answer for. I really don't think he's ever done any meditation in his life. My eyes are wide open to the truth of RSSB
Posted by: Pete | November 20, 2021 at 01:45 PM
Free will is your own will, your own choices, following your own dreams. What free will is not:
1. When Someone else hijacks your dreams, and makes their dreams your dreams. RSSB and GSD are guilty of this, the false promise carrot dangling in return for the slavery disguised as seva
2. When someone implies that they make choices that suits them and their cult and does not suit you and your loved ones best interest. RSSB and GSD are totally guilty, when they tear you away from your family and you are adopted into a new family of strangers in deras, a total artificial and fake environment to create an anker and shackle. Your family take on a secondary role.
3. When someone is allowed to make billions, can womenise, can drink, etc yet it's a sin when you do it.
4. When someone says health is your karma yet when it comes down to the health of GSD , it is because he's taking on the karma of the sinful satsangis with bad karma.
Open your eyes sangat your being played by a clever manipulator, the master deceiver, the thief, aka satan .
Posted by: Uchit | November 21, 2021 at 02:47 PM