Free Will or No Control?

Do We Have Free Will?

We think, we feel, we desire. These three attributes of our being have been recognized since ancient times. But how much do we control do we really have over our lives? This question has vexed us since the beginning of time.

Fate and Fortune

The ancients believed that fate guided us to our end. There was an order to the universe that was unavoidable, and the collected wisdom of ancient culture described how one’s behavior affected one’s destiny. When they observed a person acting against that wisdom, they could predict how it would trip them up. Fate did not control all outcomes. Fortune played a part as well. Fortune could protect a person or a whole community from the evil in the world or it could deliver them over to it. Between fate and fortune, man had agency to live his life even if the outcome was predetermined.

Free Will / Human Agency

There are two questions involved in this debate:

  1. What is Free Will? This is the ability to make decisions and by making them make a change in Reality. It could be an attitude change or a physical change, but the change if affected by one’s will, not the physical world imposing the change on the person. We also call this: human agency.
  • What exactly is the process of human agency? How are we able to make decisions? If we are only affected by the physical and chemical reactions of our body, how can we make an independent decision?

Behaviorism and Determinism – Rejection of Free Will

 Some people think we do not have actual agency, but only a sense of agency. We only think we have influence over our environment, but in fact all our responses to the world have been conditioned by physical forces and evolution.

This has led to the belief that human behavior can be modified if our environment is altered. This is the basis of much of economic and social engineering projects in today’s culture. However, this belief raises some obvious questions. If humans are controlled by their environment, how could they alter their environment significantly enough to change their own behavior? And, secondly, by what measure can they perceive a difference? Thirdly, assuming the previous two questions could be answered, how can we know those environmental changes will lead to a positive result?

Behaviorism

the theory that human and animal behavior can be explained in terms of conditioning, without appeal to thoughts or feelings, and that psychological disorders are best treated by altering behavior patterns.

– treatment using the practical application of the theory of behaviorism.

Google definition

Determinism

the doctrine that all events, including human action, are ultimately determined by causes external to the will. Some philosophers have taken determinism to imply that individual human beings have no free will and cannot be held morally responsible for their actions.

Google definition

The point is that if we are incapable of making decisions apart from our environment, why should we trust someone else’s flawed agency to make those decisions for us? By what authority could they possibly point to in order to impose those changes on others?

Education in the sciences lacks a philosophical foundation today. Because of this, scientists are taught to believe that every problem has a solution, if only one can redefine the problem in terms of a physical system. But if we are restricted only to the physical aspects of the human being, we will never be able to consider the true nature of the problem we are trying to solve.

Next time: Gateway to Free Will

It’s Been A Week…

Yellow Burn

My laptop’s battery began a meltdown last week and I’m just now getting back up to speed with a new computer.

So, what happened? I opened up the browser and noticed a yellow burn – the color on my frowny face above – on the white background. I had no idea what was causing it so I Googled “yellow burn surface.” I don’t know what’s worse – a search result which comes up with nothing or one where your problem comes up right on top of the search list goes on and on and on.

It turns out this has been a problem for Surface Pro laptops for some time due to the lithium batteries used in them. Once the yellow burn mark appears you can kiss the whole thing goodbye. If you are within the warranty you can get the computer replaced, but I am out of luck.

I was fortunate in that I caught the problem before I lost any files. But, it was a major disappointment because the computer was less than three years old.

But now I have a new laptop. It’s an Acer workhorse – nothing fancy. And I should be back with new posts very soon.

Einstein’s Orginal Sin

Confusion over what Einstein’s Theories of Relativity actually revealed about the true nature of space and time created a major storm of controversy in the early part of the 20th century and continues, though more quietly, to this day. Most people think that Relativity has been “proven” by science and that only cranks would continue to think there is something to debate.

What is not known, by the general public, is that later in life Einstein himself began to reflect on what he had accomplished and expressed some doubt that he had, in fact, been correct about some interpretations of his theories ideas concerning the true nature of time and space.

The Original Sin

Einstein’s original sin, centered on his use of the discovery of the speed of light and the fact that it seemed to be constant no matter which reference frame it traveled in. This means that no matter how fast a light source travelled, the maximum speed light that was emitted from that source had a fixed upper limit. There are other interpretations that could be imagined about the nature of light, space and time from that discovery, but it was Einstein’s interpretation that world came to accept as the true one. Let us see why.

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“All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes…”

Philosophers say that time is about motion and change, but life is about struggle. We struggle to survive, to grow, to find our place in a world that has lost its sense of being.

I’ve always loved this melancholy song by Tanita Tikaram. Her husky voice mixed with the haunting notes of an oboe capture perfectly the anxieties of today’s youth as they navigate a culture that no longer provides them with a sense of purpose and meaning.

Background

The first line of the song, “All God’s children need traveling shoes”, is the title of a book by writer/poet Maya Angelou.

Speaking about the somewhat obscure and enigmatic lyrics, Tikaram has offered different views on their meaning, but said it’s mostly about the particular relationship with the world one feels when entering adulthood. “The song is really about not understanding – when you’re 18, you’ve got a very particular emotional relationship with the world, you feel very isolated, and everybody else is so distant and cold. And I think I was singing about not feeling anything or not being moved by things around. I think this is a strong feeling when you’re just after adolescence.”

Malcolm Messiter plays the oboe on the song,

Wikipedia

Continue reading ““All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes…””

Website News – Topic Outline

I have completed a rough outline on one of the Topic Pages:

A Simple Guide To Being Human In a Complex Age

In a time where we are overloaded with information, I try to sort the different approaches to how to live as an individual in a divided community. How is society ordered? Where do I fit in? Where do I look for guidance?  

It will be updated from time to time as I complete the sections and link to the appropriate posts. I hope that by doing it this way, my readers will see that my seemingly random thoughts have a direction.

🙂