Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Free-Will Issue

I’m certain that many of you here look back at your actions in retrospect and for that moment think – could all that have been avoided? The answer often is YES! It could have been, I could have thought it in such and such a fashion and the consequences would have been far more ideal. Unfortunately, that realization came about in retrospect and that action upon which the regret is conjured upon has left itself in the sands of time. Some might then say, “Alright! Look! I’m not going to make that mistake anymore! Lesson learned, period.” Some might see this as an alteration in one’s attitudes towards a particular situation and as such one’s exercise of her or his own ‘will’ towards a particular matter. As such, some will argue, as one is able to exercise one’s will over one’s life, hence one is able to exercise free-will over her or his life.

Point taken. I’m certain many of you here will read this and go, “yeah! That’s right! I am in full control of my life! No one can tell me what to do with it for I am in full control of my will!” While this individuals’ zest for life should be applauded, I do not think it’s reasoning should be allowed to be further proliferated. Why? Well, the claim here states that one possesses a will, and as such the will is exercised with or without inhibition to carry out a certain life-changing action. But what is the ‘will’. Is it a magic word that allows one to state a super normal transcending self conscious mechanism which allows one to overcome all obstacles in life’s many decision making processes or for that matter retrospective life regrets? Or does it exist at all?

‘The will’ is according to the Hard Determinist, Paul Holbach, the brain and its many biological and psychological cognitive processes. Holbach argues that our thought processes are results of the ‘will’ which processes whenever we are caused to make a decision. An everyday man will look at this initial premise and say,” True. But do not we possess the body which holds the brain, which possesses the will, which carry out our actions?” True. But do we own the body, the brain, the will which carry out our actions? There is a seriously flawed assumption here that belies the claim that one possesses ones will. That assumption will be brought to light when we identify the consequences of the claim. If we own our wills, then, wouldn’t we say that if we are to reflect upon a previous action, face scant regrets for our previous actions, that if we were to artificially turn time back, given that condition and situation (of the will) at that given time where the folly was made, I could have made a different choice then the folly I undertook? Therefore, how can we control ‘a will’ which holds itself constricted by time?

One would immediately hold himself against the claim and point out that indeed we are constantly held by time. As I am typing this entry of sorts, time is ticking by every time I key in a letter, by the time I finish typing this entry, it would have been an hour and I might have regretted my decision to have stayed up into the wee hours of the morning blogging my thoughts down. Do I regret it now? I might. But what persuaded me to write down this entry an hour ago? What condition and situation I faced at that time? Well, I was reading Sherman’s blog and thought that it was a long time since I entered a entry. But why blog on a redundant issue like – ‘Free Will’. Well, because I needed to complete an essay on the topic by Tuesday and I was too lazy to read a formal essay, so I thought a good way to get started was to write an entry of which I can generate ideas for my essay. Well and fine. So I wrote and an hour later I looked back. But now I feel tired, it’s 4 am in the morning and I need sleep. But I was motivated an hour ago and now I am tired? Cause and effect statement? Or has my motivation an hour ago causally determined my feelings of regret and tireness I feel of having stayed up so late into the morning? Then again when I delve back in time- what was it at that moment which drove me to have taken those actions? One would say I choose to write the blog. But what’s behind the choice. Sherman’s blog, the essay, yes. But wasn’t it my mind that interpreted the satisfaction I’d have gotten, wasn’t it my social conditioning which allowed me to understand the populism of bloggersphere? Wasn’t it my body that felt well enough to continue with my effort? Do I control these factors? Or these factors form fragments of ‘me’ that constitutes the ‘I’ that I am? As such if it is this ‘I’ that makes a decision towards a certain situation, than the decision would be the same decision, with time held.

So what becomes the issue of Free-Will? Does it mean that we aren’t that free of after all as we have perceived? Or does it mean that we aren’t that free at all? I do not claim to know that answer, but can only elect to see the flaws in the current claim one has over one’s freedom to will.