The non-reality of free will
Charles A. Hillig
chillig at JETLINK.NET
Mon Jun 2 16:48:30 CDT 1997
At 12:14 PM 6/2/97 -0400, you wrote:
>Preceding the most recent exchange on the nature of free will, Allan Curry
>had posted the following suggestion:
>"Somehow the question of whether the will is free or not doesn't seem as
>interesting as considering the source of the will. Perhaps the question of
>its freedom or lack thereof will be solved by investigating its source?"
>The more I read of the debate that followed this suggestion the more timely
>it seemed. I don't think there is much debate on this list server that
>there is one source of everything. The question is, how does that one
>source allow for free will as that term is commonly understood? For those
>of us, like myself, who do not believe in free will, the answer is that it
>allows only the appearance of free will, and therefore to locate the source
>of free will is to locate the source of an illusion. The following
>account, from William James's Principles of Psycholgy, is, I believe, the
>best account we have of that source:
> "We know what it is to get out of bed on a freezing morning
in a room
>without a fire, and how the very vital principle within us protests against
>the ordeal. Probably most persons have lain on certain mornings for an
>hour at a time unable to brace themselves to the resolve. We think how
>late we shall be, how the duties of the day will suffer; we say, 'I must
>get up, this is ignominious,' etc.; but still the warm couch feels too
>delicious, the cold outside too cruel, and resolution faints away and
>postpones itself again and again just as it seemed on the verge of bursting
>the resistance and passing over into the decisive act. Now how do we ever
>get up under such circumstances? If I may generalize from my own
>experience, we more often than not get up without any struggle or decision
>at all. We suddenly find that we have got up. A fortunate lapse of
>consciousness occurs; we forget both the warmth and the cold; we fall
>into some revery connected with the day's life, in the course of which the
>idea flashes across us, 'Hollo! I must lie here no longer'--an idea which
>at that lucky instant awakens no contradictory or paralyzing suggestions,
>and consequently produces immediately its appropriate motor effects. It
>was our acute consciousness of both the warmth and the cold during the
>period of struggle, which paralyzed our activity then and kept our idea of
>rising in the condition of wish and not of will. The moment these
>inhibitory ideas ceased, the original idea exerted its effects."
> Although James very much wanted to believe in free will, he nonetheless
>believed that this meditation (his term for it) "contain[ed] in miniature
>form the data for an entire psychology of volition." The data can be
>broken down into three parts. First, thoughts arise. Second, thoughts
>have an impulsive power of their own, a direct link to our motor
>operations, and do not require a super-added willforce to explain their
>efficacy. And, finally, the feeling of will and effort is derivable from
>the interplay between opposing thoughts. All of which, I believe, can be
>read as a gloss on 7.12 of the Bhagavad-Gita: "And whatever states of
>being there may be, be they harmonious, passionate, slothful--know thou
>that they are all from Me alone. I am not in them; they are in Me."
Thank you so much for a most enlightening post.
Like actors on the stage, it only appears that "free will" determines
our actions and movements. Yet, it is only a cosmic script.
We need only to choose..... what we have already chosen!
(But, do we really have a choice in choosing even THAT?!") Stay tuned!
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