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."
>Jonathan Bricklin

Dear Jonathan,

     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!

                                           With Blessings,

                                           Chuck Hillig

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