Loose ends

Jonathan Bricklin brickmar at EARTHCOM.NET
Fri Oct 3 13:51:34 CDT 1997

Vidyasankar Sundares's example of free will, was, as Gregory Goode ably
demonstrated, an example of what is commonly believed to be free will,
but which introspection reveals to be otherwise.  I had posted (June 2, I
believe) William James's "meditation" on will, to which
many of Gregory's comments make a nice commentary.  As James's
"data for an entire psychology of volition" shows:

1. Thoughts arise.

2. They 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

3. The feeling of will and effort is derivable from the interplay between
opposing thoughts.

A few loose ends that I feel were not addressed in the debate that ensued
between Vidyasankar  and Greg.  All the ">'s" are V's:

>Nobody can doubt his/her own existence, whether in the waking or dream or
>sleep state.

So says Descartes, but surely you are not invoking the Cogito here?  He got
it wrong, agreed?  What then is your warrant for this statement?  If you
mean "consciousness can not be doubted out of existence" that is a
different claim than "nobody can doubt his/her own existence."

>I would like to reiterate that where there is conventional reality,
>including the conventional jIva, there is both fate and free will.

In no reality can there be both fate and free will.  Whether or not you
accept the validity of precognition, if fate (as viewed through
conventional reality) is real then some very specific action at some very
specific time "must" take place.  Otherwise what is meant by saying "there
is fate"?   Admittedly, up to a point, it _is_ possible to imagine fixed,
fated moments coinciding with free will.  Fate could be like a mother at a
playground who lets her child play on whatever apparatus he or she likes,
interfering only if the child is in danger, and when the time comes to
leave ^× a "fixed" incident, set in advance. Such an analogy fits the
everyday notion of fate as death and taxes:  within certain bounds, a
person can do pretty much as she or he pleases. But the analogy breaks down
as soon as the fixed, fated moment is believed to be foreseen in precise,
photographic detail, as occurs with so-called precognitive dreams.
Returning to our playground, we can see that the fixed incident would not
be "the child's stopping play in the late afternoon," but more like "the
child's stopping play as the tree's shadow bisects the middle of the
playground and the child's hand is reaching for the third rung of the
overhang bars."  If such is the moment through which the child must pass,
what freedom is left to the child?  Wouldn't every act and thought of the
child that precedes that moment necessarily contribute to the child's being
in precisely that position at that time?

>Where the absolute is known, there is neither fate nor will. There is no
need to
>bias one's judgment and raise either fate or will to an absolute level.

Free will has, for me, the status of an illusory existent. The
_non_-reality of free
will is not a bias of one's judgment but a
conclusion based upon introspection.  It is not a raising but a lowering, a
deconstructing.   Fate, on the other hand, as substantiated by
precognition, is not so much raised to an absolute level as already
existing there.  Precognition substantiates many physicists beliefs,
including Einstein's, that "this
separation between past and future has the value of mere illusion, however
tenacious."  Einstein wrote an introduction to a book on parapsychology.
Cambridge Nobel physicist, Brian Josephson, has a whole web page devoted to
it, because, as he puts it, Science "perhaps will need to overcome its
current abhorrence of such concepts in order to arrive at the truth."   I
can understand Western Science's "abhorrence" of the concept of
precognition.  I can't understand an Advaitin's.
Evidence, such as it is, that everything that ever was or will be is now
has, arguably, something to
contribute to the "Where" of "Where the absolute is known."

 All concepts limit.  But the concept that everything that ever was or will
be is now is
a special kind of concept, not unlike, to say the least, the concept of
Nirguna Brahma.  For it obviously is a concept that entails changelessness.
 And, less obviously, it is "without qualities" since nothing can be added
to it or taken away, so how can it be said to be qualified?

As for your "thousands of supposed precognitions that don't come true,"
just capitalize the word "supposed."

Jonathan Bricklin

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