Table of Contents
1. Free Will
What’s ‘free will’? Literally. What is it?
Is it simply “making choices”? Or that they’re unpredictable? Or something else?
Turns out there’s no actual (solid) definition of ‘free will’.1From the no-free-will’er POV, you can’t define something that’s not real.
(Wikipedia defines it as “the capacity of agents to choose between different possible courses of action unimpeded.”2I have no idea what this means.)
2. Physical Free Will
Pure Physical View
In the ‘pure physical’ view:
The ‘self’ doesn’t exist. It’s nothing but a set of atoms + electricity. Thus, there’s no such thing as “actions”, nor “choices”.
This throws away the entire question; it’s a non-starter. Not to mention, there is self.3You experience “through” the self. The self is as real as the ‘reality’ itself.
Modest Physical View
The ‘self’(= your body) is a physical object. Thus, it’s bound by the laws of physics. Thus, its activity is deterministic (because physics is deterministic).
Therefore…no free will? Not so sure. Determinism means that “things are gonna play out, the way they’re gonna play out.” It doesn’t lead to anything; so what?4“I’m gonna do what I’m gonna do.” “No sh*t, so what?”
In other words, the “determinist argument of free will” is: “You’re gonna choose what you’re gonna choose, so you don’t get to choose what you’re gonna choose.” It’s nonsense. It’s no more than wordplay. It vaporizes the whole discussion.
The “absence of free will” would seriously matter if it was about predictability. If a person’s behavior can be predicted, everything changes.5If you’re a robot, I can predict your actions. I can program you, and make you act in certain ways. But you can’t predict behaviors.
From the external POV: if a person’s behavior can’t be predicted, he basically has free will. Effectively, there’s no difference. Thought experiment6There are 2 people: X has free will, Y doesn’t. (X is “somehow” unbounded by physics.) X and Y both “unpredictably” raise their hands in the “same” way. How could you tell if X has free will, and Y doesn’t? You can’t.
This is more evident when it comes to creativity. When somebody creates a new idea, it seems like the idea came from nowhere; it’s 0-to-1; it’s something-out-of-nothing.
Creativity is unpredictable. If “new” ideas are predictable, they’re not “new”. If ideas were uncreative, we would’ve found all ideas by now. Yet, we haven’t.
3. Narrative Free Will
What’s ‘free will’, narratively?
Intentions Do Exist
This is obvious, perhaps. Some things you do intentionally, some things you do unintentionally.
It may be a spectrum; some things may be unclear, whether it’s intentional or not. But the fact that you can differentiate between clear & unclear intentions, prove that the concept, “intention”, exists.
(Imaginary) Choices Do Exist
There are choices, A/B/C. You choose B.
Did choices A & B exist, at all? Yes.
It may be unintuitive: choices A & C existed because they impacted the outcome.7For instance, because choice C existed, it might’ve taken you longer to decide, which is a different outcome.8If there was choice D, you might’ve chosen choice B, because of it.
You do make choices. Therefore…free will? Not quite.
I was going to do A, then I chose to do B.
Let’s walk through this, one by one:
- Choices A & B both existed.10The conceivable outcomes also existed.
- The intention to do A/B existed.
- There’s no other reality where I chose A.11Unless the configurations of reality changes.But, that doesn’t matter.12I live in this reality.
So what’s the question here?
“It’s not ‘you’ who’s making the choices; it’s the particles.”
This is nonsensical, because “your body” = “particles that make up your body.” It’s shifting the level of abstraction…of the same thing.
In a different way:
“Within the story, the characters have free will. Externally, the author writes the script.”
4. The Free Will Experience
Let’s go all the way back…what’s ‘free will’?15What is it that we call ‘free will’?
What we call “free will” is actually “conscious actions”.
- Snapping the hand off of the boiling pot, isn’t free will.
- Habitually scratching the nose, isn’t free will.
- Waking up, isn’t free will.
We don’t call these “free will”, because we do them sub/unconsciously. Heck, they’re also predictable!
If anything feels like “free will”, it’s conscious action. It’s when you “consciously” move your arm, or the hand, or the fingers. It’s when you “consciously” think.
“Consciously” means “being aware of”.
Consciousness16referring to the easy problem of consciousnessis ‘awareness’.
Indeed, it’s common sense. But, it’s truer than it seems.
Conscious actions are actions + awareness. When you consciously do something, you’re aware of it.17When you’re “consciously” dribbling the basketball, you’re “very aware” of dribbling the basketball.That’s all it is!18Conscious/subconscious/unconscious refers to the level of awareness.
Note: I don’t mean by simple awareness.19E.g. Looking at a basketball, and knowing that it’s a basketball. I mean by ‘meta-awareness’.20E.g. Looking at basketball, and knowing that “I’m looking at a basketball.”
Conscious”ness” IS Aware”ness”
∴ Conscious IS Aware
Here’s the catch: conscious actions are “different”. When you do something consciously, you do it differently.
When you catch yourself in a subtle habit, you naturally stop doing it. When you play piano consciously, when you’re aware of that finger pressing the keys, there’s seemingly more detail to that sound.
It’s the nature of ‘conscious actions’: they’re “against the grain.” They put a halt to the habitual/reactive actions, and begin proactive actions. It always breaks the pattern that you’re repeating.21As soon as you’re aware of your breathing, you start breathing manually.
Free will begins with awareness.
(If actions don’t change, despite awareness, then there’s no free will.22Do movie characters have free will? No, but we pretend they do. Then, when are those characters described as “not having free will?” When they act a certain way, despite being conscious of it. (Unable to change))
The question about free will isn’t about free will.
Here’s the “true” question23the question people are really asking: “Am I able to guide the course of my life?” More directly: “Can I change?”
Yes. People(lives) change.
People change jobs. People change hobbies. People change personalities. People change opinions. Etc. Etc. Etc.
It doesn’t matter if they’re caused by physics. It matters that they happen, and that they were caused by the conscious(you)24when it comes to the story of your life. The unpredictability is icing on the case.
Independence is free will.
What separates humans from animals is (the potential for) free will.
But humans can. At least, most humans have the potential to live a life of free will.30Indeed, a lot of people don’t, at all. They just repeat the same things, over and over again. They say the same things, wear the same clothes, eat the same foods, go to the same places, think the same things, every single day. Mind you, I don’t like this.We can be aware; we can change.[/mfn]And our ability to create new knowledge enhances our capacity to change.[/mfn]
Free will is cool. But not always.
You don’t always want to be aware. When you’re trying to shoot the ball into the basketball net, you can’t be thinking about your wrist. When you’re reading, you want to read…instead of thinking, “I’m reading.” Awareness goes away with focus.
The conscious’ role is to “guide” the unconscious. To the right tasks, in the right ways.
That’s why it’s a movie, not a game.
Complete Free Will
5. Related Posts
Questions & comments are welcome!