Submitted by Shawn Conn on Sun, 03/07/2010 - 22:09

 I haven't written about free will before so lets make that the topic of the hour. Free will is one of those things that people will never understand. Are we in control of our actions, thoughts, and feelings? In some ways we are. I can be made aware of a situation in my life and with the knowledge I have the world I can act upon the situation to change it. In others ways we aren't. There are certain laws of nature that I am a part of and I can't control even if I wanted to. I will never run faster than the speed of light, no matter how much I want to.

I think part of the problem has to do with perspective. From the perspective of my life, I am in control. My consciousness, thoughts, and feelings control where I go and what I do. I can have hope, dreams, and desires, and act upon those to achieve some sort of goal. However, I'm only in control of my actions, I'm not in control of those forces that impede my goals. I can learn and understand about such forces and act upon them, but I can't control them. From an omnisciencent perspective (call it perhaps a godly perspective), if it was possible to obtain such a perspective, I would be aware of all avenues of possiblity at once. I would be aware of all the forces of nature and which of them controls my thoughts, feelings, and actions. Indeed, I would have the very answer to the question about free will. If such a perspective was possible, I think it would most certainly tell us there is no free will.

I think about this in terms of a game I used to play when I was a kid. It would involve me and my mom or dad. I would ask a question or they would make a statement and I would reply with "Why?" Not only it did it answer my curious mind, but it was highly entertaining to test the limits of my parents' patience.  Inevitably, the line of questioning would turn inane and the game would end with my parents' reply of "because I said so" or "it just is". 

In a way I think this game resembles humanity's quest for knowledge. We find ourselves asking "why" questions about nature only to find that the answers lead us to asking more questions "why?" This recursive questioning of "why?" eventually lead us to some atomic laws of nature that we can't further probe like planck length. They are just a given to us as fact by the universe. Attempting to further break down this atomic law leads you to the boundary between the physical and metaphysical world. 

It is at this level that you can begin to understand the illusion that is free will. At the perspective of our life we feel that we are in control. Because it is reality to us told from our senses. We see it, feel it, and control it first hand. However, we aren't in control of the fundamental forces of natures that move our thoughts, feelings, and actions in life. We can control our rate of breathing, but we can't control it to the point where we stop breathing completely, at least not in a way that doesn't involve hurting yourself. 

Think of it this way. Are you in control everything that you're doing at one moment? You are? I offer you a choice, red or blue? Have you decided? Good. 

Whatever you chose you felt in control of that situation. You chose red, blue, perhaps purple, perhaps you said "this blog entry is stupid" and stopped reading, or some other choice I didn't imagine. Whatever the choice, were you in control of imagining the color red or blue when you read it? What about the the choice you made? Do you know why you chose it? Say your answer was "because I like red." Ask yourself, "Am I in control of liking the color red?" If I start asking all these recursive questions, my brain starts to hurt. If I keep it up I will get to the point where I don't want to think about it anymore because its painful. 

I think this leads to the answer why the illusion of free will exists. The human brain, for all the advantages it gives us over the animal kingdom, doesn't have the capacity to understand everything. Or to put it succinctly, to become omniscient. Even if we've recorded all the pieces that make up the universe and the forces that control it, we can't put all the pieces together in our mind at once to understand it. Even trying to conceptualize (without knowing all the details) it pushes the limits of the human mind. Further pressing your mind for answers eventually wears out the mind and consequently the body. At some point, it will give up and tell your body as such.

Speaking of which, I'm spent. I'll leave it to the reader to point out logical fallacies, philosophical consequences, or whatever else the forces of the universe has told you to think.

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