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« Atheism, Ethics, and Pornography | Main | Debate in Tibetan Buddhism »

May 04, 2011


"abandon some of the ways in which we mark ourselves apart from our fellow humans, and open ourselves to other stages, other scripts, and other parts we can choose to play."

Quite remarkable. You alone are responsible for your thoughts and they mark you out as a distinguished human being.

Its a deep analysis running down to the belief of Karma. But if you think this way that there were kids brought up in the same condition as yours, who have not made up to this level where you are today. It is true though, it matters at times, and at times, it doesn't.

I think free will is an epiphenomenon, an illusion designed to keep us motivated. "I" is a lie. I'll even say our sense of accountability is skewed -- no one is "responsible" for their actions in the way we think. As pattern seeking creatures we tend to see cause-effect relations which don't really exit. Reality is chaotic, our brain imposes order.

It is one thing to argue that chance biological and social factors significantly influence the outcomes in our lives, quite another to argue for a hard determinism—as I think you are doing—in which free will is nothing but an illusion. To dissuade you from going to that extreme, let me point you to a very good essay by a friend of mine, Chris Schoen. Notice, in particular, the Iris Murdoch quote he provides in the end.

I probably shouldn't have used the word "illusion", it doesn't accurately describe what I think. Here is the comment I posted on the blog you linked to:

While I'm not well read on the topic, I have, after some thought, come to the conclusion that free-will is essentially an abstraction, and a very useful one at that. Like a scientist will often say "the system wants to lower the amount of energy", we too like reasoning about ourselves ("systems") in terms of want and need; not because it is correct but because it is simpler. I think this first person view evolved mainly because we carry different genotypes, which increases the need to care about the "self", which requires us to have some idea of what a self is. Seeing other people as self-motivated with desires and wants like the self is, then, our brain imposing structure on something that doesn't have any (since it already can think in a certain language). For instance, I'd be surprised if worker ants reasoned about each other the same way we do (at a much lower cognitive level, of course) and if dogs and cows didn't.

I generally don't make statements like "there is no free will" though; what is "true" depends on how useful we find the "truth" is, just because we can see all the way down the stack doesn't mean we have to. That said, I _do_ think punitive policies need to reform, the view needs to shift from "criminals paying their debt to society" to "reform and isolate people harmful to the society to prevent further damage".

"A man can do what he wills, but can't will what he wills" -- Schopenhauer

This explains exactly what i think is wrong about our definition of merit and achievements. Me you and all of us should take less pride in such achievements which most of us fortunates fail to realize

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