Tuesday 2 October 2007

Free Will and Predetermination in the Best of All Possible Worlds

Ok, this post may get a little uncomfortable, but I think it will end on a positive note.

One of the great questions that troubles religous or philosophical minds is the whole Free Will versus Predetermination thing.

Some believe your choices are down to you.
Others believe that everything was laid down at the begining of time.

So which is true?

Or are they both true.

Well, in a sense, they must be.

As I have already implied, the universe will not end a second later than it has to. I cannot see any other way than saying that from the instance of the big bang, everything that happened must be pretty much set in stone.

There will have been many routes to the end.
But only one is the fastest.
And that is the one we experience.

So let's look at your choices.
Right now, you are choosing to read this. A choice you made.
But what is the YOU that made that choice?
What kind of entity are you?

What dictates your thoughts?

Basically, electro-magnetic impulses following grooves eroded into your brain. Your thought patterns have developed over time and been built on. They are the product of the chemicals present in your brain and the grooves that have been laid down by their reactions over time- what we see as our experience, our 'memory'.

It's all a chemical construct. What we see as our thoughts, are entirely chemically conditioned.
Ultimately, you make good choices, because you are a machine that works, you make bad ones, because you are one that doesn't.

The you that decided to read this, is a series of chemical reactions.

Now chemical reactions simply follow the laws of nature.
You have no control at all over your thoughts, really.

Yes, you have free will. You can make any decision you want.
But chemicals will make it for you.
Because that is what you are.

When you face moral dilemmas, when you agonise for days over a course of action, still, when it comes down to it, the decision will have been made by the paths followed by the chemicals in your brain.

So really, everything that happens is simply just all part of one big series of reactions, all part of the same reaction, the one we call the universe.

So when you do good things, you were always going to.
And when you do bad things, you were always going to.

The mistake people make (though of course, those who make it were always going to make it) is drawing the wrong conclusions here and forgetting that the very processing of this fact is being done by those same chemicals.

If you blame fate for doing the wrong thing, it was inevitable you would.
If you choose free will and make a hard- but right- choice, that too was inevitable.

Because the universe will not end a second later than it has to. We live in the universe that uses up most energy quickest- that is certain.
And the one that uses up most energy, must be the one, surely, in which life proliferates as much as it can, does as much as it can, LIVES as much as it can.

This is not only the most efficient universe there can be, it is also the best of all possible worlds.
It is the one where Life crawls from the Amoeba, through the Hagfish, the Reptile, the Monkey, then Man, Superman, till we are indeed gods.

God did not make Man in his own Image- he gave Man an Image of what Man would be.

Which means that everything we experience, everything that happens to us, every pleasure we experience, every pain we suffer, it all serves some purpose.

We cannot see it ourselves, we may die miserable, unable to comprehend.
But not that often, I think, if we learn to go with the flow of the universe.
To accept what life gives us, both the pleasure AND the pain.

Because we are being taken somewhere, and if the universe truly is as efficient as it can be, it must seek to reconcile as far as possible the capacity to feel contentment and enlightenment that it has given us, with a realistic possibility of actualising that.

Nothing has no reason.
Nothing serves no purpose.

Out of everything we think we have lost, a greater good will come.

Regret nothing.
Rejoice at every experience you have had.
It is part of your journey.


Anonymous said...

I like the way this post has come full circle - rather Alistair-Cookish. I can see what you mean about our brains being programmed and I think this begins very early. Wherever you go, I have learnt, you take your "essential self" with you and we really don't change that much. We only think we do. I do hope your conclusion is true! See you in a week or so, dear Crushed.

Anonymous said...

This is the third or fouth post by you and others that mention regret. It must be going around the blogosphere. I live with no regrets, only joy. Thank you for ending on a positive note. Actually, the whole post was rather positive.

Anonymous said...

In my opinion you think too much.
Think about that (+:
Sometimes its just better to feel rather than reason and expect good things and welcome them into your life.
I have found that life and luck dont work via logic.
Whenever my life has been shit for some reason, somebody (God) drops something in my lap
Cant say that I deserve it, but he does.
I feel that you need some kind of intervention from a friend , even if its friend you havent met so far.
*pats CBI on back*
Its not me , but somebody will help you if you allow them to.

Anonymous said...

Hm... feels a little deterministic. Which I guess it is supposed to.
I do like the fact that you mentioned that EVERYTHING is a result of brain chemistry. It sort of put the whole notion of "a chemical brain imbalance" a little on its head, when the truth is, nearly EVERYTHING is a chemical imbalance or a chemical change. It isn't just genetic depression-- it's hitting your finger with a hammer that causes 'a chemical imbalance'.

Anonymous said...

Is there a predetermined template which time follows ?

A recent proposition is that every combination of events (trillions of 'em) exists in its own realm - every conceivable outcome actually does take place and we just happen to exist in one of them.

Free will could well be an illusion. You propose this is because we are made of chemicals. I propose it is because time doesn't actually exist - we live in a chronological solid. One of MANY unchangeable chronological solids.

Future, past, present have no real meaning except in our experience - the universe is indifferent to time otherwise.

Anonymous said...

I made a choice to sit here and read your post and I am glad I made it. (Or did I?)


I followed this and enjoyed it. Great writing Crush.

Anonymous said...

These last two posts have certainly given us all lots to think about Crushed.

Although we know that the brain works in this way, by these defined chemical reactions, somehow we process the information we receive differently. Come to different conclusions. How is that? Because we are different to start with? Because the chemical reactions are imperfect in some? Do different reactions influence each other? Too much unknown here for me.
Then you jump to the free will which isn't according to your model.
Then you lose me. Because it seems in the second part you are talking about things over which one has no control. Then we just go with the flow and the purpose of the universe is served which is not our purpose, well not the one we want.
I'm sure it's my fault, but I haven't followed your path, although I found it interesting and I do like your conclusion:

Regret nothing.
Rejoice at every experience you have had.
It is part of your journey.

Anonymous said...

Welshcakes- Each thought we have is only ever in context of all the ones you have had before. We are a process ourselves.
I don't think there is much real diffeence between a child and an adl, exceptthe child has no experience on which to base their thoughts, therefore it cannot see how unlikely the monsters in the cupboard are.

Have alovely holiday!

Alexys- I think you can look back and see what you did wrong.
But if you hadn't done it wrong, you'd never know that.
To wish your life had panned out different, is to wish yourself a different person.

And that is no way to find peace.

Hitch- Ah, I'm often accused of that.
It's true that reason can be a little tyrant of its own.

I try to go with the flow, as much as I can, but ultimately 'what will be, will be'.

Princess P- Precisely. It doesn't of course mean that this can be used as an excuse, any more than being drunk is an excuse for fighting.
It's just that ultimately your thoughts are produced by chemicals and this computer makes decisions as valid- using the same universal laws.

E-K- Yes, I have alluded to that in other posts. I believe that it must be so that the thing that distinguishes the universe we experience from all the other possibilities, is that one is the one where the universe reaches heat death quickest.
Our 'choices' are made by the laws of thermodynamics.

See last Saturdays post.

Betty- You did make it. You consciously made it. But your consciousness is a byproduct of chemical processess.

But remember, you read it for a reason...

jmb- Ah, this is the hatd part to follow. You have free will, but it is determined what choice you will make.

That's such a hard fact to get to grips with that most people give up on comprehending it.

In fact, you HAVE followed the post I think, because you summarise it correctly.

Just remember that we are all part of the universe- individuality is a conceit, really. We are happiest when we accept and don't fight.

Anonymous said...


So what purpose did me writing that serve then?

Just wondered...

Anonymous said...

By predetermination, I presume you mean predestination, Crushed?

Anonymous said...

Nietzsche pointed out that "language is the first stage of scientific effort. ...it is the belief in found truth from which the mightiest sources of strength have flowed."

Is truth in an act committed or beheld, or in the reality in which the act can be accepted as truth?

In string theory, or more exactly M-theory it is possible that for every wrong turn you took, there existed a reality where you took the right one. Where every possibility is a reality, the check did arrive in time, the vaccine did work, the guy got the girl, the peace talks were successful...

It's an interesting old world isn't it? Good post.

Anonymous said...

I do agree. A verse comes to mind, "All things work for good to those that love God and are called according to his purpose." All of us have regrets... but it's good to think that without the stuff that happened, we wouldn't be where we are now...

Anonymous said...

Mutley- Well, it sprung into your brain, you thought it was surreal, and pressed 'publish your comment'

It was inevitable, Mutley. You ARE you, after all ;)

James- In a religous sense, yes that IS a better term, I admit- it was after all, the EXACT term used by the Calvinists.
Not a nice vision theirs, IMO.

Lady M- I believe that of all possible realities, we must live in the one which reaches heat death quickest. Otherwise, there must be a reality where heat death never happens. I went into this in more detail in Saturdays post.

But this would be a paradox, since in it, change would be impossible.

Eve- Exactly. We all have our own paths, and to wish our lives different, is to wish our lives less.