I have recently decided to reduce my sugar intake. I would tell you why, but insurance companies might use it against me in the future. And I don’t think it matters: I am trying to reduce my refined sugar intake.
Just now, I was talking to my lovely wife on the mobile phone (cellphone) while sitting on the sofa (couch). Suddenly I realized I was standing up, and was about to go and get some chocolate from the kitchen.
At no point did I consciously think “I would like some chocolate” or even “I am going to have chocolate”. Before I had had a conscious thought, I found myself standing up and ready to walk.
If I didn’t decide to stand up, who did? Even if we suggest that there is a subconscious me who could tell me what I want, or what I need – the same one that breathes in and out without interrupting the other task I am doing – can it make me stand up?
If it can make me stand up, what else can it make me do? Is there a proportion of people in prisons who genuinely did not do the thing that their body did?
And even if it doesn’t go that far, are there choices that we make that we don’t really make?
Before we look at that, there’s another important question: Who is making me do things I consciously don’t want to do? Is there some part of me that makes these other decisions – my subconscious – or is there a pre-ordained path for my life? If the latter, presumably my choices are illusions created by other.
CGP Grey has a great video on this: You Are Two
The notion of free-will is more important than a “that’s interesting” or a hypothesis. If we are not free, the notion of punishment, of fairness, and of a whole lot more changes… fundamentally.
But, of course, if we don’t have free will, none of us can do anything to change the status quo and get people to realize that prison is inhumane. Or perhaps there is a greyer version of free-will, where we (where we is humanity) can make a difference in the trajectory of humanity, but only on a large scale. At the small scale, we do not get to make many of the choices we make on our own…
The following is said casually, so don’t be mad at me. I don’t want people to think that quantum physics and quasi-spiritual considerations can or should be intermingled. But…
I am no physicist, but I would also be interested on what free-will, or the absence of it, means for the collapse of probability curves in quantum physics. Probably, I suspect, nothing – there is another universe perhaps, where the ‘decision’ went the other way, even if we didn’t have any say over it in the universe we find ourselves in. But the observation of a system causing the collapse has always interested me…