An enlightening New York Times article today discusses the nature of “free will” as the author is confronted with the choice of having chocolate cake (or not) for dessert…
Experiments show that we tend first to take action subconsciously, after which our conscious mind then creates a reasoning to justify it. We act on our urge then “make up stories about being in control”.
However, if we wanted our conscious mind to first take a decision before we act, imagine the “analysis paralysis” as the conscious brain tries to figure out the millions of possibilities.
I believe our subconscious actions can be guided, by first integrating a strong “programming”, such as a moral code (the Ten Commandments), or what I teach with “Mission – Vision – Permission” (Who am I? What do I want? Why do I want this?). This provides a coherence, an order, a kind of determinism, that simplifies and clarifies the “unconscious” urge to act. It also ensures that the subconscious actions lead toward an ultimate experience of life that we choose. So “free will”, in this way of thinking, is more about creating a framework of action to consciously be in the moment instead of trying to figure out each single decision independently, to be a human “being” instead of a human “choosing”.
But on the other hand, what determines the specific Mission or Vision that we are attracted to? Can we really live a conscious, deterministic life? Do we really have “free will”?
Maybe there is some truth in the Islamic idea of “Insh’allah” (God willing)
The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer said, as Einstein paraphrased it, that “a human can very well do what he wants, but cannot will what he wants.” Einstein, among others, found that a comforting idea. “This knowledge of the non-freedom of the will protects me from losing my good humor and taking much too seriously myself and my fellow humans as acting and judging individuals,” he said.
See the New York Times article here: