Monday, November 28, 2005

The issue of free will has occupied my thought for quite some time, and the answer seems to shrouded in a number of different layers of concepts and issues, which makes it an ardous task. Are humans free? Or are we a part of a grand design, and our free will is an illusion? I do not suppose that i have found the ultimate answer to this question, so i'll just talk a little about it, examining the matter from different angles.There are, i think, three major theories of determinism: Religious determinism, Physical determinism, and Psychological determinism.

Religious determinism believes in an omnipotent, omniscient God, who knows everything that has happened in the past, or will happen in the future. The immediate question raised is that if God knows everything is going to happen, how can we have a say of our own in deciding it. Well, to my mind, it is not a valid objection because "knowing" is not the same as "deciding". God may know that i'll have a sandwich for breakfast, but that doesn't mean he forced me to take it. But there can be other versions of religious determinism in which God does decide the whole future, as is revealed in the concept of fate. However, this clearly contradicts the idea of accountability associated with most religious. We can only be accountable for our actions if we are free. Obviously, the religious determinism rests on the idea of God, and if it is denied, it collapses. 

Physical determinism maintains that all things including humans obey the laws of physics, and therefore there is no free will. The difficulty with this idea is the assumption that "all things" obey laws of physics. As far as i know, physics is not capable of explaining the origin of consciousness in humans, and therefore believing that all biology is reducable to physics is, at present, unjustified. 

Psychological determinism states that all human actions have a motive behind them. We eat because we feel hunger, we work to get food, we sleep to rest, and we love because it is a biological drive. Behaviouristic psychology has emerged as one of the most important psychological theories. Although it seems reasonable, but when applied to concrete situations in which humans make decisions, I don't find this theory much convincing. However, the fact that we can to some extent predict human behaviour is a great support to this idea. 

Another problem associated with the issue is of defining free will. The most common definition is that when several courses are open to us, when can choose any one of them. The problem is that computers can also "choose" from a number of possibilites. Does that mean they are free as well? In fact, many believe that human mind too acts like an "artificial intelligence", making decisions on the basis of previous ideas and contents of mind.

I don't know, but determinism tends to make life spooky for me. It completely denies any distinction of good and evil, because they are associated with free will. Think about it.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Human life appears to be a collage of contradictions. At times, it seems so petty and so insignificant, like a bug roaming in a vast tropical jungle. And at others, it is almost god-like, as if the universe was made just to serve our purpose. Sometimes, fate conspires in such arcane manners to help that we are astounded, and sometimes we seem to be trapped in a whirlpool of problems, with the waves piling up exponentially. Life teems with coincidences, coincidences that are organized in such a pattern that they appear to be the work of a higher consciousness. A person's whole life can change just because of one coincidence; one moment can determine the rest of your future. And every so often it occurs as if our very life was designed for that moment; our whole journey was meant for that instant. The sensation is almost mystical, inspiring, and in someway, also a little fear-producing; because if our very life is for that point of time, that negligible tick of clock will determine our failure or success, happiness or grief. These thoughts may appear the leisure-outputs of a poet, but i don't why, they are so much connected with my mind that rejecting them would be akin to tearing a part of my own identity.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

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