Wiring The Brain Blog
Originally posted November 25, 2018
Here is an excerpt:
Being free – to my mind at least – doesn’t mean making decisions for no reasons, it means making them for your reasons. Indeed, I would argue that this is exactly what is required to allow any kind of continuity of the self. If you were just doing things on a whim all the time, what would it mean to be you? We accrue our habits and beliefs and intentions and goals over our lifetime, and they collectively affect how actions are suggested and evaluated.
Whether we are conscious of that is another question. Most of our reasons for doing things are tacit and implicit – they’ve been wired into our nervous systems without our even being aware of them. But they’re still part of us – you could argue they’re precisely what makes us us. Even if most of that decision-making happens subconsciously, it’s still you doing it.
Ultimately, whether you think you have free will or not may depend less on the definition of “free will” and more on the definition of “you”. If you identify just as the president – the decider-in-chief – then maybe you’ll be dismayed at how little control you seem to have or how rarely you really exercise it. (Not never, but maybe less often than your ego might like to think).
But that brings us back to a very dualist position, identifying you with only your conscious mind, as if it can somehow be separated from all the underlying workings of your brain. Perhaps it’s more appropriate to think that you really comprise all of the machinery of government, even the bits that the president never sees or is not even aware exists.
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