Thursday, May 7, 2015

escherian hell

“Free will is an illusion,” Harris writes. “Our wills are simply not of our own making.”  I'm a big fan of Sam Harris' though I've only read one of his books.  I intend to read others eventually, but it seems I haven't done so, yet.  I've seen lots of his interviews, debates, panel discussions, and the like.  I've read his blog posts, excerpts of his books, etc.

His take on free will being something that caught my attention, in particular.  I wrote a blog-like post about the irrationality of free will, many years ago.  It wasn't called blogging, back then.  It was just my Geocities website, which I used to display some of my art and writing.  I have no idea if it's still out there on the internet somewhere, or if it was even any good, but the point is that I've thought this way for quite a while now.

Only recently have my views been bolstered by scientific studies[1], indicating that we actually act, before we consciously think.  That the ego really is just an observer, that reflects what the unconscious has already decided to do.  It takes the necessity of logic out of the equation.  No longer needing to explain why the concept of free will makes no sense, we can actually point to the neurology of it, and say, look.  Face facts or don't, but this is just how it works.

Another interesting study[2] found that if you mess with the timing of neurological action and conscious awareness, people can hear their own thoughts, as if they're being thought by someone else.  They can perceive their own actions, as if someone else is doing it.  They essentially become aware that they're not in as much control as they'd thought, and feel as if they've gone crazy.  It's been postulated that a natural mistiming of this sort may be the cause of schizophrenia.

It's one thing to understand this at a cognitive level, but another to be aware of it.  To feel it.  Schizophrenia would develop procedurally, as neural pathways form in ways predicated on the confusion of this mistimed cognitive function.  Neuroleptics may calibrate the brain differently, by slowing it down.

My own mental health issues seem to be quite different, but maybe even inverse to that.  A miscalibration of a different sort.  Even on hallucinogens, I am remarkably grounded.  Which isn't to say that I don't have crazy thoughts- even when not on hallucinogens, this is not to say that I don't have crazy thoughts- it's just this disconnection, a miscalibration, of thought and action.

I'm aware of my thoughts with a sort of objectivity that seems a bit unusual.  Maybe hallucinogens mess with that neurological timing as well, making me feel more normal in some way.  Maybe this is why at the peak of a trip, I've noted that I feel more like who I really am.  No longer out of step with myself.

I feel as though I've spent most of my life, waiting to see if I'll do anything.  I get very apprehensive about anything I might need to do, because I'm not entirely sure that I won't just sit here.  I don't understand why sometimes I do one thing, and sometimes another.  I can tell you the thoughts and feelings behind it, but not why those thoughts and feelings went one way, instead of another.  For me, the question of free will is neither deeply philosophical, nor mired in neuroscience.  It's just experiential.

Though, it is a delusion that may exist for the distinct evolutionary advantage it yields.  Even delusions can be quite motivating.  Come to think of it, delusions can be especially motivating.  The delusional, especially motivated.

This may seem to be a paradox, an implication that if we choose to believe in free will, this will be of some benefit, contradicting the entire premise, but that's putting the cart before the horse.  The language we use entangled in conventional assumptions.

We don't choose what we believe.  Rather, if the unconscious leads us to believe in free will, it's indicative of a particular type of mindset, and neurochemistry.  Which I'm suggesting may be correlated with motivation, in both action and belief.  That is, rather than trying to understand, or self-reflect, just go go go.  Take the most half-baked nonsense and run with it.  In doing so, perpetuating a cycle of action over consideration.  A cycle which naturally leads to both highly motivated behaviour, and a stark lack of rationality, but the bottom line still remaining, that we are who we are.

A balanced approach may be ideal, but good luck convincing your unconscious mind that it's doing it wrong, when every effort you take is really just an effort to be who you already are.

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