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TOPIC: Free will

Free will 24 Apr 2014 14:15 #19391

Fascinating clip on the study of brain activity and free will:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-i3AiOS4nCE#t=268.
It shows that we make decisions unconsciously 6 seconds before we make them consciously. That is, if you decide to raise your left hand and do so, "you" didn't really make the decision.

It's interesting to think how this affects our practice, if at all, and how we look at our practice.
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Free will 24 Apr 2014 15:09 #19392

For me this confirms some of the things I've learned through my practice. Agency (will, control) are just other constructs of mind (objects) in many cases. Some set of processes that are unseen-to-me make most of the decisions for "me." I do not consciously deliberate when I walk, chew, talk, drive, etc., almost ad infinitum. So something is doing a helluva lot of those things so that my mind can pretend to be in "control."

:-)
Last Edit: 24 Apr 2014 15:09 by Chris Marti.
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Free will 24 Apr 2014 15:30 #19393

I remember seeing that (or similar studies) in the past. Since the discussion of free will often makes people anxious about issues of justice and morality, I do like the tack that several teachers from different traditions have used when asked about it in group teaching, mostly variations on: "We don't really have free will the way we THINK we do, but we often experience a sense of having it, and we can honor that."

But St. Ignatius's line is funnier: "Don't tell beginners it's all grace, lest they be lazy!"
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Free will 24 Apr 2014 17:15 #19394


www.samharris.org/free-will
Recently I started this hour long lecture, my 1st by Sam Harris, on free will, ended listening straight thru to the end, and have become a tentative fan-boy.
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Free will 24 Apr 2014 17:48 #19395

I saw Sam Harris give a talk on free will in Sydney a few years ago. The start was great - he basically pointed out that we don't choose our thoughts (his example was an exercise when someone says, 'give me the names of five random movies' you don't actually go through in your mind every movie you've ever seen and select five for some reason you have decided upon, five just pop into your mind). But he seemed very confused about free will and action - he seemed to be arguing that we don['t have free will, but we can still decide what action to take and be held responsible for that action

(I should say that I generally dislike his positions inasmuch as he aligns himself with self-congratulatory Dawkins-style New Atheists and anti-Islam neocons, going as far as saying "The people who speak most sensibly about the threat that Islam poses to Europe are actually fascists," and "Some beliefs are so dangerous that it may be ethical to kill people for believing them”).

I've also seen the neuroscience research about timelag between decision and action... Similar to Ona, my take is that we probably don't have free will but we definitely need to behave as if we do :)
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Free will 24 Apr 2014 18:19 #19397

JMHO, corroborated by experience and practice --

I see free will as situational. We definitely have deliberative powers and we can determine some of our actions at certain times. We can most certainly, using the conscious conceptual mind, over-rule some processes and stop or re-direct ourselves, which is why ethics and morality are still important to human life. Most of the time, however, our actions and choices are determined by sub-conscious processes, habits and proclivities.
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Free will 24 Apr 2014 19:11 #19400

@Chris, yes. The "bigger perspective" there might be that even in those decisions (which we are obliged to make as functional members of society, and are not a problem) what we decide is largely conditioned by millions of little things. This latter bit is only really relevant as a sort of contemplative insight, and need not make decision-making confusing. That is, if I hear the neighbor screaming I will call the police. There are several options of action to take (ignore, call police, go see what's happening, etc.) But what I choose is conditioned by myriad factors: that I know what screaming means, that I have ears to hear it, that someone taught me to call police when there is danger, that I know how to use a telephone, that telephones were invented, that I have electricity, that I am literate, and on and on...

Most of the examples I've heard of this way of noticing how many factors are involved in everything we do have been from Zen teachers. The Art of Just Sitting (by Loori) has a long example about driving a car. A podcast I heard once used the example of sweeping the floor. It's kind of a fun game to play.

But it need not cause any dysfunction or interference in normal daily activity, that I can see.
Last Edit: 24 Apr 2014 19:12 by Ona Kiser. Reason: clunky sentences
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Free will 01 May 2014 11:52 #19452

I have blocks of time off the cushion when I am not controlling anything and just do. Just sitting meditation where I don’t control anything is most of my meditation practice now. I think as I progress along the path this no control/no managing state of mind will increase. But, my experience is not yet answering the question of free will for me. So, then I turn toward the Buddha’s teachings. Continually he is teaching to strive diligently and consciously decide to do this or that.. I get confused. Then I think who cares, just do my practice.
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Free will 01 May 2014 17:40 #19457

"Then I think who cares, just do my practice. "

Wouldn't it be funny if that *is* free will, as it manifests in daily life. As opposed to philosophical abstractions about whether it "exists" or not.
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Free will 07 May 2014 18:48 #19523

Kate Gowen wrote:
"Then I think who cares, just do my practice. "

Wouldn't it be funny if that *is* free will, as it manifests in daily life. As opposed to philosophical abstractions about whether it "exists" or not.
I like this, Free will or determinism is experiential not conceptual. You experience the next moment as it arises and the agency/control selfing process has added the layer to awareness or not.
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Free will 07 May 2014 21:08 #19524

It can't be empirical, that's for sure... because how could you test if you had a different option in a moment than can never happen again? I know I felt a lot happier when I realized that free will was untestable. The study above is simply testing whether perception of choice coincides with the mechanism of action.
Last Edit: 07 May 2014 21:08 by shargrol.
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