Fodder for Thought · Le Salon · Uncategorized

Salon: Part 2 – Free Will

Our 2nd monthly salon occurred on Friday evening. People gathered at Zachary’s, arriving wet from the winter’s first rain. Tim brought his classic contribution of olives, brie, bread and satsumas to share, and I had pounds and pounds of couscous with veggies that I reheated.

Zachary’s friend Alex began the conversation, and our loose outline of our conversation was to try to distinguish and define: 

Free Will, Volition, and Consciousness.

Free Will – the existence of a choice

Volition – the decision to act 

Consciousness – is it necessary for free will to exist? can one act, and be exercising free will during unconsciousness? the dream world? 

We did not spend any time on the idea of fate or determinism, though we did acknowledge that on a microscopic/chemical level, we have no control over the atoms and reactions within our body.

Yet when the physical translates to the mental (i.e. consciousness), we can choose our thoughts, emotions, and actively make decisions. 

Unless there are cases, as in depression – when it seems as though one has no control over their state. And even if they ‘know’ what may make them feel better, this is not enough to motivate one to action. The volition – the desire to act – is absent. Where does this gap between free will and volition come from – and how can it be decreased? This was not discussed, as we referred to our previous conversation about Self Discipline.

In the even of extreme circumstances, is there free will? Or does one enter “survival mode”, and there is no conscious thought involved? I.e. if one is drowning, the urge to have breath takes over and one’s body is doing anything it can to get air. In the event of an extreme sport, is there free will? I.e. when I am running a marathon, at one point I made a decision to run, but once it begins, is it a conscious decision to continue running? No, it feels like I am not thinking – just moving until I reach my goal. 

This can be extrapolated to many scenarios – when we put no conscious thought into our decisions to buy a particular brand of food, is this free will? At one point I decided I preferred a particular brand of peanut butter, but after the decision is made, I am no longer weighing my options. It seems as I am still exercising my free will, yet it is not an active decision. It becomes habit. 

Nick brought up that there are two distinctions of thought according to this guy (I can’t remember his name). In Realm 1, we are actively weighing options, and using reason. In Realm 2, we are acting out of habit. It seems as though most of the time we operate in Realm 2. In specific circumstances, we can enter Realm 1 and actively exercise our free will.

It is necessary to rely on Realm 2, because there are SO many decisions we must make day to day, that if we took the time to evaluate the different choices ever-so-methodically each and every time, it would be overwhelming and lead to inaction. There are certain assumptions, and patterns, and habits that we must have in order to operate in our day to day lives.

There were other existential musings, stories from travels, speculation of the metaphysical, etc.

Though free will is not a topic I actively think about, it was a wonderful gathering and exchanging of thoughts and ideas. 

Since graduating I do not get an opportunity to “philosophize“, and this is a perfect forum to do so – with friends and friends of friends, where it is an open environment welcoming an exchange of ideas and worldviews. The point is not to reach any conclusive answers, for each time we seem to only agree on the certainty of our constant learning and becoming and everchanging evolution of or selves throughout time. 

For a more cohesive essay on Free Will, say hello to my little friend, here is a link to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Free Will.

One thought on “Salon: Part 2 – Free Will

  1. Wonderful rundown Jackie…always nice to have a refresher of what was touched on.

    Always question your peanut butter selection!

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