FREE WILL DOESN'T EXIST—WHAT ONE DOES IS ALWAYS DETERMINED
The following flows out of a continuing discussion on the World Pantheism website:
Graham wrote: What is real about ‘I’? I ask ‘ when does control start or finish in any situation?’ If we have free will then why would we allow any psychological suffering to ourselves? We could just say ‘ this is horrible, I’ll end it’. I tend to do this, ironically, by accepting that I have no control.
As I see it, language brought the I along with it. It's the key feature of self-awareness. I imagine the human species had language (very primitive) before it had self-consciousness. Historically, humans probably had 30 or 40 sounds, like other animals did and do, they could produce—things to do with warnings and alerts and anger or love (i.e. grunts suggesting procreation). By some process (still under debate) human word symbols grew more more numerous and more complex and language's recursive nature (maybe) created self-consciousness. Somehow we became aware of ourselves being aware. (I just had the thought that maybe we became aware of our brute's being a brute rather than of ourselves being aware.) Anyhow, the question of this thread is "did this trick of language called self awareness (I-ness) also break us free of instinct or is being aware of ourselves just another deterministic quality of being a brute?"
Critically, your solution to your own suffering is key to many philosophies and it also is another proof of determinism. In AA we learned to "let go and let God". Buddhists also can speak of "letting go". Letting go in AA was also associated with the concept just don't think about it. Almost all philosophies contain an answer to conscious suffering that has to do with escaping it by leaving it out of the equation. The fact that consciousness creates emotional anguish reveals that thinking about a situation is futile and pain-producing. For example, in my case, I deeply felt that without alcohol, I couldn't be funny and being funny was my key to getting laid. It was a deep-seated electrochemical response. Certain situations in mixed company would trigger the feelings along with the thoughts connected to the anguish. The situation created the feelings and the feelings found the associated thoughts. The conflict between my staying sober versus wanting to approach and humor women always produced anguished feelings when I confronted it. In AA they rationalize that anguish as the feeling of "powerlessness"—fear we won't get what we want and fear that we'll lose what we have—powerlessness in the face of reality.
Through sober time and repeatedly encountering powerless situations, my body learned synaptic patterns that led it to stop thinking about things that it had no control over, which is just about everything in the Cosmos. My body became conditioned to healthier responses. Since the information about "letting go" came to it from outside its awareness, my brute can take no credit for its receiving the information into its conscious element and memorizing it. Nor can it take credit for being forced to encounter its powerlessness over and over until it formed new mental connections that led to new instincts forming that related to humorous behaviors, women and social situations with mixed company.
All the I of my brute has ever been able to do is observe what's going on with its brute and discuss it with itself and with other I's in its experience. Like you, my brute has learned the synaptic solution to conflict—acceptance of conditions beyond its control. It's I realizes what the brute has learned, but its I did not teach the brute to do anything. It only acted as an interpreter through which my brute heard of a potential solution to its troubles, i.e. sobriety. Always... always... always, in counseling and in life, the feelings change before the behavior changes and, then, the consciousness explains to itself and to other conscious I's what happened.
My years of one on one counseling proves it to me. I cried a lot, deep sobbing moments when recalled experience caused powerful moments of grief to engulf me. Thinking about intellectual concepts was never useful. It was recalling from my past in strong detail experiences which, then, caused emotions from the past to sweep through me. I could see no purpose in all my crying and re-feeling of experience while the process was going on. None at all. I do know that after these moments of deep feeling, my brute would walk out of its counselor's office altered in some way. Everything in the environment took on deeper colors for it. It felt deeply refreshed. Its voice came from a deeper center in the chest. Voice overheard reverberated differently.
Through a long process of grieving (feeling only) my brute became changed. The proof that my brute had changed is evidenced to its interpreter the I of me in that the brute is now happily married after three failed attempts. I continually recognize that my brute feels but does not respond to his penchant to desire incest victims and other damaged women to have sex with. He's contented with his present situation. If he was not, he'd find some way to ruin it. Not only that my brute's spouse is delighted at the weird humor of the brute who I interpret for. She likes the humor that my brute gives me to offer her through his non-verbal slapstick as well as the words his humors offer up to her through verbal means.
A key step in my getting sober was in my body learning to deal with situations in which was triggered the feeling of powerlessness. People who are damaged as children, when they are truly powerless over what adults do to them, often have deeply seated psychological responses to situations in which they feel powerless as adults. Any amateur psychologist knows that damaged people's responses to powerlessness can range from blushing to murder.
My view is that the conscious I is an interpreter for its brute's behavior. Consciousness is out of the behavior loop even though it is very aware of the information informing the decisions its brute-self is making. Because the human animal is more aware of and can rationalize (i.e. think about and discuss) its behaviors, the conscious I imagines it has more control than it actually has. Underneath consciousness, the brute is still humming along as it always has, making decisions through emotional triggers that fire or don't fire according to basic survival features still active today. Consciousness merely interprets its behavior to other brutes in its vicinity and even to its own brute.
In short, thinking about possible outcomes causes anguish while ignoring one's thoughts and heeding one's instincts leads to successful conclusions. Mental states, if one is willing to let go of thinking and trust the brute's feelings (i.e. instincts), will always work themselves out successfully.
Lastly, my interpretations run from one subject to the next as my brute's whims lead it. Time flies. My brute wants to get on to its math lessons which give it pleasure. My brute wants me to stop here and go to math. So it signals this need to change activities through a sensation I interpret as impatience. I'm aware in my function as language master and interpreter for the brute that so much of this essay is incomplete and ill-formed. IT DOESN'T FEEL RIGHT. So another piece of the brute wants me to keep working over his essay. Even the instincts for language are influenced by the brute's feeling-based decision mechanisms. Even as I seem to be free of him, through language, he informs even the way I interpret his needs and wants. Which brutish feeling will win out? Will I go on to math or keep slaving over this essay. I am never free of him, the brute. He causes my every action.