Free will

Last night I read how Einstein never believed in ‘free will’. Instead he was a determinist. He believed that whatever actions we take up are usually a consequence of a previous action. He quotes Arthur Schopenhauer, “Man can do what he will, but cannot will what he wills.”

So we can have the will to live, but cannot determine our birth. So our will to live is our decision, but to have that will we need to be alive and that was not in our hands — our parents had to meet and then same for them and same for every single living being here.

I went on to read Arthur’s essay on it, translated of course. And I found out Arthur lays his ideas down with the help of ‘Brahmin’ (I suppose he means Hindu) and Buddhist philosophies. Also from Christianity. But let us not get vague about it just yet. Maybe we can explain or understand the concept of free will (existing or not) without the burden of religious sentiment.

So far I do agree with Einstein. Many physicists dismiss the absence of free will. They believe on a subatomic level it can never be told where the electron is right now. Therefore most of universe is uncertain and unpredictable. But even if you cannot tell where the electron is placed, you atleast are aware of the electron existing. Just as you cannot tell how much energy is there in the universe — we at least know it is constant, cannot be destroyed or created. Therefore if universe cannot create new energy or destroy the existing one, then it must all be guided by specific laws. Therefore not only do our actions have consequences, but our actions themselves are a consequence of previous actions.

Now I am not a physicist, so I can’t really explain it from a physicists perspective. But what I believe is we humans confuse ‘ulterior motives’ as ‘free will’. If we all have the free will then why do we not consciously chose to improve the planet every single day and reverse climate change? It is cause we are busy fulfilling our ulterior motives. Ulterior motives mainly involve gratifying our senses — all five of them. So our ‘act’ of fulfilling those senses is a form of free will right? I am free to eat as many burgers as I want, free to travel to as many countries, free to choose my career, free to build a building, free to bake a cake and many many other activities.

I am ‘free’ to do all that. But those actions will finally benefit only my senses. That means we are slaves to our senses and not the masters of it. So how can it be free will? My requirement to be aesthetically pleasing forces me to buy clothes that are expensive. My need to feed my ‘hunger’ for a mansion or a comfortable life forces me to work hours and pursue a career that will leave no work life balance. Therefore ultimately I am not free, I am a slave to my senses — my ulterior motives.

What about those who do things they love? Not everyone in a corporate building must be a prisoner of her/his senses. There are artists, entrepreneurs, etc who do what they love. Are they prisoners of their senses?

Maybe not. Or maybe they are. They did not consciously choose what they love, it comes to them as passion. Does it not? An artist can work in a corporate or vice-versa, but it will always feel artificial. Then how is it free will? Free will should let you ‘choose’ what you want to be. So an artist should be able to transition into a corporate machine and vice versa. But, as we know it is not possible. There is a driving force that lets us know whether it feels compatible with the work environment or whether it does not.

The chances of free will existing is slim. We do not get to decide how we look, or age. We can perform actions like eating healthy, plastic surgery in order to get the consequence that is favourable for us. This is where Arthur and I drift apart in thought.

He believes the underlying thought of Hindu and Buddhist belief —” that happens which must happen.” I don’t know if the universe is a wound up clock where what you do years from now is predictable easily if we follow the laws and observe it all closely. Because that leads a sense of meaningless-ness within me.

Einstein says if a moon is given a consciousness it will be believe that it revolves around the earth by free will — and we all know that is not the case. So therefore if a higher more intelligent entity looks down upon the planet — it would laugh at the fact that humans believe they have free will. For the entity our actions may look like a pattern that is easily predictable.

Not sure if I agree with Einstein on that one yet. But, if we do not have the will to choose our will — that should not shun our hopes. Instead we should narrow our focus down to doing what we can with will. Too many wills in this article.

So far this thought journey has been quite wonderful. I am now going hunt for some more literature on this!


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