Consciousness and Free Will: Real, Fake, or Irrelevant?

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          From the ancient Greek philosophers of Socrates and Plato, the historical European philosophers of Kant and Locke, to modern psychologists of the likes of Marcus de Sautoy, there's always been a fascination with the human condition and identity. While we each conscious think of ourselves, and by transferability others, as autonomous individuals, there's always the presence of doubt; if our bodies and brains are really just a combination of complex cell systems, shouldn't our actions be merely a product of those systems given the outside stimuli we're exposed to?

          This was tested when Sautoy, in the last ten minutes of his video, did a trial in which he was given two buttons, a left and right. It turns out that his brain patterns decided which button to push a full six seconds before he "consciously" pushed them. While this seems to suggest that the consciousness is merely an aftermath of the procedures of the brain, one could also conjecture that these kinds of things are imbedded in the processes of the consciousness, and the fact that one takes a while for that kind of thinking to surface doesn't deny the existence of his free choice. A personal theory is that the consciousness actually exists on a whole other spiritual level, and the fact that it mostly only interprets the speech production and interpretation parts of the brain is because those parts are most easily accessible and understandable.

          However, I don't feel this kind of mystery can ever be solved. Just like most religions, most arguments for or against self-consciousness are based in a mystic, non-concrete realm. 

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Further, all the arguments any human being can make is based on our experience inside our consciousness, which itself falls to the illusion of the self. Whether it exists or not, we don't even have to perspective of to really understand what it really is. The main question in real question, then, may not actually be the definite existence of the free will, but how to refine the perception of us, our will, and our selves.


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Our past and the present stimuli predict what we will do, without a doubt. People's responses can usually be very accurately predicted. But calling this a lack of free will is a gross error of logic. People are predictable because they aren't stupid. And since we're all so smart, we can all predict what people will do. When the light turns green, that car will go. When the dog barks, that person's head will turn to make sure the dog is restrained somehow.
Yet we all have a choice. We could choose to be unpredictable, but that's not always very smart.

It's true that the goal of science is to refine understanding--that is why really, at the end of the day, consciousness is probably not such an intractable problem. Our knowledge of ourselves biologically, as well as our understanding of how biological processes create behavioral phenomena is growing more rapidly than ever.

Maybe knowing the biological causes of consciousness is like knowing the causes of love, though--just because we know why they happen, doesn't mean they feel any less real or intense!

By the way, here is the link to the video mentioned in my blog post:

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This page contains a single entry by zhuxx523 published on February 26, 2012 7:18 PM.

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