Are You Really In Control?

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Every day we make important choices. The real question is: who is really behind those choices? By far the most shocking thing I have learned this semester was that we may not really be in control of our actions, choices, selves. Many people appreciate the idea that we all have free will, we do what we think we want, when we want, and our thoughts control our behavior. During Professor Gail Peterson's lecture on consciousness, however, I learned that this may not be the case. "People can make complex choices without being consciously aware of the causes of their choices (or even of what they have chosen!)." "Our conscious awareness, while real, may not be as fundamental to our behavior as it seems to be. In fact, it may be more a product of what we do than a cause."
I used to be convinced that I could always explain the reasons for my behavior, however after the consciousness lecture, I have been constantly second-guessing the reasons for my actions and choices. I wonder why I do what I do. Are the thoughts I'm having about specific decisions a product of a choice my brain made a while ago? How can I have free will if my decisions are merely an unconscious function of my brain? The consciousness lecture brought all these questions to the surface, and I can't stop ruminating on the implications of these suggestions.
This lecture is certainly going to keep me on my toes for the next five years, definitely.

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It is a bit of difficult concept to wrap our heads around, isn't it? How do we even define which parts of our minds are included in the idea of "us"? Can we really tell people that "I decided that", or should we tell them that "my subconscious decided that"? Under that logic, how much can we really hold people responsible for decisions "they" didn't make or weren't even aware of? I have no answers.

You might enjoy reading the book The Illusions of Conscious Will

Humans are notorious for attempting to explain what they don't completely understand. When we make choices we think of a logical reason for why we did what we did. Although that may not be the actual case. There are probably many motives in our unconscious mind that indirectly or directly influence our decisions every day. Spooky!

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This page contains a single entry by wall0752 published on April 29, 2012 5:30 PM.

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