hairyfigment (hairyfigment) wrote,

I wrote a different version of this at rain luong's journal, but I don't know if it seemed clear. I want to try and explain my view of free will again. I have a definition that I probably stole from the Crucifixion story. Actually, since I don't care if you accept it as a definition of free will or not, you might want to call it True Will: acting in accordance with a rule that you find worthy.

If natural forces both determine my actions and cause me to feel satisfaction at those actions -- if my actions make life and death seem worthwhile to me, regardless of the outcome -- if my actions fit my will so well that I wouldn't want to change any part of them, supposing that I could predict them using "physical laws" -- then my apparent self and apparent desires do not conflict with the "natural laws" (or "natural will") that determine my actions. I would then view both of them as different ways of looking at my true self. You can't refute the definition in that last sentence. Not only does it seem perfectly self-consistent, it fits standard habits of thought such as Occam's Razor. (Also, of course, the silly but persistent habit of thinking that I must have a "self". Oh, and the even more persistent refusal to ignore subjective experience. Subjective experience happens, and we tend to think of it as part of a "self".)

On the other hand, if my actions didn't fit my desires, that would mean that my apparent desires conflicted with the "laws" or natural commands that determine my actions. We would normally call the former my "will", and say that the natural "laws" interfere with my freedom. Even if we reject this -- even if we regard the natural commands as my true desires and view the apparent "will" as a kind of illusion (as I would in the case of a homophobe who practices gay sex) -- we still perceive conflict between aspects of the "self". In each case, we would then want to remove the conflict.

Now, this actually leads to practical conclusions. Let's go back a bit. Descartes suggested using science to learn how to affect the body, so as to increase our personal abilities and also bring our actions into harmony with our wills. Unfortunately, he reckoned without the power of bodiless "corporations", but the principle seems sound. We want to use science to reduce that conflict I spoke of just now, without letting anyone use it against us. Let me steal the following code of ethics:
1. Thou shalt not alter thy neighbor's consciousness without their consent.
2. Thou shalt not prevent thy neighbor from altering their consciousness.
These principles come from Timothy Leary, who, whatever else he did, continued the Cartesian tradition that helped create science. (I mean Descartes' grand plan.) We want to encourage corporations and government to follow these simple rules. We want to advance science and use it in accordance with this code of self-rule. I'll address objections to this plan in future posts.

One objection that I want to address now stems from my previous example of un-freedom, and this will show by process of elimination what I want to address later. The closeted gay man may wish to alter his consciousness in harmful ways. What about "therapy"? Well, it seems to me that we can best help someone caught in this trap by teaching the general principle of self-rule. If therapists really transformed gays and changed their sexual orientation, I wouldn't use the government to stop them. It would seem better to teach autonomy, follow this principle in practice, and try to convince the gays they don't need to change for other people's prejudices. I object when people "cure" gays less because I disagree with their goal and more because they lie. They seem to use false advertising and fraud.

Finally, let me address one possible confusion about the link I gave at the beginning. The author and I both say that True Will eliminates conflict of some kind. We both speak of having a will "in harmony with the Movement of Things," (and we go on to state similar definitions of "self".) But Crowley means something different by this Movement. He assumes as a first principle -- a principle taken from divine revelation, in effect -- that True Wills cannot conflict with each other. I don't think that my argument requires this religious assumption. When he speaks of God's will, he means this seemingly planned harmony; when I speak of "natural will", I mean any forces that determine your actions. Or, really, any forces at all. As Nietzsche points out, the metaphor of Will or commands works just as well as the metaphor of natural laws.
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