Free Will vs Group Think

Reilly Jones (70544.1227@compuserve.com)
Mon, 27 Jan 1997 17:36:36 -0500


Omega, your "Free Will vs Group Think" post of 1/27/97 is excellent. It is
always a pleasure to see reason in play.

Omega: <Since science, by definition, does not deal with the unknowable
(except for defining the boundaries of such) the scientific appraisal of
free will is limited to refuting its presence wherever predictibility can
be found. This leads to an operative principle which places knowable
limits on where free will may be found as defined in its classical sense:

* Where something is predictable, then free will does not exist.>

A slight refinement to make this more precise, predictable here means "with
certainty." Prediction with less than 100% statistical confidence is,
after all, just guesswork. Is an entity forced to make predictions in
order to find out if the entity has free will? <g>

Omega: <...once we strip out all references to local truth in this new
definition of free will, we are back to one of two possibilities:

a. Either free will does not exist at all...

b. Or, through some form of trancendent acausality in keeping with the
first
meaning, some limited form of free will does exist...

And now that quantum physics has clearly been shown to be unable to tell us
whether our reality is even a deterministic one or not, the whole subject
is
right back in the realm of philosophy/theology/metaphysics.>

Since the necessity of indeterministic quantum physics has forced us to go
back to philosophy now, I would like to post a couple quotes on point b
(point a being obviously worthless because I am choosing to respond of my
own free will) from Karl Jaspers' "Way to Wisdom" (Yale Univ. Press, 1951):

"The highest freedom is experienced in freedom from the world, and this
freedom is a profound bond with transcendence.... [M]astery over one's
ideas remains ambivalent does it mean an arbitrary freedom from ties or
does it imply ties in transcendence? Because of this ambivalence,
independence, instead of becoming a road to authentic selfhood in historic
fulfilment, can easily be confused with irresponsibility, or the perpetual
availability for something else. Then selfhood is lost, and all that
remains is different roles played in different situations."

"Indeed, independence in the world implies a particular attitude toward the
world: to be in it and yet not in it, to be both inside it and outside it.
Independence does not derive its content from itself. It is not any
innate gift, it is not vitality, race, the will to power, it is not
self-creation.... Our independence itself requires help. We can only do
our best and hope that something within us - invisible to the world will
in some unfathomable way come to our aid and lift us out of our
limitations. The only independence possible for us is dependence on
transcendence."

I admit I am aesthetically attracted to a well-turned phrase such as
'dependence on transcendence,' perhaps this influences my rationality, but
I must say I find the argument to be logical that "independence does not
derive its content from itself," that it "requires help." Overemphasis on
the subjectivity of the humanistic world leads to the irresponsible
role-playing outlined in the first paragraph (and that I see so much of in
the world today), but overemphasis on the objectivity of the scientific
world leads to loss of free will through either iron determinism or
nihilistic randomness, a servility and docility with practical consequences
for extropic ascension as bad as the irresponsible role-playing. My
subjective consciousness is certainly independent of the objective being
that surrounds me, how can this be when I travel from one to the other and
find no border? I think the last sentence of the second paragraph must be
true.
Omega: <If extropians want to be at the forefront of "some extropian
transition", we might consider what is necessary to disengage us from the
natural human tendency to form closed thought systems so that we can
somehow avoid repeating history.>

Sounds like we need another "Warding Off Dogmatization" panel discussion
such as we had at Extro-1.

Omega: <How can we even think we're going to conquer personal death until
we first conquer the death of social systems.>

We attempt to preserve what we love. Too many individuals do not love
social systems because they cannot comprehend how they can maintain their
independence within a system, their behavior defaults to "irresponsible
role-playing." A rejection of all notion of societal duty and authority,
in order to vapidly assert a pseudo-independence, is the dominant Western
worldview conceptual attractor because it takes less energy to fall into,
than the difficult comprehension of what the serious thinkers of the
Renaissance, Enlightenment and Counter-Reformation were directing us
towards. The syncretic philosophy of Pico Della Mirandola pointed toward a
conjunction of the philosophies of Voltaire and Joseph de Maistre that we
have yet to realize. We need to pull ourselves out of the conceptual
doldrums we find ourselves in, regain the trade winds, and spend time and
energy achieving extropic purposes, instead of drifting along day-to-day in
an animal existence. What's new, huh?

Reilly Jones - Reilly@compuserve.com