Does free will exist ?

This question has been a subject of numerous philosophical, scientific and religious studies, yet it still raises many arguments as to whether we are free when it comes to determining our own actions. And if we are not, then what makes our actions predetermined ? Likewise, if we do have free will, what is the source of it, or, in other words, if the free will is a consequence, then what is the cause ?

Free will-deniers support the determinist theory, according to which any action of human-beings (as well as other known living beings) is a product of chemical reactions and electromagnetic impulses that occur in their brains. That theory practically views a human as a bio-machine, whose behavior is completely pre-programmed by the nature. Supporters of this theory mainly substantiate it by the results of neuroscientific experiments, such as the experiment conducted by Benjamin Lebet, which, basically, measured brain activity of volunteers in the process of decision making (something as simple as moving a wrist). The results showed that decision awareness and the action of moving a wrist itself are always preceded by the brain activity (he called it the readiness potential) by a several hundreds milliseconds.

And, thus, scientists, who advocate that free will does not exist, usually use the results of this experiment to show that they are absolutely right. However, Benjamin Lebet himself didn’t deem his experiment as a proof of the absence of free-will. On the contrary, he saw the results as a confirmation of the existence of free-will, since volunteers despite incoming brain impulses were able to suppress the urge to act after becoming aware of it. Lebet said that “Human subjects became aware of intention to act 350-400 ms after RP (readiness potential) starts, but 200 ms. before the motor act. The volitional process is therefore initiated unconsciously. But the conscious function could still control the outcome; it can veto the act… The role of conscious free will would be, then, not to initiate a voluntary act, but rather to control whether the act takes place.”

I would, however, argue about the letter part of the statement because this experiment, like many others similar scientific experiments, measured human behavior only on a quite primitive level. Therefore, its results can not be extrapolated to the decision-making process in complex life situations, which would demand performance of many logical operations, as well as compliance with moral categories. In other words, free will includes, but not limited to, the ability to consciously refrain from an act, initiated by the brain impulse.

If we are to come to the right conclusion eventually, it would be a vain attempt to try to comprehend such category as free will by mere scientific experiment. Therefore, we must seek philosophical explanation of this phenomenon rather than merely material one. After all, in a general sense, science is supposed to serve only as a tool for confirmation or refutation of philosophical concepts.

If we assume that will is a power to act, and liberty is a state, in which we are not compelled to act in a certain way, neither we are restrained in our actions, then is it actually possible to have free will ? In fact it is possible, but the capacity to be free is different for every individual. Here I agree with a French philosopher Voltaire, who wrote in his “Dictionnaire philosophique” (1764) that “The word «liberty», «free-will»,” is therefore an abstract word, a general word, like beauty, goodness, justice. These terms do not state that all men are always beautiful, good and just; similarly, they are not always free.”

In that case human’s own actions serve as a criteria that defines the capacity for freedom. On a more esoteric level it means that when one’s actions do not violate the laws of the Universe, that capacity naturally increases. However, more often than not ignorance and other vices lead to wrong actions, hence preventing the growth of free will. Another citation of Voltaire from “Dictionnaire philosophique” agrees with that statement: “In what sense then must one utter the phrase-” Man is free “? in the same sense that one utters the words, health, strength, happiness. Man is not always strong, always healthy, always happy. A great passion, a great obstacle, deprive him of his liberty, his power of action.”

Therefore the amount of free will that a person has at a given moment depends on the nature of his/her previous actions, and the amount of freedom a person will have in the future is defined according to the present actions of that person.

Advertisements

Misconception about Satan (Devil)

 

I want to share my thoughts with regard to the conception of the Devil (or Satan) which exists among many people (mainly related to abrahamic religions) throughout the world. For centuries the figure of Satan has served as personification of all hidden fears that exist in minds and souls of men and women. It is said even that Fallen Angle is responsible for initial fall of first people (Adam and Eve) according to ancient Jewish and Christian scripts. He is often perceived as a serpent, the great deceiver and seducer, who has distinct demonic qualities and appearance.

However there is a great misconception about the figure of  “Devil”. I believe that it has its roots in psychology of human-beings. As everyone in this world suffers in one way or another, in the course of time people found esoteric “explanation” to their sufferings, which was nothing else but the embodiment of evil – Satan.

But the thing is the nature of this world itself causes sufferings of different kinds (all people have to undergo birth, deceases, old age and death; and there is no way to escape those states). Since living-being comes into this world by its own will in order to fulfill its wishes through senses gratification, we can conclude that human-being is itself the source of its sufferings in this world.

But human’s psychology is complicated, and that idea is not easily accepted (more often than not this idea remains out of conscious grasp). There must be someone or something else, who causes us to suffer, otherwise we would be living in a paradise, – is a typical model of thinking of such people. Thereby, the concept of devil appeared as an attempt to project human’s weakness on someone else.

Let’s consider main reasons that may prove this point of view. I rely on rational thinking and Vedic knowledge (as I consider this kind of knowledge superior).

The first important aspect is view of Satan as someone who works ultimately for things considered evil to happen. Thereby he is viewed as someone who always aims at vitiating all good things in this world. But here is one of the most simple and beautiful truths – all things in this world work together for good eventually. Whether one can see it or not, things have always been that way, and always will be. Only a weak mind, veiled by a strong ego considers that there is some absolute evil, that spoils lives of people and creates disharmony.

Another important thing to understand is that there is no one equal to God or better than him. Satan in abrahamic religions is often depicted in such a way that it is implied that he opposes God. In fact no one is able to act against God’s will eventually, since he is in everything and everything is in him. He is a source of everything, be it an insect or a mighty demon.

It is well known that Satan is associated with planet Saturn. Some people might even argue that the concept of Satan itself emerged from the perception of Saturn as a very malicious and frightening celestial body. Satan is often portrayed with horns and goat legs, which are distinctive features of the Capricorn, one of the twelve astrological signs, ruled by Saturn.952360-saturn

Saturn indeed is deemed the most malefic planet both in western and Vedic astrology. This is because it is a planet of fears, restrictions, delays, boundaries (remember those rings around it), death and even time itself. Thinking about all those things, it becomes clear why most people are so afraid of influence of Saturn. And from this point of view it is so easy to make Saturn an embodiment of evil.

But it appears that Saturn is very much misunderstood, for he is not a Satan, but a great life preceptor. His lessons well may be harsh and very unpleasant often times, but they have as their ultimate goal to make us learn the reality of life. Saturn operating in our lives through its periods (dasas in Vedic astrology), returns (approximately every 29.5 years complete circle around the Sun) and transits teaches us detachment, equanimity, perseverance, discipline, kindness and forgiveness. It breaks our ego, making us humble and spiritual. Now you probably start seeing how great Saturn is. Saturn is a planet of silence and it is only when we are in silence, in present moment we are able to connect to our inner self and God. That is what “Satan” wants from us. Saturn is also the main karmic planet and its task is to help us fulfill our karma, so we may get out of this circle of life and death.

But if a person commits bad deeds in his or her life, egoistic, doesn’t follow dharmic path and is materialistic by nature, then Saturn will certainly give severe lessons to such person.

Thus it is obvious for me, that there is no Devil or Satan as it exists in minds of millions of people and on pages of religious books. However in a certain sense “Satan” may exist within us, and indeed he does exist within many people who are demonic by nature, who live exclusively for sense gratification, who have forgotten their true nature and who are not willing to accept God.