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free will and whether we can ever attain individuality, or whether lack of free will constrains us from ever achieving the individuality that we wish to achieve.
On the one hand, we believe that we are gifted with the ability to choose happiness and liberty would we so wish and create ourselves into the individuals that we believe is necessary for our life's liberty and contentment. On the other hand, certain aspects seem beyond our control. Some are born handicapped and others in ghetto-like poverty. Still others are born in rigid, fundamentalist type backgrounds where they are indoctrinated and socialized in a certain type of thinking that causes them to perceive aspects in a certain way, to judges, a and act accordingly. The question can be extended to any and all, civilizations without going to the extremes of turning to religious or socialist regimes for illustration. After all, we all live in a hub of geo-historical circumstance that makes us revolve on a certain wheel and turn around with the fads and norms of the time. We each grow up with limited brain and judgment, and accordingly judge and decide within a constrained way. The dog has sharper eyesight than us and is able to perceive things that we cannot see. Some people are more intelligent than others and are able to understand and accrue enhanced insight. Is it possible that our conception of free will and panoramas of individuality are just that -- skewed and screwed? May we not be socialized into certain ways of thinking that a priori compel us to go in certain directions? Is it not possible that just as environmental pollution attacks our body without our realizing it, social contamination may do the same? And is it not possible that our mind is 'embedded' and 'embodied' in ways that make it impossible for us to move beyond the social imprisonment? Some people, it is believed, are prisoners of their past. May it not be that we are all prisoners of our respective societies but do not realize it? This essay is an investigation of that possibility taking Nietzsche as an instance of the prophet who assumes that we can separate ourselves from the herd would we so wish and become the superman -- or Individual - that Western society persuades us to become. Others, such as Wegner (2002), on the other hand, assert that free-will is merely an illusion and that, individuality - ipso facto an inference of that fact- is irrevocably beyond our grasp.
As Wegner (2002) describes it there is a difference between the two aspects of conscious will and 'unconscious will'. 'Conscious will' is the condition where the individual consciously willed to do a certain act -- for instance, take a shower and his or her body went through the motions. At times, conscious will is obliterated and impeded by stronger forces where the brain makes the body go askew such as with Dr. Strangelove's example where whilst he lifts on hand, his other hand makes an obscene gesture. We, generally think, and this is the example given by ACT therapy (Hayes & Pierson, 2005 ) that when we will something, e.g. we will to raise our hands, the mind does so likewise. However, there are instances that the person's most arduous attempts to will their hands to raise, their body refuses to follow suit. As for instance when they are paralyzed. This is an instance of 'unconscious will'.
Unconscious will follows to all aspects of our life as for instance evidence that indicates that our appraisals are more automatic and unconscious than we think them to be (Bargh & Chartrand, 1999) . Stereotypes are formed from appraisal. Judgments and actions follow suit. It would be interesting how other realms of our life that we think we control lie under this dominion of controlled fate that is so implicit and indiscernible to us that we, nonetheless, believe that we are masters of our fate.
This essay argues that socialization is one of them.
Arguments for free will
Profound philosophers such as Nietzsche has argued for the propensity of free will. Using dramatic and inspirational rhetoric, Nietzsche has argued that religion has obscured our past closing us in a mesh of proscriptions and prescription limiting our freedom. Few people, he claims can be superman, but the one who manages to torpedo cultural proscriptions and inhibitions and cohere to the Natural Law (namely that which is the way that nature has naturally formed us to be, which lies in tandem with our natural inclinations) can rise above the herd of people and be an individualist.:
For what is freedom? That one has the will to assume responsibility for oneself. That one maintains the distance which separates us. That one becomes more indifferent to difficulties, hardships, privation, even to life itself. & #8230; The human being who has become free -- and how much more the spirit who has become free -- spits on the contemptible type of well-being dreamed of by shopkeepers, Christians, cows, females, Englishmen, and other democrats. & #8230; How is freedom measured in individuals and peoples? According to the resistance which must be overcome (Nietzsche, 1998, 227)
We all wish to be individualistic and much of the American way of life rests on the ability to find our self-identity, to be different, to assert ourselves, know what we want, and make it.
Individuality rests on freewill, is the opposite of the Buddhist perspective of karma, namely fate and is the principle that drives the American belief of the importance of fortitude, the whole enterprise of capitalism, and the distinct quintessential American goal of being an 'entrepreneur'.
Arguments against free will.
We like to believe that we fashion our own destiny, but science seems to demonstrate otherwise. Symptoms such as alien hand syndrome (Dr. Strangeglove's one hand doing the opposite to the other) and other manifestations of brain damage seem to go counter to the possibility of free will (Wegner, 2002).
Hypnotic involuntariness too, according to Wegner (2002), plays an even stronger indicator of lack of free-will where hypnotism prompts the person to do acts that are involuntary to her will. She may for instance wish to raise her hand, but minutes before doing so the hypnotist may feed a command that forces her not to do so. This is reminiscent of the neuroscientific theory of dual mechanisms where for instance the so-called System A causes us to act in an instinctive, largely implicit automatic manner giving in, for instance to our emotions, whilst System B (or System 2) is that of thinking were we think that we act in a conscious and rational manner (Glover, 2004). On the contrary, according to theorists such as Tversky and Kahneman (1974), much of our actions and judgments are controlled by heuristics that lie beyond our control and largely unknown to us.
A perplexing condition that adds to the repository of lack of free will is the situation of 'table turning' where. A group of people sitting around a table and convinced that the table will move due to spirit turning, will find that the table does indeed move in due time. This may however be attributable to 'involuntary action' where people think that they are doing something that they are actually not doing at all (Wegner, 2002).
Given these and many other instances, the idea that we have free will may be simply an illusion as of something posited in our body (per Hume (Wegner, 2002); Gilbert Ryle (1949) may have called it the 'ghost in the machine) that drive us in a certain direction but is in reality not there. The problem is that we only have this one life to live we wish to live it in a certain way, and we may be impeded by mechanism that unconsciously limit us from becoming the type of rational / Nietzschean individual that we wish to be.
In summation, I see these constraining mechanisms as falling into two categories: (a) embodied brains and (b) embedded brains. The first refers to internal mental / cognitive heuristics. The second refers to socialization.
Neuroscientists, famously Tversky and Kahanamen (e.g., 1974), have found that so-thought rational humans are really irrational driven by a certain quantity of mental heuristics that make us perceive the world and others in a certain way and drive us to make decisions in a certain manner. We believe that we form decisions in a pragmatic manner (as per the requirements of the ethical code of Utilitarianism (Mill, 1998), but in reality our decisions are engineered by evolution shortcuts in our brains. Examples of these are my-confirmation where we tend to accept that which accords with our point-of-view and reject that which discords. Naive reality is a similar stimulus where we think that all that conform to us are correct, and others are incorrect. The availability heuristic is one of the most famous where uncommon incidents that occur in…[continue]
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