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Philosophical Conundrums Part 1

October 4, 2008

Here’s a philosophical problem I cannot figure out for the life of me.   It’s times like these when you just have to find some help.  I decided to send an email to the smartest man I know, Littlejohn.


Thoughts On Free-Will


How are you?  I hope all is well.  I have not contacted you in some time because I know you have been busy helping with science projects at the school.  I am doing well, but I have a philosophical problem which has been troubling me for a while, and I was wondering if you might have some insights.  It is regarding free-will, decisions, control over our lives, etc.  I have a “gut instinct” that some sort of freedom exists within man, but when I rationally think it all out, I come to the conclusion that we are not free in any sense.  Let me explain the problem.

Oftentimes we find the state of affairs in this world unsatisfactory.  Imagine if we were to come to God and tell him, “You are not doing things well.”  To this, God replies, “What would you like changed?”  To which we respond, “Our bodies are not well made for the harsh environment we live in.”  God replies, “Fine, I will let you all choose your body.”

Immediately God strips that “divine spark” (“spirit”) from your body, and disconnects you from it.  Then you argue to God, “I do not like this spirit.  I do not want it.”  To this, God says, “Fine, I will remove your spirit as well.”

So now we’re in a situation where we are nothing but a free-will.  We are an undefinable “force” which can “choose”.  Completely undetermined, and free.

God brings out every form and type of body and every possible environment to place it in in front of us.  One body is a lizard, another an alien being with a big head, another a cat, another a cow, another a human female, another a human male, etc.

Upon thinking this over, I first consider that if I was in this bare-bones state of existence, being nothing but a free-will, I would have no preference whatsoever for any of the bodies, nor which environment it’s placed in.  You may think, “I’d want a beautiful body”, but what is beauty?  What we find beautiful as humans is based on our physiology, and various chemicals firing off in our bodies.  You may think, “I’d want a body which is strong”, but what is strength?  That’s relative, and presupposes a desire to do something with the strength.  You may think, “I’d want a body with a quick mind”, but that presupposes that you want to know something, and for some purpose.

It seems to me that the choice of a body by any bare-bones free will put in this situation, for lack of a better way of putting it, would be random.  So I end up “choosing” one of the bodies.

Now that I have a body, “I” could choose an environment which is preferable I suppose, but now the argument steps in whether “I” really chose anything.  The body, by its physiological nature, chose the environment it prefered to be in.  “I” had no preference for an environment without first existing in a body.  Then my “preference”, whatever a preference may be, was the body impelling me to do this action, as opposed to another.

If we were to examine the free-will, which somehow still exists “within” this body, its actions are still supposedly undetermined – not impelled by something telling it what to do.  If that’s so, then it still would have no preference, and for the most part, we can still consider its “decisions” random.

I’ve been pondering this and other thought experiments like it, and I keep coming to the conclusion that freedom does not exist, or at least, I cannot find any sort of satisfactory way of identifying what it is, or how it operates.  I can’t even explain PAST manifestations of decisions, or what they are.

Hope to hear from you soon.  Take care Littlejohn.

– Jason

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