The self referential problem

If you’ve ever been to a philosophy class, you’ll know that there is one interesting issue about the meaning of existence that is still begging for answers.

This one is about free will, what it means to be in control of yourself, to decide and weather you as a being are deterministic and predictable (in some fashion) or can make choices which can not be determined by any scientific measurement.

Even scientist regularly stray into this area. The more neurology research done; the more we discover how deterministic we really are. Say for instance the amount of the brain dedicated to consciousness (the part most people consider to be the ‘you’). It looks like only small amounts of the brain are under your direct control; while lots of other parts of the brain are seemingly automatic, animalistic.

This puts a lot of people into a terrible problem. We, as animals, like to consider that what we do and how we act is totally under our control. That how we think has some baring on being good, moral, social. That this introspective control separates us from basic self serving animal natures.

Of course this all misses two very important philosophical points:

  1. That as a human being we have free will because we embody the deterministic mind. Our bodies are not attachments of the mental process. This embodiment allows us to be both deterministic and have free will.
  2. That knowing about how we work creates a self referential paradox. We will adjust our actions and motivations based on how we think we work and thus change how we work. Even to prove we’re not deterministic. Think about how many time traveling stories have protagonists deliberately poking and pulling the threads of time to prove that time can be changed (and by extension, the deterministic nature of who we are)

It may be that future scientists will work out some facet of the brain that is inherently quantum in state. But I think we’ll find instead that the quantum effect is not quantum physics, but the quantum nature of self awareness.