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Dustin LindenSmith

father | musician | writer

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jjjiii was asking me about free will

I replied: I used to wrestle all the time with what I perceived to be my 'weak will,' especially with respect to my eating habits and exercise. But personally, I think that if we try to exert too much influence over the natural flow of things (i.e. exert our will), we risk the chance of imposing our own personal, immature desires on what is already perfect in and of itself (i.e. the world). So yeah, at one level, we obviously have free will to do as we like, but at another, there's a deeper intelligence to every moment that we can align ourselves with through a quiet listening, and not through exercising our wills.

For example, I wish George W. Bush would stop exercising his will so much. The world could stand a break from his will power.

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jjjiii December 2nd, 2002
No offense, but I think you kindof sidestepped what I was getting at. I don't mean that in a bad way; as you said, you thought about it for a long time, and sometimes long trains of thought end up going on detours through interesting parts.

But to get back on track, I wasn't addressing the issue of whether people *should* exercise their free will, but whether people *had* a free will to begin with (and, in turn, if this "property" of "having" a free will ultimately *means* anything in terms of judging a person).

Your guru said that judging people based on their actions was like rolling rocks down a slope and judging how good of a rock they were based on where they ended up resting. But (and perhaps this is something that seems obvious to some people, whereas for others it may be equally obvious that the opposite is the case) it seems to me that there's a major difference between a rock and a person. People are self-influencing systems to a far greater degree than rocks are.

Rocks are primarily and nearly exclusively influenced by outside events, and have only a few inherent properties about them (such as their mass, density, hardness, etc.) that influence what happens to them when external forces act upon them, and no capacity whatsoever to alter those inherent properties on their own. People are much more capable of self-motivation and self-modification.

This doesn't even begin to get into the issue of whether people should exercise their free will, assuming they are in fact free-willed, or any questions pertaining to particular methods or goals that people ought to be mindful of when exercising their will. Those are excellent questions in their own right and are very fertile fields for thought, but they're the next step, to be completed after the determination of whether people are willing beings or unwilled objects.

(Obviously, I think they are willing beings, but perhaps not so obviously, I think that there is a far more complex reality underlying this superficially simple conclusion. It actually has a lot to do with Chaos theory and what I like to call "logic tornadoes".)

In one sense, your guru has a profound point, in that, by exercising the will, a person becomes no less or no more of a person, insofar as their personhood may be called into question. Yet, we may still impose moral judgements on that person. We don't say "the rock who fell upwards is unrocklike" but we might well say "That rock should not have fallen upwards and I can't understand for the life of me why it did." It's certainly still is a rock, that much isn't called into question. And this isn't really much of an moral quagmire, either, but rather a physical anomality (but that's in keeping with the analogy, I suppose). But for a person doing the analogous person-equivalent of falling upward, I suppose that there might well be a moral judgment that could be made (thought it could just as well be the case that "falling upward" might have happened for completely other reasons having nothing to do with the indiviudal's will.

See what I'm getting at?

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