Thursday, April 17, 2008


Free will at Pandagon.

A commenter:
... [T]he unconscious is really a bunch of interacting subsystems that may well be at odds with each other, but at some level they have to be come together to form a single choice, and our consciousness is the narrative that reconciles that choice with the inputs driving the subsystems.

I can dig it. What do you think?


  1. You know I basically agree with this. The real question seems to be, how can we change our behavior (and why should we even bother)? If we look at it from the perspective of interacting subsystems processing input, we obviously would need to change the input. Then we get to the not so surprising conclusion that psychologists have born out through research: those of us with more control over our environment are more likely to be happy than those who don't have control.

    The one problem is, as Bertrand Russel points out, "[T]o be without some of the things you want is an indispensable part of happiness."

    Am I way off base with all of this? Enlighten me, oh student of neurology.

  2. You asked, and I am pondering. Well, as far as desiring being a part of happiness, I think it has something to do with the fact that people (as all animals) seem to have a general drive to *do something* (the dopaminergic system). As long as it's functioning to some level, we're going to want to, generally, do things. When we have a need, we take steps to fulfill that need. When we don't have a need, we get all bored and anxious and antsy and stir-crazy. (To give you an idea, if this system is too highly active, it leads to schizophrenia. If it's not functional enough, it leads to Parkinson's.)

    Remember that I am merely a student, though, and if someone out there has a better idea, please listen to them. ;)

  3. The fun thing about 'free will' and 'consciousness' that I didn't address is that bit where you say that people who have more control over their environment are happier. So if our choices are made without what we like to call free will, how can we say that we can control our environment? After all, our choices have in a sense been made for us. By us, certainly. But not with too much conscious oversight involved.

    Interesting, no?

  4. Interesting. Logically, it could mean if we're making choices without realizing them, whenever the environment denies them, we'll get a shot of negative mental energy, even if we don't consciously desire these things. Huxley's Brave New World is looking more and more inevitable every day, eh?