From close by
the sting that hurts you
can be beautiful
- POWER WITHOUT VICTORY.—The strongest cognition (that of the complete non-freedom of the human will) is yet the poorest in results, for it has always had the mightiest of opponents—human vanity
Friedrich Nietzsche, Human all too human, Miscellaneous Maxims And Opinions. Translated By Paul V. Cohn, B.A. New York The MacMillan Company 1913, Free license from Gutenberg.org
- Macht ohne Siege. — Die stärkste Erkenntniss (die von der völligen Unfreiheit des menschlichen Willens) ist doch die ärmste an Erfolgen: denn sie hat immer den stärksten Gegner, die menschliche Eitelkeit.
There is an ongoing discussion among philosophers, psychologists and other interested about the extent of our free will. This is not the place to go into detail about that discussion but reading this aphorism from Nietzsche made me think. Most people think that you have a free will because you can decide to get up, walk to the fridge and get a glass of milk. They also think that they have decide what career they follow and what is written in that presentation. It sure does feel like we do all of those things and depending how you look at it we also do, at least up to a certain extent.
You might have heard of all the research they do these day’s using scans of brain activity, in some of the results it seems that a fraction before you “decide” your brain already “decided” that you are getting up and then it gives you the “feeling” that you want to get up. This is all early stages but philosophers from all over the world for thousands of years where hinting at these findings in theory, now they are capable to see what the brain does when you make a decision.
As a side note: the idea that we have a soul that decides (to get up) separate from the body is already debunked for a couple of hundred years. The soul is a theoretical construct that is not from this earth, the problem is that no one ever came up with a good explanation how this non-thing can interact with the material thing we are made off. It is pretty obvious that we originate in this material we are made of, one proof is that if you remove or alter a part of the brain, certain functions cease to…function, think of brain tumors, trauma and chemical imbalances leading to dementia and schizophrenia for instance.
But let’s say that you feel like you are in control for the most, and maybe that is enough to say that you are. There is still something that drives you to get up and get that glass of milk. It is difficult to explain but I can give an example. I think I read it in a book from Richard Dawkins, someone I can recommend to read if you are interested in this kind of stuff. He gives the example of telling a story in front of an audience; you know the gist of the story, where it comes from and where it ends but the moment you start talking you don’t actively decide what words to use for every word. You don’t go like: “lets begin with the and now sun…no bright sun and now… let me think, shines…yes that’s nice”. That is how you write, not how you talk; you just say what you want to say and every now and then you might stop and think of a fitting word but in general we don’t actively think about every word we are going to say.
I can imagine that most things are like that in our day-to-day life, just observe it in your life, when you talk or walk, how much are you in control, do you say to your leg: go a little to the left and put it there and now twist my hip 3 degrees to counter balance an lift my other heal a little, no of course not, it does it all for you just like your brain does for your thinking…
And Nietzsche might be right in this aphorism, most people have a hard time admitting that most of what we produce is just a result of action and reaction with a pinch of randomness that makes us all unique. Confused?