I have been wondering upon my facility for outrage recently as I appear to have passed through several months without anything really incensing me. In fact, in terms of these blog posts, the last post detailing an occasion that measured as highly as this on my Outrage Richter Scale (ORS) was the Madonna adoption blog I suspect.
But it seems this week is the week for outrage blogs, so I will add to frenzy too!
So what is this occasion that registers a clear 6 on the ORS, Natalie? You say.
Free will. Or the [mis]conception of. I reply.
And to elaborate, the difference of opinion on the issue of: can we control our emotional responses to circumstance?
It was posed to me that we CHOOSE our emotional responses. We can CHOOSE to be happy, sad, angry etc. when an emotive circumstance presents itself.
If my mother dies, I CHOOSE to be grief-stricken...apparently.
(that was the crunch moment when my gauge started its incline)
And not just grief. Any emotion in fact. WE CHOOSE to respond to Incident/Cause A with Emotion A or Emotion B or Emotion C.
I of course have to dwell on what this would say about love.
And I have have never yet met anyone who able to MAKE themselves fall in love. Indeed the mere expression itself connotes the fact that it is an unintentional, uncontrolled occurrence.
Or rage. In what circumstance could someone sit and say ‘And now, I choose to be enraged’ You simply can’t FORCE an emotion. You feel it/ it is there – or it isn’t. You can’t force a feeling that isn’t there.
Philosophers have spoken about free will for generations; most of us have a deep conviction that we live our lives with “free will”. Free will, hard to define, but loosely in the sense of a human beings’ faculty for making and acting on reasoned choices.
Ignoring for the moment issues action choices (i.e. when a cause C event happens – can we REALLY ever be said to have CHOSEN action A or action B – and whether is it not instead the case that whether A or B ensues, it was NECESSITATED by who you are and the forces acting upon you at the time of your ‘choice’. No free will at work – only an inevitable outcome caused by who we are. You can’t avoid doing other than what you end up doing. You are the person you currently are and cannot respond in any other way unless you were to be someone other than you.) for now let us just deal with emotions. Because to me self-determinism in respect of emotions is even more self-evident a truth self-determinism in respect of actions.
Emotional responses are utterly beyond our control. Emotions present themselves to us as ‘knee-jerk’ reactions. When Cause A occurs – emotions do not sit on a waiting bench within us to be called up when the being owning them decides which emotional response he would like to carry out. Emotional responses are immediate – they AUTOMATICALLY ensue from A. The response occurs spontaenously –the emotion is nothing more than a mechanical reaction.
To say that you could have felt, or acted otherwise, is a fallacy. We can’t do anything other than what we end up doing, our behaviour and emotion is utterly determined by circumstances and biology i.e who we are. In a same molecule-for-molecule situation, we would always respond in the same way – why would or could anything else change it?
If this were not the case – where does the ‘part’ that makes a different choice or response come from – where does it sit? If not in the mind – the genes the molecules, then where? A supernatural element, a ghost in the machine?
And if this supernatural or ‘other non-biological, circumstances’ based element exist – how does it make its choices? Utter chance? Random chaos. How is that then a free choice?
Some quotes from guys thinking about lack of freedom in respect of emotion:
“You are free to do what you want, but you are not free to want what you want” Arthur Schopenhauer
“I suppose it’s possible that you might have acquired this want because you wanted to. It’s theoretically possible that you had a want to want to have a want. But this is very hard to imagine, and the question just rearises: where did THAT want come from? You certainly can’t go on like this forever. At some point your wants must be given. They will be products of your genetic inheritance and upbringing that you had no say in. In other words, there’s a fundamental sense in which you did not and cannot make yourself the way you are” Galen Strawson
For more discussion on Self-determinism – check out Steven L Converse: ‘Free Enough: Doing what come naturally’... who I plagiarised pretty much everything from...
Except for my outrage. That was determined ;)