Why do we make the decisions we do? Economists dedicate an entire branch to this topic and somewhere in there John Nash is involved as well.
Treating this from a more whimsical/philosophical perspective, let’s consider the neuroscience behind it all. Biologically speaking – free will doesn’t exist. The only possible option allowing for free will would be metaphysical, in that it is exogenous either given to us or existing inherently but free of our biological components. Given how that line of reasoning leads to a very “god did it” argument, let’s ignore that entirely. Biologically – no free will. Deal with it.
As this video shows – an external third party can predict your actions up to 6 seconds before you actually consciously make the decision to perform the action. Not even the action itself. But the mere choice of making the action can be predicted 6 seconds prior. In most worlds 6 seconds is a long time. That was the amount of time needed to create the ENTIRE GENRE OF DRUM AND BASS. That was the length of time between Armstrong looking at the ground and making his first step on extra-terrestrial soil.
We live very deterministic existences, and that’s a little daunting. What does that say about accountability though? Can you really be held accountable for anything you say, do or believe because of the pre-determined nature of.. well.. everything?
Social responsibility is something we practice on a daily basis. We consciously observe certain rules and social norms. We’re bent upon behaving in a certain way to alter, maintain or create a certain persona through which society observes and ultimately – judges us. Or atleast, what we think is conscious. What we are in fact doing is just behaving the way we’ve been brought up, using the experiences we’ve picked up along the way with the myriads of influences. We collect all past information available to us and accordingly act. Hence any new or novel output we create – will simply be regurgitation of past input. Like monkeys in a room with typewriters, writing Shakespere.
Provided we accept that free will is untrue, why do we continue living our lives as if it is? Why do we feel a sense of responsibility – attachment – guilt or even accomplishment? Is it because we have been taught to feel these emotions like Pavlov’s dogs or are they inherently available? Being a non-scientist layman in such matters I would argue both.
Much of the animal kingdom observes social responsibility and plenty of emotions that come with it. And this is a world we’ve always considered to be completely deterministic to an extent. Religions and philosophies of old treated/treat animals as non-sentient beings who are doing what they are ingrained to do, through sheer instinct.
and the differing factor was that we aren’t like them. We can choose.
This illusory nature of choice is perhaps evolutionary consolation. The ability to control your situation and surroundings and more importantly your actions are ultimately what keep you sane and functioning. If we were to physically extract the notion of choice and free will from our societies, would we function as we did with that notion since it was but an illusion? That would prove an interesting (thought) experiment.
because whatever you choose,
you were going to anyway.