Thursday, January 1, 2015

A tricky question

I once answered this question:

If you don't believe in choices, and that everything is determined, then why do you try to convince others to "choose" that there is no such thing as choice?

and I felt my answer to be accurate but long winded, and not as to the point as I would have liked, so this a a more clear follow up attempt.  

I started the last post stating this was a good question, but the truth is: this is a terrible question. It is much the same as the question "why can only purple giraffes fly?". There is a trick in here, and to attempt to answer the question is to admit on some level that there are flying giraffes, or that there are "purple" giraffes, which, as far as my understanding of the evidence is concerned, is not the case. 

So in the same vein, to answer this (initial) question is to admit, on some level, that I think people can choose, and therefore contradict myself. The truth is, however, I do try to convince people of my argument, but I do not recognize their actions to do so, or not do so, as a choice. 

I urge the reader to re-read the question. 

"If you don't believe in choices" 

- meaning you cannot conceive of such a thing existing given a logical understanding and an earnest account of the evidence available  - 

"then why do you try to convince others to "choose"" 

- now the questioner has forgotten that you have no conception of choice, or does not care that he/she is contradicting himself/herself - there is now an assumption that you somehow (all of the sudden) know what it means to choose- 

"that there is no such thing as a choice?"

It is within the realm of the question: "If you don't believe in god, why do you pray to him?" This cannot make sense because if  the person truly does not believe in god, then the person cannot pray to god. 

Why do vegetarians only eat lions? Why does Wal-Mart smell like the color purple? How come 8 is great than 15? These are all very stupid questions, and though this particular question does not seem as such at first glance I would like to make it clear that it is, and add it to the stupid-question pile. 

dank je wel,


  1. Wouldn't you writing this post be a choice? I know you say that its a series of reactions or what not... But I feel like your reaction is the initial thought or feeling you got from this question and then you chose to respond to it. Am I correct?

    Travis earl

  2. Hey man. First thanks for reading and replying. You are close to right, but if I am the type of person that at a particular moment, in response to a particular action, or event, am compelled, or risk not being the person that I am, how is this a choice?

    For instance, when you go to wal-mart, do you constantly think to yourself "self...please don't steal anything now, and now, and now, and so on"? Most likely not. Stealing is most likely a thought that never appears in your mind. If that is the case, then how could you "choose" to not steal? And if you haven't "chosen" to not steal, then why aren't you stealing.

    Now lets say you did think about stealing. Are you responsible for that thought appearing? I'm pretty sure you do not think that we are responsible for deliberating our thoughts, as that would require us to pre-think our thoughts, and pre-think our pre-thoughts, and so on. If this is true then you most likely do not hold yourself responsible for when the thought enters your consciousness. So here you are, thinking about stealing. If a thought appears to compel you further, are you choosing, deliberating, your thoughts now? Are you saying that you can do something, no other person can do, something that breaks the rules of logic and physics? I doubt you are.

    If thoughts cannot be deliberated, then we cannot be accountable for our actions further than the record that our fleshy person has been effected and has affected (responded) at this specific point in time. It can never be: this person is outside the whirlwind of cause and effect, and can change the course of actions from a perspective that is outside and not effected by those events and experiences.

    So, take my gratitude as an example. I am genuinely grateful that you read this post. It is not my fault that I feel this. Someone may think "There are only so many things a brother of Travis' could do in response to this feeling at this specific moment in time. Right?" If this was the case, then there would be several actions that I could have "chosen" from. And this is where I think you are thinking everything folds into. The truth is, however, this is not right. There are not "so many things a brother of Travis' could do", there is only ONE thing. One single action, per moment in time, and my doing so shows that all the combating feelings and thoughts culminated into this single action.

    Lets look at this one more way- think of the consciousness as a watcher. The rest of the brain pitches in thoughts. Many thoughts are direct indications of your sensory system: what you see, feel, hear, and so one. They are usually big and bright and capture the bulk of our watcher's attention, but sometimes, other thoughts are bigger and brighter and we don't realize that our leg is bouncing, or that we are scratching some wound we should not be. I may be thinking of some equation, or reading a book, or I'm hungry or tired. I think of these thoughts as players, and the ones that are presented the biggest and the brightest win, and are what deliberate out actions.

    Hope some of this makes sense.