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Monday, October 30

Free Willy

This has been a weekend of movies. Totally not included in the list of movies was the one about the whale. Incidentally, I think that not enough is made of the way that movie titles are translated into other languages. For instance, Jaws was translated into French as, literally, "The Great White Shark". Not as catchy. I have a theory that some movies are just translated literally, rather than given a neat title. For instance, The Sixth Sense is probably translated as "The small boy who sees a dead Bruce Willis", and Fight Club is probably "The insomniac has hallucinations about his split personality".

Anyway, movies seen this weekend include:
  • The Longest Yard - an american prison/american-football comedy... trying far too hard
  • The Island - a blockbuster with Ewan MacGregor with one or two too many holes in the plot - it was quite good fun, though.
  • Little Miss Sunshine - we managed to see this at a cinema in London, despite having missed its general release back in September. This was a corker of a movie - very funny indeed.
  • The Stepford Wives - a mediocre treatment of a classic story. I was occasionally vaguely amused. I missed the end and it didn't matter.
  • One Hour Photo - a curious psychological thriller without a massive denouement. Robin Williams played the pathos and tension reasonably well.

And that was a weekend of watching things.

I also contemplated free will vs determinism. If there's to be free will, then it suggests that the entity is making choices. In order to make a choice, there must be a conditioning of what is preferred. This conditioning comes from one's entire experience - learning what's right and wrong, what you like and don't like. Since we don't have the choice over everything we've experienced up until now, does that not mean that our response is, itself, not composed of our actual will, but, instead, of things external. In other words, just because I'm sitting here writing this doesn't mean that I ACTUALLY decided to do it as much as I BELIEVED it to be my choice, owing to the personality I've developed as a result of my entire life experience. Since I have only had a limited amount of influence over what's happened to me in my life, and since the influence I've chosen to exert was, itself, a product of how I felt at the time... well, surely I have never had free will?

In other words, what's the point!?

If reading this has just collapsed your concept reality, don't worry. It was meant to be.


Blogger Al Dawes said...

I disagree, free will is to make choices, or more commonly refuse to make a choice, which then affects the next choice.

You don't decide to become an overweight divorced engineering manager with £10k of debt, but you are allowed to make the series of choices that got you there.

1:32 PM  
Blogger Ashley Frieze said...

But how do you know your own mind? How do you make your first ever choice? In my opinion, the reason we believe ourselves to decide things is because we have a series of learned responses to our environment, which we learn from birth. We're conditioned by our parents and maybe our genes, to act a certain way. We have a sense of right and wrong, dictated by society, religion, our own experience and so on.

On a sub-atomic level, we have a series of electrons doing things within our brain, obeying the laws of physics and the universe. We have absolutely no control over any of these pre-conditions. So, sure, at some point, you might distinctly feel like you're making a choice to act in a certain way, and you know that you could have chosen to act otherwise at that point too. However, all of the things which provide you with the ability to make your choice are, in fact, things in your past over which you've had no control. Not only that, but your belief that you're making a choice, could easily be an illusion, intended by nature to mask the fact that everything is predetermined by the laws of physics.

In other words, genuine free will presupposes a whole bunch of mystical shit that I can't easily believe.

1:41 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

As Descartes said, "I think therefore I am" (it's so much easier to be pretentious when you can check your facts on Google :-)

In other words, what difference does it make whether you have free will or if everything is preordained by your genetic programming and past experiences? So long as you BELIEVE you have a choice, it doesn't really matter whether you're right or not

7:29 AM  
Blogger Ashley Frieze said...

Of course my comments are based on a deterministic viewpoint of the universe. It may be the case that the universe can't be deterministic, since to be deterministic, there must be a single state at point X from which all events at points Y onwards are determined. To establish the actual single state in the universe in the first place would appear to contravene some of the principles of quantum physics, which suggests that the universe can't be singularly deterministic. In other words, that which I believe to be my conscious is itself an illusion in the current place in the universe I may happen to find myself. Perhaps free will is the way of describing my resulting appearance at this particular permutation of possibilities.

For more see Free Will at Wikipedia.

1:17 PM  

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