choices doors free will
The great free will debate has raged for generations. But now we live in a world where the establishment intellectuals either deny freedom's existence completely, or tacitly accept it but can't adequately explain it. One poll showed that more than 40% of Americans didn't believe in free will. Given how fundamental free will is to everything about our lives - from our interactions with loved ones to our intellectual and career activities, and our legal systems - this is a scary thought.

Materialists will often cite finger-tapping experiments as evidence that free will doesn't exist. The brain shows signs of activity before subjects are consciously aware that they are going to move their fingers. But as Jordan Peterson and others have pointed out, this is not the only (or the best) interpretation of the data.

Today on the Truth Perspective, we take a look at Professor Peterson's recent defense of free will and share our thoughts on what free will is and isn't, and why it makes no sense to deny a certain type of freedom of will.

Tune in this Saturday, May 26, at noon Eastern Standard Time, and find out if you're a completely controlled automaton, an unlimited divine being, or just a regular part of creation with some degree of freedom and a whole lot of limitations.

Running Time: 01:40:17

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Here's the transcript of the show:

Harrison: Hello everyone. Welcome back to The Truth Perspective. It is Saturday, May 26. I'm your host, Harrison Koehli and joining me today as usual are Elan Martin.

Elan: Hello Everyone.

Harrison: And Corey Schink.

Corey: Hello.

Harrison: Today we are going to be talking about freewill. One of the reasons that we thought about this as a topic was that we're all fans of Jordan Peterson and in his latest patreon Q&A that he does on YouTube, the first question was a question about freewill and what he thought about it. I know personally when I saw it I thought it was a refreshing take to hear someone who hasn't really bought into the materialist rejection of any sort of freewill.

He gets into a few interesting details about the idea and the experience of free will so we're going to be talking about free will in general and we'll play what Peterson says about it and then comment on that because I think we can take it in even a few more directions that he goes with it.

Of course when we're talking about free will we have to wonder what we're really talking about so we're going to discuss some various conceptions of freewill. We're not going to get into the boring, dry philosophy that you can read because a lot of it is just that. It's like reading old bureaucratic reports of really boring stuff. So we're just going to try to keep it at the level of everyday experience with just enough analytical rigor to make it make sense and to not just be talking plain common sense.

Maybe to start out with before we play some of Peterson's response and reply to it, maybe some first impressions of what is free will and if you think you have it or not. What do you guys think?

Corey: I think that's where I wanted to start out with when we first discussed this topic, was to try and personalize it in terms of 'do I have free will' because, like you said, when you take this topic, it can be bureaucratic and for the most part it often seems like it's been bleached of anything interesting. Looking back on my own life I thought do I have freewill and looking on the experiences that I know from my family, I thought do they have freewill. And thinking about what we know about nature and what we know about physics and how determined it seems like our lives are, the little bit of wiggle room that we have in order to make decisions and flex our freedom, it seems like that is the driving force behind a lot of what I do and a lot of what my family members and people that I know do to exercise that in some way. Even if it is just an illusion, at least we think we have it. We believe we have it and that's what we live for.

Elan: It's all about choice and it's all about seeing choices where they exist and where they don't exist. I found this talk by Peterson, which isn't very long but is pretty dense, a great breakdown of the framework in which we make choices. I think that there will be a lot of implications and practical ways of thinking about this that we'll get into here. It is an important topic. It's not something that we think of usually as such but like you were saying Harrison, this is something that we're going to bring to a very practical level I think and hopefully there's some utility to it in what we discuss today.

Harrison: I think at a very basic level, at its most practical, there is something important to be said about whether you believe you have free will or you don't. If you do, that seems to open up possibilities for your future. If you believe you don't have any free will then you're either not going to try, you're either just going to do what you do with no real planning or future goals or aims, or you're going to be making those future goals and aims and acting as if you have free will while convincing yourself that you don't in which case you might as well have multiple personality disorder because one part of you believes one thing and the other believes the other and the two don't meet. The two don't make any kind of contact with each other and you're just living a total contradiction.

Corey: Just being human beings, it seems like we're at the stage where freewill starts. Maybe there is the potential to wrestle with free will and to actually experience it and to use it in reality because determinism, the idea that since everything in the physical universe has a cause and effect and therefore the determinists believe that since we're a part of that universe we cannot act otherwise than what we do, that argument seems to me somewhat circular because it's saying that you don't have free will because you can't have freewill. But that's the problem; if you do have free will, if there is free will, then that doesn't necessarily hold because there is a little bit of room for you to act otherwise than what the physical universe determines for you to act.

Harrison: At least that's one of the inescapable presumptions of life. No one acts as if they can never do otherwise. Everyone always acts as if they could do otherwise. There's always that possibility at the very basic level of consciousness. In fact as Peterson will hint at, it may be basic to consciousness. Anyway, let's get to the video, but before we do, get a couple of things out of the way before we get in because there are a few terms we should look at, just very briefly.

First of all, freewill. What does it mean to be free as opposed to what does it mean to be determined to have everything causally determined. Of course a totally free choice would be probably by definition not influenced by anything, not determined by anything else but whatever is the free being, whatever your consciousness is or whatever consciousness is free, will not be influenced by anything. Maybe at the very beginning we can say that that's a pretty dumb idea because what human is not limited by anything? That's ridiculous. We've got bodies. We're in a world where there's gravity, where there's air.

We're limited by so many factors just biologically. If you think about all the levels of chemicals or nutrients that foster life and if you step out of any of those bounds then you die. That can be temperature or oxygen content in the air you breathe. You are limited by your environment to a great extent, just biologically. And of course then there's all the things going on inside your body that you're limited by or that influence you. So you might be hungry and you might be "hangry" {laughter} and that might influence the decisions that you make and the way that you interact with others.

Just using an extreme example, you go out into space without a space suit on and your free will is going to be not worth a damn because you're going to be dead. You're not going to be able to do anything with your body. So very simply, by definition the only being that could be truly free would be a being that is omnipotent and omnipotence has traditionally been ascribed to the traditional conception of god, at least in the monotheistic religions; a being that is all powerful, that has all the power, that can do anything and not be limited by anything. We won't get into that today because that's a subject for another show but needless to say, I think that's kind of a dumb idea. We'll be getting into why in future weeks. But none of us are omnipotent and none of us will be truly free.

Now where is freedom? We'll be getting into that to see what can we actually be free about in our lives? What aspect of who we are and what we do is free and what is limited? And can we expand our freedom and limit our limitations or can we make use of our limitations if we know them and find the opportunities that those limitations provide. So that might be a good goal for today's show, to figure out all those things for once and forever and to be set for life. {laughter} Well anyway, here's the first couple of minutes of Peterson's response on the topic of freewill.

JP: Could you please discuss free will and Sam Harris' and others' ideas of its non-existence? Well that's a good complicated question to kick things off. I want to tell you a little bit about how to conceptualize freewill I think first because it's obvious that we don't have infinite freewill. Our choices are constrained in all sorts of ways. I think part of the reason that there's a continual discussion about freewill in the philosophical literature is because just conceptualizing the issue properly is extraordinarily difficult.

So I like to think about it, at least in part, the way that you think about a game. If you're playing a game, obviously the game has rules. So if it's a chess game or a basketball game then there are things that you can do and things that you can't do. It's a closed world in some sense but the fact that there are things you can't do when you play a game also seem to open up a universe of possibilities for things that you can do.

Chess obviously constrains you to a board and to a certain number of men and to a certain pattern of rules but the strange thing is when you put in those rules - because rules sound like limits, they sound always like things you can't do - but when you set up a constrained world like that and you lay out a system of rules, what you do is open of a near infinity of possibilities. Same with music. Music has rules obviously. And if you follow the rules then you can make an infinite variety of music.

So there's a very interesting dynamic that's hard to understand, between constraint and possibility. There's a deep idea that's associated with that, that I read in some Jewish commentary on the biblical stories that I read a long time ago talking about the relationship between god and man and the idea was that god - imagine a being with the classical attributes of god, omniscience, omnipotence and omnipresence - all seeing, all knowing and all powerful - what does a being like that lack? Obviously the answer is nothing right, because by definition those three traits provide for absence of limitation. But then that's exactly what's lacking is limitation.

There's some strange connection between limitation that's rule-governed, as I mentioned before, and the opening up of possibility. Determinism and limitation aren't exactly the same thing but they're analogous and they need to be discussed together.

Okay, so that's the first thing, is that whatever our free choice is, it's deeply limited.

Harrison: Okay, that's Peterson's first point. We basically covered that right before he said it. It's almost as if we'd heard it before! This is actually something I've seen discussed and read about and thought about for years on the topic of free will, this idea of limitation and where the limits are and what freedom might actually be able to achieve within those limits.

Now Peterson mentioned music and chess as an example that's analogous to the situation we find in looking at freedom. I think the overarching category of all those things is to get into information theory, without getting too in depth or technical about it, if we just use another form of information which is language. It's the same thing where we have a very constrained set of, first of all, sounds that we make with our vocal cords and then another constrained set of words or combinations of those sounds.

You can have any number of sounds. Let's just take 30 as a starting point. Of course there's 30 actual sounds. We could probably have even more sounds. There are sounds, for example in English that we don't use, that are used in other cultures. That's why it's hard for English speakers to learn some other languages and vice versa because not all sounds are used in all languages. But with the sounds that we do have we can take those 30 sounds in different combinations, in different lengths of words. That gives us words. Then we can string those words together in sentences.

When you make words and you imagine all the possible combinations of those 30 sounds, you're going to get a potentially infinite amount of combinations because you can have one syllable words, two syllable words, three syllable words, all the way up to, if you wanted, a 3,764-syllable word. It would be totally inconvenient but it's at least theoretically possible.

So we have a very constrained set of words out of the total set of possible words. Then when you have sounds and words then you can get sentences and there's an infinite number of sentences. We can never exhaust the number of sentences that we can possibly create. But it's all with 30 sounds. So it's just like a game or with music where you have a set of limitations that opens up near or actual infinite possibilities. So within those rules there's still all kinds of things that you can do and that seems to be how freewill works. Peterson will make this point a couple of times that what consciousness does at its most basic level is to see those possibilities, to encounter, to somehow perceive those possibilities and then to choose one and manifest that one possibility.

And if you think about it, that's what you do whenever you're speaking. If you're thinking about what you want to say, you have an idea of what you want to say and then while you're saying it there's almost an observer comparing what you are saying to what you want to say and say "Oh, that's not what I was going for. No I wanted to say another word" or "I wanted to go in that direction but I'm going in this direction. I'm going to have to somehow come back to what I wanted to say." "What was that I wanted to say?" I can't remember and then it comes back and you think about "Oh yeah, that's what I wanted to say so now I'm going to say it now but first I have to say this?"

It's a very complex procedure just speaking because you have to remember what you've just said. Sometimes you have to remember just a few words before what you said but also several sentences back and even in some conversations, what you said years ago. It's like "Oh we've been having this conversation for years and it started here and I thought we got to this point but maybe I've forgotten, maybe you've forgotten". So there's a whole field of memory that comes into play but also a whole field of projection into the future of what you to say, how to get there and then what specific selections to make out of that set of possibilities that can get you there. And like I said, that's just one example of a very broad framework of information and you can apply that to anything, any process that goes on, to any human activity and pretty much anything that goes on in the physical world, I think you could make the argument for that.

Corey: In his book Man and Symbols Carl Jung discusses that whole dynamic between constraint and freedom and adventure and security as being its fundamental basis and initiation, that that's what human society and the rites of initiation represent, just that ambivalence we feel between freedom and between the constraints and the necessity to learn all along the way how to face the future, how to bring about the desired future that you have, within this constrained system, using all of the tools that you have at your disposal. That in and of itself is in some ways, some sort of initiation whether it's a heroic initiation or other.

For a lot of us it's just you choose a job and then once you get in there you chose this job or you chose someone to marry and then once it's all said and done you live with the consequences of your decision and all along the way you're changed until there's another opening, another system, whether it's having a child or it's getting a promotion. The choices that you make all along that process will initiate you into this next level of information, this next level of learning that you need to go through.

Elan: And there's another component that all this reminds me of. We largely take for granted all of the rules and things that affect our choices towards the future. All of these things may be largely unconscious. So bringing into consciousness, bringing into awareness the parameters, the bed from which we decide to go in certain directions, in effect helps us to move forward and make choices where we may not even see choices.

Peterson gets into that a little bit and maybe we can continue with that.

Harrison: Yeah, let's play point number two.

JP: Here's another thing. If I take my arm and I go like this, I'll do that again. {bent arms right above left with fists, brings right fist quickly down to almost touch left fist} There's a movement like that and then my hand stopped just before my other hand. Now it takes a certain amount of time for the neural messages to go from my brain to my arm and back and the time it takes my hand to go like this {lower right hand toward left hand below} and stop is actually shorter than the time it takes a message to get to my brain and back.

So what that means is that when I plan this movement which is called a ballistic movement because it's like a bullet - once you let it go it's gone, there's no calling it back - I've actually organized the neurological and muscular sequences that enable that action. Before it's implemented I set all that up and then it's released and the whole thing cascades.

So once the action has been released, let's say, then I don't really have any freewill because I can't stop it. If you think about that, it looks like there's a temporal gradient with regards to freewill, that as you look out into the future, perhaps the farther out you look into the future, the farther down the road let's say, the more free your choices are.

But the closer they get to implementation the more they become deterministic, governed by standard causal processes and there's some transition point where they change from being what we would describe as choice - we haven't gotten to free choice yet, but at least to choice - there's some transition point between that and ballistic movement.

Elan: This is probably one of the most important points I think that Peterson makes and that is that when we have a wider view of our choice, especially as it exists in time and looking towards the future, where we have the ability to act in the present for the sake of future circumstances, for future conditions, we're less constrained by circumstances to make a choice right now with less freedom. I think we do this all the time. We decide we're going to take a part-time job and maybe take classes or do something a year from now and because we have that distance we're able to act in the present for what we'd like to do in the future. We afford ourselves effectively, more freewill. So I think that's one way to apply part of the point that he's making here.

On the other hand, if you've ever felt under the gun by circumstances in your life that just rush upon you, where you're subject to forced choices in the moment, it becomes a lot more difficult to navigate.

Harrison: That's partly because you don't see all the options available to you. When you just get saddled with something that just pops up out of nowhere, Peterson would call that an encounter with chaos, with a dragon. When you are put into that state of shock you might only see one or two possibilities. "Okay, I can only do this or this", even if you think about it for a minute. But if you were in a calmer state of mind and you were thinking about that scenario, if you were visualizing it and walking through it, you'd say "Okay, what are my options, really?"

Then with more awareness of the situation you could theoretically think of an infinite number of possible choices in that scenario, whatever it is. Some might be similar to others than others but there's a range of possibility that you don't see in that split second because in that split second you're pushed into automatic mode where you're just running on habitual learned or instinctive processes. You're just going into default mode now because you don't have the mental capacities at the moment to deal with it. "So we're just going to shut off the brain for a second and just put you in fight or flight mode. So run!" And then your body just takes over and you run.

You yourself have very little control over that. You may have some degree of control over it but less control than you have about let's say planning a course of action over the next year. You've got a lot of freedom to plan that course of action. Now where the limitation comes is the influences you encounter either within or from without that then force you to modify or change that plan as you go.

Elan: Right.

Harrison: Did you have anything to finish your thought?

Elan: Just by way of a cinematic analogy.

Harrison: I like that.

Elan: This reminded me a lot of Neo in Matrix Reloaded who by the end of the film is confronted with this choice that he's given by the Architect. We've all seen it but I think it's one of the penultimate scenes in the story where he's looking at all these screens of all the other Neos who had to make the same choice in the past - so called - who've reacted emotionally to the reality that they've been presented with by the Architect because there have been all these previous Neos.

He makes a different choice, a very calm choice that he's able to make because he's calm and it's in service to his own destiny and the destiny of everybody he cares about. So it's a wonderful scene, but let's continue on unless you have any other points on that.

Corey: No, I just thought that was interesting, when you bring up the idea of destiny, this internal higher goal that a person can have, that they can mould to the best of their abilities their own behaviour towards, I think that's fundamental to the idea of having freewill because in terms of the reasons that we give for doing things, a lot of it is instinctual and probably 95-99% of it is automated by our evolutionary past behaviour.

In philosophy there's an interesting term called the specs which is modelled on this experiment about a wasp. Scientists watched this wasp. She went into her burrow. She carried food up to her burrow and then she would go into her burrow to check it out and make sure no other insects were in there then she'd come back out to get her food but the scientists had mischievously taken her food and moved it back away from the burrow. So then she would go up, get the food again, bring it back to the edge of the burrow, go back inside, check to make sure there was nothing there and then come back to get her food but they had moved it.

They repeated this process about 40 times and she had no inkling whatsoever, the poor wasp. She was just doing what she's programmed to do, very rationally programmed by nature, all of these different complex behavioural repertoires that are necessary for survival. But we have that in our nature as well. A lot of us have a certain speciousness which is malleable but at the same time when we think of that wasp we think "How could that take place in my life on the level of civilization?" How many times has the food been moved away and then we just keep going back to get it again? How many times are we fooled, morally speaking, or tricked or lied to and we believe it and we repeat the same behaviours over and over again.

We do have this specious quality but for some of us you think there is an element within us, that we go through periods of confusion. Like you said, Jordan Peterson says we meet the chaos, we meet the unknown and we are forced to re-evaluate on some deeper level, unconscious but with a conscious guiding process, to figure out what our own goals are, what our own values are, what we will do in order to make life better for ourselves and others in order to make life tolerable. And through that process, that disintegrative process we come up with higher goals. It seems like it's basically like the structure for our freewill. That's what's the backbone. That's when we get that spine.

Now, rather than saying "I'm going to go to McDonalds or I could eat organic food. Either way, who cares? We're all going to die in the end", now there's a driving force. Now there's a reason; truth or well-being. That was what came to mind when I thought about destiny in terms of what you're saying.

Elan: So Corey, in that, you just mentioned an interesting term. You said disintegrative process. Do you want to just explain a little bit about what you meant there?

Corey: Well I think Harrison probably would know a lot more about it than I would.

Harrison: It's just when things fall apart.

Corey: See?

Elan: So a personal chaos and falling apart from which to build from.

Harrison: It's a state of disequilibrium. It can feel like the rug's been pulled out from under your feet. All of a sudden you are not in your safe place anymore. Things are not as they should be, as they have been and as you like them to be. Something has changed on the inside. This wouldn't necessarily apply as much to a physical encounter with something dangerous. This is more like an emotional breakdown or an intense and new emotion that basically puts your inner self into some degree of turmoil that is not a normal state of affairs. And of course if it is a normal state of affairs to be in that kind of turmoil, that would be a chronic disintegrative state. Shall we continue on with the video?

Elan: Sure.

Corey: Please.

JP: Like we know for example, that people who are expert at playing the piano look ahead of where they're playing and they're doing the same thing. They're watching the notes. They're seeing where they're going and then they're disinhibiting the automated structures that enable them to play what they practiced so thoroughly. They're disinhibiting those structures and then they go automatically.

And then what happens if you make a mistake is that consciousness notes the error and then unpacks the motor sequences that have been practiced and then you re-practice them and sequence them again until they become automatic and deterministic.

So there's choice in that you're reading ahead but there's no choice in that once you've read ahead and disinhibited the actions then they run ballistically. And you can think about the same thing that's happening when you're driving in a car. You don't look right in front of you when you're driving a car because what is right in front of you if you're going 40 mph, you've already run over. You look a quarter of a mile down the road and that gives you the opportunity to see what's coming and to set up a sequence of increasingly automated movements that culminate in whatever it is that you're doing while you're driving.

So there's a gradation from choice to determinism, a temporal gradation. I don't often see that addressed when people talk about freewill.

Now Sam's issue with freewill is that if you get someone to do something like lift their finger and you scan their brains using a variety of techniques while they're doing that, and you ask them to voluntarily move their finger so they're doing it, let's say, by free choice, there's an action potential that you can read off the brain that occurs before the person either moves their finger or decides to move their finger and that occurs quite a bit before the feeling of voluntarism or that voluntary act.

That's been read by Benjamin Libet, who did the experiments, as indication that even the feeling of voluntary choice is determined. But I don't think that that's a very useful way of addressing the issue because the issue of when you lift your finger up, again requires pre-programming to disinhibit. You know how to do this, right? You don't have to learn to do that. You have a little automated circuit that does this sort of thing, all these finger movements and everything.

You can see babies practicing them and they develop automated circuitry that tends to be posterior left hemisphere, in order to run those automated processes out. What you're basically doing when you decide to do something that's a routine that you've already practiced or made out of subroutines that you've already practiced, is disinhibiting them. The degree to which you might regard that as free exactly is unclear as are the temporal limitations.

So I don't think that Libet's experiments demonstrate conclusively that there's no such thing as freewill even though there are action potentials that indicate that there is brain activity signalling even the onset of a voluntary choice early.

Harrison: Okay, let's talk about that for a bit because he's talking about the experiment that all sorts of the kind of celebrity evangelical atheists and others who just share their world view, tend to bring up and that's this experiment where there's a little timer going on, on the screen and it counts down to a second and then the subject of the experiment has to decide to just move their finger or do a wrist flick and to give a response precisely when they have felt the conscious feeling of having made that choice. Then when you look at a graph of their brain activity there's this spike that starts going up in brain activity 200-400 milliseconds I think, before they have the feeling of making the choice and then they do the wrist movement and then right after the wrist movement that brain activity falls back down again and that's called a readiness potential.

So Libet was the guy who did this experiment and he in his writing on it, suggested that this meant that we didn't have freewill because it showed that this brain activity was basically making the choice for us; our brain had already made the choice. Well that's even to use language of choice. Our brain was already going to do that by the time we thought that it was going to do it, that we were going to do it. So I guess it could have been pre-determined and it's just a chain of cause and effect all the way back. All of history was leading to that point. {laughter}

The entire history of the universe, billions of years, was leading to that one moment where you flicked your wrist in an experiment for Libet, completely determined. So if there were some futurists billions of years ago on some other planet that could divine the secret of the future based on the knowledge of the present, they would have been able to tell what the result of that scientific experiment was because it was all determined. They just had to get out their particle calculator. "Okay, here's the state of all the particles in the universe. Now let's just turn it forward several billion years" and then "Oh, it's7:15 on September 7, 1983. Joe Schmoe flicked his wrist or will flick his wrist because that's what the universe wanted him to do." Where was I?

But even Libet left open the possibility that there was a window for a conscious veto of that action.

Corey: And in future experiments he showed that subjects did veto that electrical impulse. They weren't forced to. Their brain or the universe didn't force them to tap their finger like some horrible slave master that it is.

Harrison: Which makes me have even less respect for the atheist types and all the people that cited this as the incontrovertible proof that we don't have freewill. It's just so idiotic. First of all Libet himself understood that it wasn't a sure thing and also the way the experiment was set up, the machine only recorded the data if they actually flicked their wrists! So the only data was of these people flicking their wrists with the signal beforehand and then everyone was "Oh, look at that! It must be that we don't have freewill!"

Okay, put on your scientific thinking cap for a second. Let's take all the cases in which we see that readiness potential go up. Do all of the instances of that readiness potential inevitably lead to a wrist flick? That's the first question to ask. They didn't even do it in the experiment and like you said Corey, when they finally did that experiment they found no, sometimes you'll see the readiness potential and the person won't move their wrist or their finger or whatever the specifics of the test were. So using this as an example for why there's no freewill was just a dumb idea to being with.

That of course doesn't mean there's freewill. It doesn't prove the opposite. It just shows that it's not proof against freewill and it was always dumb evidence to use against freewill in the first place.

Corey: Yeah, and as Jordan Peterson says, it's not certain that that's where you want to look for freewill, in the deterministic universe. Obviously that's part of our brains and bodies and everything, but when we think of our freewill we're typically thinking about our mind. What is our subjective volition, not something that happens outside of our freewill. It is obvious without a doubt that we are conditioned by our environment and by the billion other things that go on, but at the same time when we come home to our mind, when we are inside our heads and we're able to think through this amazing machine that we have called a brain, and we're making decisions that are informed, we're gathering information, and then we execute something and we face consequences, I think that's where we'd probably want to look for our freewill, not the toe-tapping.

Harrison: Yeah.

Corey: But Libet wrote a follow-up after his experiments. He was a pioneering neuropsychologist about consciousness and freewill and he wrote that he thought the role of conscious freewill would be not to initiate a voluntary act but rather to control whether the act takes place. It's an interesting view to take but at the same time I'd still want to say that when I'm thinking, when I'm planning, when I'm trying to make a decision, just in terms of whether or not I do something tomorrow, when I'm planning my day tomorrow, I'm going through all the things that I think will be beneficial for everyone around me, for me and then I do them. And day after day, that's how people live their lives.

Some people don't, obviously. There are people who don't use their will in a positive sense. People could be enslaved to addiction or ideology like the ideology that there is no freewill or the ideology of fanaticism of any kind. You can be enslaved in a certain number of ways but that's not proof that there isn't freewill. That's just proof that it's very, very weak, we're very, very weak and messy creatures in my opinion.

Harrison: What was the last part of his definition again?

Corey: The role of conscious freewill would be then not to initiate a voluntary act but rather to control whether the act takes place.

Harrison: Okay. You can see how this would relate to the readiness potential because the action is going to happen and that's the veto power. You can say, "No, it's not going to happen". So if Libet were around I would ask him "Okay, so that conclusion that you just came to, was going to come regardless of anything that you thought about, right? Or any of your own choices. It was just going to come out whether you wanted it or not, except you had the option just to shut your mouth so that you didn't come to that conclusion." That's why it's so ridiculous to see anyone talking about freewill as if it doesn't exist because everything that they are doing and every thought that they have, every glorious conclusion they come from is so obviously a product of using their own freedom of mind.

Corey: Their own volition.

Harrison: Their own volition, yeah, to come up with that in the first place that they just look like complete idiots and they don't even realize it. It's actually pretty sad. But I want to get into that a bit later, maybe after we finish the Peterson clips. Elan did you have anything to comment on that one?

Elan: Just that you have to wonder if these atheists, these people who are arguing for biological determinism are somehow structured different in their thoughts or have a different relationship to reality. Why argue for limitation in such a way?! Why take your faith out of consciousness when you're using consciousness to make certain decisions? That was just a question that popped into my mind as I was thinking about all this. Maybe for these individuals who argue this way, they do have a different relationship to freewill and to reality that's in their structure or in their thinking and that's how it presents.

Corey: This might be obvious to a lot of people, but what is it about our society that that is such a common place, almost commonsensical point of view? Especially in academia and in science. I just remember reading a study on the Signs of the Times the other day about this threshold effect with school shootings. People have a threshold that they have to meet in order for them to commit some sort of an action. When they were talking about the school shootings they were thinking somebody would have to see one person do a school shooting and then they would do it. Another person would have to see two people and then they would do it. Another person would have to see three people and then they would do it.

In terms of this whole atheistic mindset that really boils down to gas lighting everybody else who thinks they have a mind, it's interesting that we live at that point and that there are so many people who can publicly say they have no consciousness. "I have no freewill. I have no consciousness." It's so taken for granted and I think that's really why I love Jordan Peterson, not necessarily for his politics or his political stances although those are important, but for his existential stances, for people who have freewill, for people who have values outside of materialism. He's very rigorous and scientific about how he goes about it but he makes no bones that all of his work is about these greater, important and meaningful experiences that all of us share, that just gets shunted by this materialistic world view.

Harrison: Well one more thing about what he was talking about, about the ballistic movement of the arm and a way of trying to understand that. The people who look at that and see a deterministic thing going on, just to get a closer look at all that, I'm going to go back to the language analogy. If you look at your arm, there are a limited range of motions that you can make with your arm, right? There's a limited length that you can stretch your arm, past which you can only stretch by pulling your arm off and you can do that in every direction.

So you could create a diagram, a 3D model of the possibility space of arm movements. So every possible location that your arm can operate in relation to the rest of your body, and even in relation to your other body parts. If you move one body part up, then the range of motion is blocked for the portion of space that is occupied now by your other hand. You've got a limited range of motion with that arm. Those are the deterministic possibilities for movement with your arm. You won't be breaking the law of physics if your arm occupies one of those spaces and at any given time if you measure a person and you find their arm in those different spaces it won't be a miracle. It will be there because of understandable physical laws because of efficient causation as we understand it, the action of matter on matter as we think of matter. You can create a chain of movement that connects them all together and they all make sense.

Now that makes perfect sense in a physical universe, that it's not breaking any laws. So when you have a ballistic movement that's kind of stretching it into a time period where you've got potential preset movements of that arm, like he was talking about, the different things that babies do with their hands. They're programming and learning these movements that are automatic in the sense maybe that Libet is talking about and that what's actually happening when you're not moving your hands is that you're inhibiting those movements and you're basically turning off that inhibition and disinhibiting them and the motions come out.

But that still doesn't get into the question of the freedom to choose those movements because if you were to choose any of those movements it would look the same if you're just writing down the physical equation. But what's happening is it's like something is going on in your brain where some part of you is actually voluntarily choosing to initiate one of those sets of actions. of course they will be limited by the physical laws of the universe and just what is physically possible with your own body, but it's impossible to escape the idea and the feeling that we have at least some degree of control over which of those choices to make. I can't even imagine trying to argue against that when it's presupposed in every action that we take.

Of course we can do things subconsciously or unconsciously that we're not even aware that we're doing and that we might rationalize that we had a reason for. That doesn't mean that all of our actions are like that and even then, if you're doing something subconsciously, well what is causing you do that? Is it just the chain of the universe for all those billions of years and those physical laws or is some part of you actually choosing to do that? Is it a subconscious choice on some level, an unconscious choice? Is one of your body parts choosing to do that? That gets into a whole other area of philosophy about the nature of consciousness all the way down in the entire universe, but just something to think about for now.

Let's get to the next clip.

JP: Another thing that we might look at in relationship to that is to look at it phenomenologically and we could also look at it in relationship to how people treat one another. So phenomenologically it seems clear that we have free choice and it isn't obviously to me why we have consciousness if free choice isn't real because consciousness looks to me like a mechanism that deals with potential before it's transformed into actuality, let's say.

I think consciousness is also the faculty so to speak, or a manifestation of the faculty that enables us to pre-program deterministic actions. So again, let's think about someone playing the piano. They're practicing. After you repeat and you repeat your finger movements if you're playing the piano - any complex motor skill is like that. You have to repeat it and repeat it and repeat it and repeat it and you're using consciousness to program it, to sequence the motor movements and to pay attention to them.

That all seems voluntary and it involves the activation of a tremendous amount of your brain because if you're doing something new a lot of your brain is activated. And then as you practice it, the amount of brain that's activated decreases. It shifts from right to left and then it shifts from frontal to posterior and a smaller and smaller area.

So what's happening is that consciousness is creating little machines in the back of your head that do things in an automated manner. Consciousness appears and feels - that would be the phenomenological end - as if it's doing that voluntarily and it is associated with a different pattern of brain activity. So there's that. There's the phenomenological reality of voluntary choice and effort as well because conscious programming of that sort is effortful. It doesn't seem to run deterministically like a clock does.

I don't know what you think about this with regards to evidence but what constitutes evidence is not always that easy to determine even in the scientific domain. Think about how we think about ourselves and other people and how we treat ourselves and other people. You could imagine that you're like a clock running down and that's a deterministic model, but people aren't clocks. We're dissipative structures. A clock is something that runs downhill. You can look up dissipative structure. I think that was an idea that was first formulated by the physicist Schrodinger.

We're not clocks by any stretch of the imagination. We take energy in and we disperse energy and we're anti-entropic in a temporary sense and life is as well. Schrodinger wrote about that in a book called What is Life. What we seem to do - this is how it looks to me - we don't contend with the present and we're not driven by the past. Instead what we see in front of us is a landscape of possibility. In my wilder moments I think that's associated with the physical idea of multiple universes, but that's in my wilder moments. It's just a speculation.

So what we see in front of us is an array of potential universes and those are the universes that we can bring about as a consequence of our actions. And we make choices to the right or the left. There's a lot of mythological speculation about that sort of idea too in an ethical sense because we decide what sort of reality we want to bring into being and so we encounter potential like god did at the beginning of time when he made order out of chaos. Chaos is this chaotic potential. We confront chaotic potential with our consciousness and we cast that into reality.

Then you think, is that really the case? Well that's hard to say because there are limits to our knowledge about consciousness and about reality but if you treat yourself like you're a free moral agent with choice and that you can determine the course of your life, then you seem to get along better with yourself and to be less anxious and more productive. And if you treat other people like that, that they're free agents that are making voluntary choices about how reality is going to come into being and you reward them when they do it properly and you punish them or otherwise discipline them when they do it badly, then your relationships with them seem to work.

And then if we predicate our society on the presupposition that each individual human being is capable of doing just that, then we seem to have extremely functional societies. And this is something that Sam Harris has been taken to task for many times; if you dispense with the idea of freewill, how is it you organize your relationship to yourself, your interactions with your family and your relationships with the broader social community. It's a very complicated issue.

So I believe strongly that we have freewill, that we're responsible for our choices. Those choices are constrained in many, many ways. I think there's a gradient of freewill of free out in the future to increasingly constrained as the present manifests itself, to deterministic in the moment. In the moment of action you might think that we entered the realm of deterministic causality, at the moment of action, something like that. That's how it looks to me.

Elan: Peterson says quite a lot here and I've listened to this a few times now. There is so much to say and to affirm if you've ever thought about it in these terms, about what Peterson has just said. I think what's most impressive to me, there are a couple of things actually. One of them is that the correct thing to do is to treat yourself, in your attitude, in your thinking, in your approach to things, as though you do have freewill even if you don't believe it necessarily that you have the choices, to take the approach that there may be choices where you don't see any and to treat other people and to respect others with the possibility that they too have freewill.

So much of what we do, how we think, how we behave, how we treat others, is largely subject to a kind of myopic thinking where we've limited the numbers of ways to approach life and the attitudes that we take towards doing things. At one point he even mentions, theoretically, because he says he doesn't know this for sure of course, but that there are multiple universes and I love that he threw that in there even if that's not his specialty exactly. It's speculative but the point he's making is that in our approach to living to take on the idea that there are more possibilities, that there are more choices where we might not ordinarily see them, is a wonderful way to go forward.

So there's that. I'm sure there are a couple of other things but I wonder if you guys had any thoughts on that in particular.

Harrison: Well one thought just came to me while you were saying that, and that relates to something I said earlier. Maybe I was a bit too sarcastic and harsh when I was talking about the deterministic universe and the people that think that everything is predetermined. I don't think there are very many people who are actually like that and if there are, then I feel sorry for them. But there are also people who add one more dimension of what is possible in the universe.

In addition to physical determinism there is chance. So in their world, and I feel sorry for them too, maybe not to the same extent as I feel sorry for the strict determinists, the only two options are to do exactly what you have been determined to do - that could be interpreted in multiple ways but the physical structure has determined all of your actions for you - or it's just chance, so just a throw of the dice.

To use a simple example, when you get up in the morning and you have the choice between bacon and eggs or bacon or eggs or bacon and sausage and eggs or various different possibilities of those - just to use the most mundane example of no consequence really to anything - then it's just a matter of chance what you are going to do and you have no input whatsoever for what you will actually eat. Again, that isn't how human live or experience. No one has that experience of being completely determined or just being at the whim of chance.

If we look at that, let's say we break it down. Let's say we could theoretically look at all the influences acting upon this individual in this moment. So all of their past experiences and the habits and conditioning that has contributed to their intuitive likes and dislikes, all of the influences on them in the past few days that might determine that; whether they've seen some advertisements or whatever. So you've got these three foods in front of you and you can assign probabilities to each of them. Let's say 10, 20 and 70 percent. Oh, so there's a 80% chance that you're going to do this.

So if you imagine yourself in that situation and the 70% is just to eat bacon, there's a higher chance that you're just going to eat bacon. Does that mean that the choice was determined when you eat bacon or maybe you end up eating the bacon and eggs and was that just chance? Was it the internal dice that made you choose to eat bacon or eat bacon and eggs?

Corey: Or are you like a lot of people and if you knew about that you'd think "I'm not eating it. I'm not hungry today."?

Harrison: Exactly!

Corey: I'm not hungry this morning. I'm fine.

Harrison: Because in that situation all you have to do is picture yourself in that situation, think about it for a second, actually be in that situation when you're thinking about it. "Okay, I've got these options: I know that I've got a 70% chance of doing this because I really like this and that's probably the choice that I'd make in most cases. Do I have to do that?"

Corey: To prove that I don't have to do that? Guess what I'm going to do.

Harrison: Right. I can not do that and in that period of time where you're thinking about it, in your consciousness you are projecting a series of possible outcomes and you're flitting back and forth between them and experiential there is no determinism in that, right? It's not like "Oh, first I was determined to think about that one and then inevitably I was going to think about the next one and inevitably I was going to think about the next one," and blah, blah, blah. That doesn't account for the actual experience of making a decision. But you've got these possibilities. You're evaluating them. You can say "Okay, well here are the pros for this one. Well actually I've just been eating bacon. Oh but you know those sausages are actually pretty good too and I might get some more fat content and that might be healthier for me. So there's actually reason that I might go for that one that might even be better for me."

What you're doing when you're evaluating the pros and cons of something is that you're projecting future possibilities, you're analyzing and evaluating them, but you're doing so with an aim, a value. So there's something that's going to weight your decision more towards one decision than to the other and that will depend on the aim and the values you have. Of course those values and aims will be influenced by all your past influences too, by your biology, by your body, how you're feeling in the moment, but in principle it is still possible to change your value, to adapt your value and to then make a new choice based on that value.

Corey: You could say that all that's going on there is higher. It's spiritual and it's pretty much the source of our freewill. It can be greater or lesser day in or day out. It could be better one day than it is the other but that's freedom.

Harrison: When looking for some information on that readiness potential thing I was searching online and I found a website that I found at various times over the last years just by Googling different things. It's called the Information Philosopher or something. He's got some really interesting things on there. He made a point that I really liked in his discussion on freewill. He said when people are talking about freewill both sides of the debate - although there are more than two - but most sides of the debate seem to have a wrong understanding. They take either extreme of an understanding of what freewill means.

So you've got the completely what you'd call volunteerists, people who absolutely believe in total freewill and just on the surface, from what we said at the beginning of the show, that doesn't make any sense because to have a completely freewill you'd need to be omnipotent and able to overcome the causal laws of the universe. On the other hand you've got the total determinists that totally deny any freedom.

But he says you have to break up free and will. The free is the aspect of the mind to encounter and evaluate possibilities. Those are your courses of action. Those are the different paths you can take in life and everyone knows what that means. Everyone knows that there's a better path and a worse path. You might be on a really bad path in your life and if you don't make some changes then you're going to fall apart and ruin your life if it's not ruined already. But there are other paths. There are other choices that you can take to turn that around and to start in a different direction. That makes intuitive sense because that's the way the universe is structured and that's the purpose and function of consciousness. That's the free aspect.

The will is the determined aspect. So you freely have those possibilities, but when you will something, that is a determined action. First of all it is determined by the choice of that freedom. You think about freedom as this kind of airy thing going on in your head, it's ephemeral, it's abstract, it's mental in nature. But when you will something, you bring it into physical form, you bring it into your body, you manifest it. You embody it and at that point it's deterministic and so that's what Peterson's talking about when he talks about a temporal gradient to freewill, that there is this future free aspect and then in the moment of action it collapses into a physical determinism. Thinking in these sorts of terms is what led Whitehead to develop his notion of process philosophy. Again, I'll probably be coming back to this countless times in future shows because I think Whitehead was the guy to get the closest to a philosophical understanding of the way the universe works in such a way as to explain and account for all of the aspects of human experience.

So when I'm saying that we can't help but presuppose that we have some degree of freedom, it's like the purpose of philosophy - according to Whitehead and according to his analysis of the history of philosophy and the history of science - is to account for those presuppositions in such a way that they make sense, not to come up with some flight of fancy philosophy that denies that presupposition. Because when you deny the presupposition you can't help but end up contradicting yourself. It's like being a solipsist, engaging in solipsism when if I were to believe that I were the only person and everyone else was a figment of my imagination but at the same time I'm talking to you two right now and to everyone listening and in the act of talking to you and making my point to you and maybe getting angry if you say something I don't agree with and then engaging in a back-and-forth, I'm presupposing your existence. Then for me to say, "Oh, well I don't actually believe that you exist", I can't say that with a straight face while actually talking to you.

Anyway, to get back to the temporal gradient of freewill, what Whitehead said is that the only thing that makes sense, and there may be developments of this idea in the future, but the only thing at the time and that I think still makes sense, is that there's a dual aspect to any being, a human being with consciousness. On the one end you have a mental pole that does exactly what Peterson says it does, and that is to encounter possibilities, to encounter virtual futures, to then choose one of those possibilities, to manifest and then in the act of manifestation which you can call self-determination or freewill, you make that choice, you self-determine, then you determine for yourself your next physical state which is influenced and limited by previous physical states.

So there's a subjective consciousness angle that then, in that moment of transition, turns into a physical pole that then exerts physical efficient causation on other things. So basically I encounter these possibilities, and this is a very short period of time, this is an instantaneous thing and it can apply to things on the molecular or subatomic level. So choices can be like a string of interlinking and overlapping choices where what we consider maybe one choice to make that ballistic movement with our hand, can be broken up into who knows how many thousands of little individual choices that are all strung together to make that physical movement.

This reconciles the notions of final and efficient causation; efficient causation being the action of matter on matter which is how we think of the physical world and how physics analyses and explains for physical interactions. Newton's law is from very basic to very complex physical interactions but materialism has blocked off any kind of final causation and that would be the aspect of self-determination or purpose; having a future goal that is then moved towards through some type of volition.

So what Whitehead did is account for how this might happen at a very rigorous philosophical level and funnily enough, or coincidentally, Peterson has locked onto the same idea, at least in a general sense which is very interesting. Just to bring it back to the practical level, Peterson brought up one at the macro practical level is that societies in which people tend to think this way seem to do well. They seem to be better in some way. They seem to go in a better direction. In a society where people do not think of themselves or others as free beings, that can lead to atrocities, horrible things. Even that right there is the practical test for truth. Well what works?

Believing in freewill works and if you set up an experiment and you were to do some kind of test and if those were the results that you were to get then the implication of that test, if you were to say that people who believe in freewill tend to get along better in important and significant ways, that is to imply that it could be otherwise, that people could have made other choices, could have had different beliefs that could have set them on a worse path and even that presupposes that the result of the experiment was a result on some level, of the mass of choices that these people have taken. So they could have done otherwise if they're in a bad spot.

That's what brings it back to Peterson's main idea of personal responsibility. When you're in a bad place, it hurts but it would benefit you to look back at your own life and your own changes and say "What could I have done otherwise?" "Oh, looking back I realize I really could have done otherwise in that situation. I didn't have to make that choice. I made it for whatever reasons. I could have done otherwise. And now in the future I can do otherwise." I think that's what life is. It's going through all these branches, encountering the unknown with very limited information and so therefore being blind to all these possibilities that are open to us in any given point of action and flying by. "I can't see what's going on here, I'm just going to trust for the moment that maybe my body and the evolutionary history of my species will just point me in the right direction."

That seems to work to a large degree because we're still around but taking it to the next personal level, you do that and then you actually learn something because you screw up. You realize, okay, I understand that now. I see what I did. I made this choice but I didn't realize that I could do that. I didn't realize that these people were around. I didn't realize that I could talk to that person. I didn't realize that this person knew these things and I could learn from them so I didn't realize I could make choice D as opposed to choice A, B and C and in the future there's choice D and it's this constant learning process. It's like the field of your vision looking into those future possibilities expands so you can see more possibilities.

And it's not just that you see all these possibilities and they're equally weighted. Some will have more weight than others, right? So you'll see one and it will be more attractive for whatever reason. Well then the question is, what is the nature of that attraction. What is the nature of value? That's a whole other question.

Elan: Well that's a good point from which to discuss some of this. How much do we value information? How much do we even value the process of being conscious of information and making choices in the moment or further down the line based on the accumulation of knowledge of certain things? I just think about the SOTT page that we work on. I think about the multitude of pieces of information that we see there on a daily basis. Do I want to live in Hawaii right now given what we know about the ring of fire and the sun's activity and the earth opening up? Do I want to put my money in the stock market when, from what certain people are saying, there's a bubble? You get the idea.

Are we basing our choices on good information? Are we consciously evaluating information that would affect our choices, that would affect how we exist in the future? I would just add one more thing on that, just getting back to this temporal gradient that you described and that Peterson gets into a little bit. It reminded me quite a lot of Boris Mouravieff's writings in the Gnosis series, the esoteric literature that he put out some decades back. He talked about our subjective experience of time but how in the process of focusing on a certain thing, that is exerting our will towards a certain problem or issue or choice, we're presented with all kinds of choices in ways that don't seem apparent.

He gives an analogy of a tennis player. A tennis player has learned to effectively slow down time so that he can see the tennis ball coming at him in slow motion and because he has expanded his experience of time, he's able to angle himself and position himself and prepare himself in such a way as to respond to that tennis ball and lob it back effectively and keep the game going, put himself in the game.

So he uses this analogy to explain how our own consciousness, if we decide to exercise it, can give us freedom within a moment and you can expand on this. It could give us freedom in a way that looking towards the future and all kinds of choices if we decide that we want to exert the will to focus on those choices, based on the information that we've allowed to become a part of those choices. It's a very interesting thing. We live our day to day routines and there are certain numbers of things that we want to do. Like you mentioned earlier Corey, we could do it consciously or unconsciously. But there seems to be a certain amount of will based on knowledge that is required in order to engage this process of giving ourselves more freedom.

Corey: I think just starting out, like Peterson was saying, we program ourselves to do certain things. If somebody feels like they don't have enough freewill, if people feel like they have no freedom whatsoever internally, it starts with the smallest things. You program the smallest, tiniest activities and those start to have an effect in the system. The more that you're able to program yourself to do things that are for your own benefit and that are healthy and that will strengthen your will and your freedom, the more that becomes automatic and that isn't necessarily in and of itself deterministic but that it's using our own machinery for our purposes, using the deterministic universe and programming it in a way that it's probably designed for. With how complex it is, who knows what the hell was going in when they designed the DNA, the brain, the frontal lobes, dopamine, serotonin. It's just unbelievable.

But what you were saying Elan, when you think of information as just such an important food and something that you can never get enough of, every day we need to gorge ourselves on as much information as our stomachs can handle. At the same time there's this threshold in terms of the cost of information. A philosopher once said and I was reading about it not to long ago, that basically that information isn't cheap and that we are more likely to rely on cheap heuristics and easy, fast thinking in order to make decisions because it's much more costly to search for information, look for information, try and digest it, think about it, figure out what it means, relate it to ourselves. But if that is really one of the most important pieces or organs in our freewill then we need to stuff our faces with it.

I think that's one of the nice things about SOTT. There's so much there. It's just a smorgasbord. But it's not pleasant. Information is not always pleasant. It has certain tyrannical type features. It can break you down. The truth hurts. It'll set you free maybe after a period of time but it's not easy. It's not cheap and that's where the will part comes in I think. It's just will.

Elan: Well that's a great point actually, that good information is expensive. And what does that mean exactly? I think it means that if we have certain ideas that good information fly in the face of, if we have our sacred cows, if we have our rigidity and our prejudices and our biases, that it requires a certain amount of work, sometimes difficult work. You're right, it's challenging. It's like "Okay, you're saying that the government lost $24 trillion dollars?!" It's mind boggling! What do I have to do to process that? This is just to take one example, that corruption exists on such a level and what does that mean for the world I live in and what does that mean about my understanding of how things really work?

Or you're telling me that this politician or that this person is really a paedophile? I have to do a certain amount of processing. This isn't something that I just sort of glide by. I'm not reading about Kim Kardashian's latest party or statement. This is something that I can either choose to ignore and maybe have been conditioned to ignore. That's where the work comes in. There is so much conditioning. There is so much programming. There is so much that we're not even aware of that it behoves us to become aware of that would help us to process information that is difficult, that flies in the face of everything that we know.

So yes, good information is expensive and maybe more to the point, assimilating good information and acting from good information to expand your freewill and your ability to choose for yourself and for others is where the pain comes in but also the potential benefit.

Corey: Yeah, because that just gets back to right where we started or right where Jordan Peterson started when he was discussing the constraints and the limitations of the universe and all the possibilities that that opens up for us. When you're listening to him speak and you're thinking about our freewill and this constrained universe and you think about what Harrison was talking about, the freedom from all the way down to how a proton might not have a choice as to how to act, but science has discovered that bacteria make complex decision constantly. Some physicists maintain that throughout the physical universe there is a constant process of evolution that's occurring. There is an agency of some kind that's involved in the information processing thing that we call the universe and when you think of it that way, we have these constraints but also they are in and of themselves, our possibilities.

Like Jung said, those constraints are in and of themselves our initiations and how we meet those, we know with the consequences of our actions, whether we're meeting them rightly or wrongly. It's fascinating to me to live in a time like this where there's all of this scientific information but then to have such rich, philosophy and to be able to feast yourself on so many different tidbits about the universe, like Jordan Peterson has presented.

Harrison: Well on the topic of limitations on freewill, I want to read a quote from Kazimierz Dąbrowski, a Polish psychologist who has this theory of positive disintegration. In one of his books, I think it's in Personality Shaping Through Positive Disintegration he has a paragraph on freewill that I want to read for a short discussion before we end the show today. So this is what he writes:

In the psychophysiological structure of man the problem of freewill arises only at the level of disintegrative, introspective activities. One can hardly speak of freewill in almost automatic, instinctive attitudes. In man's cycle of development we may speak rather of the process of growing richer in freedom. The development of man proceeds from biological determination to psychological indeterminacy, the phase of developmental disintegration and then to secondary moral determination, the secondary phase. We may therefore say that in the middle phase we have an unsteady will and in both extreme phases freewill experientially does not exist.

So that's an interesting way of saying it. So Dąbrowski's basically saying that we don't have freewill except for this brief transitory period of development between being totally influenced by our biology but also, he doesn't mention it there but based on everything else he wrote, I'm assuming also society, so biological and social conditioning and determination.

And then what happens is that when that structure breaks up then we're thrown into a period of indeterminacy. It's like "Well, I was totally going in this direction and now I'm not sure" and then you get the period of being ambivalent and ambitendent, having tendencies in different directions but one isn't stronger than the other. "Okay, well now I don't know what to do. No option seems to be popping up at me." When I was describing about seeing the possibilities and some seem more attractive, in this state, then there's an element of chance because no option is stronger than the other at an experiential level, at the level of feelings where one is weighted more than the others. So it's like "Okay, maybe today I'll be what people consider to be a good person but it won't really matter to me because it's just a roll of the dice and maybe tomorrow I'll be a total jerk to whomever".

But there's no value at that point in forming the choices that lead to the actions that determine character. You could say that at a low level, when they are being limited or determined by their biology, they're still acting out a certain value because life itself has value and it expresses that value through survival. It wants to survive. It doesn't want to die and so it has lasted billions of years in order to survive. So for anyone that's just being a total selfish jerk, well they're actually at least performing some service because they're still alive and they are helping keep the species alive. They may also destroy the entire planet along the way, but so far they haven't done it. But there's this period indeterminacy.

And then after that indeterminacy, then the value presents itself. You see that star in the sky. Peterson likes to talk about Pinocchio and Geppetto and seeing that star. When you wish upon a star you are seeing that ideal future. You're saying, "Okay, there it is. That's what I'm shooting for. That's the direction I'm going. That's my aim. That's where I want to be" and that then influences your choices.

When you look at actual people who have characters of steel, who seem to always make the right choices - of course no one ever makes all the right choices. Everyone makes mistakes but there are people who just seem like gems. They seem like a diamond. Every choice they make seems to be the right one. They seem to have this sixth sense, this ability to fish out the best possible choice in all their actions. When you see that happen - I just lost my fish. My fish got away from me.

When you look at people like this in the real world and you're looking for an actual example and you get statements from them about their experience of that, what they tell you is "I couldn't have done otherwise." "Well why did you do this extremely selfless, heroic act? Why did you put yourself on the line in this battle? Why were you the first out to charge against the enemy?" Or "Why did you risk being killed by trying to save this person who you didn't even know, hiding them in your basement when the militias were looking for her?" "Well I couldn't have done otherwise."

At that level, the moral choice becomes the only choice to the point where you could not do otherwise without experiencing a death on the inside, a death of your soul. So can you say that that's a free choice? Again, it depends on how we're looking at freedom, how we're looking at freewill. The way Dąbrowski put it, he had a religious bent to him just like Peterson. he said that at that secondary level when your will is determining your actions, even if the previously you would have just cowered in fear or thought "I'm not doing that. The stakes are a bit too high for me. I'm just going to hope that someone else does it because I'm not that courageous", when your personality, your being achieves that level, the way he describes it is that your freewill unifies with the will of god.

So there is a will. There is an objectively better future. That means that there are objectively better ways of behaving and when you put yourself in alignment with that direction, it's like "Okay, that's what I've got to do. I know it's going to be hard. I know I may lose my life. I know a lot of bad stuff can happen to me, but that is the right choice to make and to make that choice will make the world a better place." I just thought of Silicon Valley. That's very inappropriate. "...Will make the world a better place so that I can do nothing other than to make that decision."

So in that sense my action has been determined. Dąbrowski's thinking about it in a certain way. I think we can reconcile all of these together in the sense of "Is there any freedom still in that process?" Well the freedom again, is the freedom of the mind to scan the possibility space, to look at all the different options and to say "No, that's the one. Sorry. All those other ones? Not good enough. That's the one I'm going to take."

Elan: Well just a quick comment there, and that is if on some level, call it the higher self or the soul or a spark of the godhead, however you want to say it, if you've already made on some level and so much as it's possible, a commitment to aligning yourself to that higher value, to that higher level of being, even if you've made that decision at some prior time temporally, the issue of freewill in a superficial sense almost becomes moot because we've made the highest decision we could possibly hope to make and the highest goals we possibly hope to attain.

Corey: I think that's a fantastic observation. At that point you have exercised your free will. At that point in your development you have chosen and I think that touches on what is it that we're choosing.

Harrison: Well on that note I think it is incumbent upon ourselves and all of our listeners to make that choice and to... {laughter}

Corey: Tune in again.

Harrison: ...tune in again next week for the Truth Perspective.

Elan: But you're free not to.

Harrison: Well are you really free not to? What would your conscience say?

Elan: Yes.

Corey: Don't feel compelled.

Harrison: That's the question. Thanks for tuning in everyone. We will be back next week to have another fun discussion on something. So thanks Elan, thanks Corey. It's been fun. Any final words before we close for the day?

Corey: Thanks for having me.

Elan: Take care everyone.

Harrison: Alright, thanks everyone. Take care.