Dreamer's Refuge

A student of the Dhamma and Discipline of the Middle Way

Category: Free Will

All the World’s a stage in Plato’s Cave

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
Then, the whining school-boy with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then, a soldier,
Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden, and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then, the justice,
In fair round belly, with a good capon lined,
With eyes severe, and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws, and modern instances,
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

— William Shakespeare

The Buddha, in his discourses, wanted to get this across to people, and this topic has come up again and again in different cultures. It is interesting that mindfulness, meditation, and listening to Dhamma, etc, all make this point very clear. Yet most people do not see it. I feel like I was the player, but now, instead being part of the play, I feel like I am in the audience, the observer. Though, from time to time, when mindfulness is lacking, I get caught up in the play. Hopefully as I continue my practice, this will become less and less of an occurrence.

Free Will vs Determinism

Free Will is an illusion

Determinism is an illusion.

I believe that in reality they both exist in a continuum.

Compatibilism would be the best definition, but not exactly correct.  The definition of Free Will would be changed to be more “autonomy”.

The future is probabilistic.  Not deterministic, or free willed, but both.

You’re not irrational, you’re just quantum probabilistic: Researchers explain human decision-making with physics theory

Quantum Cognition is an emerging field which explains this.

The best way I can model this idea is like this:

Imagine a train on a track that has a few hundred tracks branching on the left and right:

Each branch, looks exactly like the previous branch, i.e \|/. The train looks like it is going uphill, with an infinite amount of branching tracks as it climbs this hill.

The train is us as a society, or a person, the tracks are the choices we make. Each choice opens up new probabilities. And the illusion is that it feel like you have free will of choice, when in reality each future choice is dependent on the past choices we made, on our physiology, our genes, our upbringing, etc.

Or, simply put:

You can only choose things that follow another choice made in the past. You cannot choose a future choice because you have not created the path to make that choice.
But at any point, you could choose to do something counter to your intended outcome. It happens all the time. You change your mind, you get derailed, you meet a catalyst for an unintended choice, etc.

What separates us from most other animals, is that we can make projections into the feature. Which are based on best guess probabilities that you can see of which choices we would make, or outcome we want, if things go to plan.

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