Getting this out of the way: anyone who believes they can willfully choose their own beliefs is a sad ego in a dam of denial.
(Do I get points for alliteration? How about punniness?)
Anyone with a sense of curiosity and the ability to wax imaginative logic can be a philosopher. Children are some of the best philosophers. (Just the other day, my 6 year old sister asked me if dairy cows had white on them because they’re full of milk. How had this not occurred to me before?) The professional field of philosophy is fraught with such excessively useless ideas that make me wonder how the hell that crazy part of our minds made it this far in evolution. And thank the Flying Spaghetti Monster I am not alone. Also don’t worry, I’ll return to the introductory statement in a moment.
As part of a class on science and pseudoscience, the prof brought up the term “doxastic voluntarism,” an idea very central to his class. In researching it, I came across the RationalWiki article on the topic, shown above.
Read it. You don’t have to read far. Just read it. When you’ve smiled, please come back here.
Anyone familiar with the breadth Wikipedia and Wikipedia-based communities won’t find RationalWiki to be anything special. I for one enjoy Conservapedia and Metapedia on days I’m feeling particularly depressed. Never fails to make me smile (before making me want to cry again). Even the US federal intelligence community has their own wiki, Intellipedia. There is a joke to be written somewhere in that previous sentence.
Not as strictly regulated as the main Wikipedia site, these offshoot communities are free to actually have a bit of personality in their articles. Case in point, if you didn’t already see it, reread the last sentence of the “Doxastic voluntarism” intro paragraph.
As terrible as the Internet is, you’ll never be wanting for levity on serious topics. Philosophy is the ultimate light serious topic. And now that you’re well-versed in the philosophical doctrine of doxastic voluntarism, let’s return to the beginning of this post, shall we?
My thoughts on the idea of choice boils down to this series of thoughts, Logic 101 style:
- Everything is a system
- We are part of everything
- Therefore, we are part of a system
A system, in my definition here, is a collection of interconnected processes. Nothing functions without being stimulated by something else or without stimulating something else as well. If this is so, we cannot be said to have choice anymore than a marble experiences choice in a Rube Goldberg machine. We do not – cannot – choose our beliefs. We simply live in and through a culture of beliefs. And one aspect in our current culture of beliefs – inhabited by most of modern civilization – is the belief that ego is king (or queen, royal ze, or whatever you identify with). It is hard for us to acknowledge, much less grasp, that the parts of ourselves that we think of as “ourselves” is only the tip of the iceberg. The rest, as far as neuroscientists and the like have made out, is our subconscious. It has been found with the use of MRIs that our subconscious make decisions at least several seconds before we think we made the decision “ourselves.”
Now does this conclusively point to free will as illusory? As much as I irrationally would like it to for the sake of my argument, no, it does not. And to be transparent, I’m still working on my theory. Chaos theory comes into it, but I’ll get into that part of it some other time. Until then, we’ll keep splashing around in our curiosity and imaginative logic. So for now…
…what do you think? (Or at least, what do you think you think?)