In my senior year in college I was finishing up all of my general education classes, classes that would have normally been taken in the first couple of years. I was more interested in math and science so I delayed my general ed classes. One of the more interesting and challenging classes I attended was Philosophy 101. It was in this class that we were introduced to deductive logic, reasoning and how to argue and prove a line of thinking.
We had a term paper due at the end of the semester, one of our choosing, with professor approval of course (so much for choice). I was clueless as to what I would write about and try to prove. Then one day in class the professor spoke on the topic of free will. She mentioned that past philosophers argued and proved that humans have free will. This rubbed me the wrong way, and of course I did not agree. I approached her after class and debated with her that as humans we do not have free will and that I would like to tackle this topic as the subject of my term paper. At first she was very reluctant to allow me to work on this topic, insisting that there was no way I could disprove free will. After a little cajoling she allowed me to write on that topic, but gave me a caveat that I would not be successful. Well, throwing the gauntlet down at my feet only kindled my fervor and I set out on my task.
If you are interested in reading that short paper, I think I could find it stashed away in my notes somewhere. But the basic premise of my argument was that rather than free will, which implies the ability to do as one wishes, what we truly have is merely the freedom of choice. We can choose whatever we wish freely, from our actions, decisions, preferences and so on. However, the outcomes of our choices are not in our control, nor do we have any foreknowledge of what the outcomes of our choices will be. Of course this premise is not as attractive as that of a free will, where we have the freedom to choose, but also, in addition to that, we would know and have control over the outcome of our choices. My argument did not find favor with my professor and she had notes in the margins arguing almost every statement I made.
Then I introduced the concept of a being that would have complete and total free will and described how such an entity would literally have control over everything and that there could only be one such entity for otherwise the universe as we know it would fall into complete chaos as the multiple entities would be battling for superiority – willing this and that in to being over each other. I named this entity, for lack of any better term God. At this point, her comments seemed to dwindle and then vanish from the page. My final conclusion was that if we truly had free will there would be nothing to stop us for vying for control and becoming gods ourselves. And since this has never happened and probably never will, free will for us mere humans is a fallacy.
Which brings me to the reason I post this story today. Choices. Four years ago I photographed that stoic valley oak in the local hills surrounding the San Jose, CA area. It was nice but it never seemed to call out to me to do anything with it. So I decided to just file it away. Two weeks ago a client requests an image that can portray informed decision making for a website landing page. Well this photo comes to mind. Continue Reading »