March 13, 2023 at 4:57 pm #15105
The article is a critique of a documentary for mass consumption on free will.March 14, 2023 at 4:06 am #15106
I’ll try to comment on specific points made in this short video:
How can an immaterial mind affect the body?
This is a question laden with Judeo-Christian assumptions. Let’s begin by distinguishing between soul, mind, and body. The conscious mind, which means thoughts, judgments, intentions, and morals, is actually a body, just as material as what people call the “body” at present. In Sāñkhya, we speak about three kinds of bodies, namely, “gross body”, “gendered body”, and “subtle body”. Sometimes, these are called “gross body”, “subtle body”, and “causal body”. It is bodies all the way. The mind, intellect, ego, and moral sense are aspects or parts of the gendered body just like hands and legs are parts of the gross body. The mind is not non-material. It is material in the same way as the “body”.
Each of these three bodies is a constraint on the will of the soul, which we shall discuss shortly. A constraint means what we cannot do. Yes, we cannot fly with the human body, but we can write books. The birds can fly, but they cannot write books. So, there are different constraints created by different kinds of bodies. But constraints do not fix what we will do. Even though one can read and write in the human body, most people at present don’t want to. So, there is a constraint on the will that disables our flying. But there is a will that determines whether the ability to read and write is used.
All these bodies are constructed from the three guna of Prakṛti. So, there is no interaction problem like the Cartesian mind-body interaction problem because both “mind” and “body” are made out of the same “stuff” (if you want to call it that). Thus, the mind affects the body and the body affects the mind because they are both bodies. The mind is not immaterial. The mind is also material.
At an even more advanced level of understanding, even matter is spirit. This is why we model everything in reality as an organism. A society is an organism. An ecosystem is an organism. A planet is an organism. And the entire universe is an organism. Thus, the distinction between mind and body is false because both are material. Likewise, the distinction between matter and spirit is false because both are spiritual. The latter understanding is more advanced, so we will not dwell more on it here.
Is there free will?
There is will but no free will. The idea that we are free, or as Prabhupada used to call this “independence”, is a false idea. The moment you think you are independent of Kṛṣṇa, you are bound. But there is a will, which means you can want to be independent of Kṛṣṇa (in which case you will be bound) or you can want to be dependent on Kṛṣṇa (in which case you will be freed from bondage).
All over Vedic texts, we talk about how the material world is bandhan or bondage and how attaining freedom from this bondage is mukti or liberation. The material body and mind are bondage, not freedom. They are constraints limiting the soul. Removing this material mind and body is liberation, which means removing the constraints. Once that constraint is removed, then we are still working for Kṛṣṇa, but we are no longer constrained in what we can do. Therefore, those who talk about free will are also talking about a Judeo-Christian concept, which science is already refuting.
The free will vs. determinism problem
There are widespread misconceptions that science is deterministic, mostly due to ignorance of science. The fact is that even Newton’s mechanics is not deterministic. For example, if two cars crash, there is no equation that can deterministically predict the outcome of the crash. We can talk about the outcome only if the car’s integrity is maintained, which means that the cars don’t crash, but keep running on the road.
Even when determinism is observed, such as in the case of billiard ball collisions, the Newtonian explanation of determinism is not deterministic. In Newton’s mechanics, when two point particles collide, they can recoil in infinite different directions because a point is dimensionless. All laws of conservation of energy and momentum hold in such cases. But this indeterminism is not seen in billiard ball collisions due to the finite size of the ball. Thereby, even when the phenomena are deterministic, the theory is indeterministic. Otherwise, if the balls collided and disintegrated into many pieces, then the phenomenon is also not deterministic.
Thereby, some phenomena are deterministic, under some limited conditions, such as billiard ball collisions; these phenomena are modeled by an indeterministic theory called classical mechanics. The problems of the theory are not realized by limiting its application to (a) finite-sized balls, and (b) balls that do not disintegrate on collision.
In Vedic philosophy, we can predict what will happen in the world based on astrology, the cycle of four yugas, and so on, deterministically, without violating a person’s will. That is because of the distinction between a role and an actor. The distinction between “role” and “actor” doesn’t exist in any physical theory. That distinction involves two separate ontologies and gives the actor a will to choose roles. In a drama, for instance, the script is fixed, so the events are deterministic. But the actors can choose to play different roles, so they have a choice. By separating the actor from the role, and giving the actor a choice of role, we get both determinism and will without a contradiction.
This means that if we want to solve this problem, then we need three categories: (a) role, (b) actor, and (c) will. The actor in this case is the mind and body, and the will pertains to the soul. The solution to the problem is incomplete unless we talk about the soul separate from the mind-body, and the mind-body is distinct from the role it is currently playing.
How the will controls the body
The simple answer is attaching and detaching. If a thought comes into your mind, you can withdraw from the thought and the mind. This is called “detach”. The technical term is saṅga-tyāgāt or “giving up association”. The soul is not bound to the body, but its consciousness is. This consciousness is called sat and I call it the “relational” attribute of the soul, distinct from cognitive and emotional attributes. The relation can be established or withdrawn. That is attach and detach. When we attach, the first thing in awareness is the ego which means “I am this”. The term “this” is expanded into many things, but “I am this” is the source. Then if we withdraw from “I am this” then all “this” has no effect on “I am”. This is detachment, saṅga-tyāgāt, withdrawing the consciousness, etc.
So, if someone wants to experience will, then learn detachment. Most people are never able to detach, so they have no experience of will. They are sitting on a train, the train is automatically going somewhere, and they cannot get off the train to board another train. Thus, Kṛṣṇa says “All these living entities are roaming in the universe seated on the machine of delusion”. The delusion is “I am this”. But if we cannot detach, then we cannot get off that train. Then there is no experience of will. Therefore, everyone has the capacity for will, but everyone doesn’t have the experience of will. They have to be taught detachment to experience will.
This education begins with austerity, rules, and regulations. The body wants to sleep, but the rule says: You have to get up at 4 AM. The rule goes against the body. If we follow the rule, then the soul ignores the complaints of the body, and thus we realize will. We call this willpower or icchā-śakti rather than “free will”. It is acquired by detaching. This means that the will is always there but it is very weak. Without power, the will is useless.
No moral judgment without will?
This is another Judeo-Christian idea. Even if the body does something the will is going along with it. I may not want to do it but I have accepted it. We can contrast these as “I want to eat”, “I need to eat”, and “I am willing to eat”. In the case of the material body, all three are desires produced by the body, and the soul simply associates with these desires. If I associate more closely, then I say: I need to eat. If I detach somewhat, then I say: I am willing to eat. If I detach more, then I say: I want to eat. In this detached state, the concept of “will” appears again, namely, that I want it, so it is coming from me.
Factually, in all three cases of needing, willing, and wanting, there is an underlying spiritual will different from the material intention. The spiritual will accepts the material intention, and thereby, confusion between the spiritual will and the material intention (wanting, needing, and willing) is created. That confusion is destroyed only when we reject the wanting, needing, and willing.
Since there is acceptance and rejection therefore there is always will, and hence a person is always judged morally even if he thinks that he has no will, that he was coerced by circumstances, and so on. If more than one will is involved in an act, then we have to give prominence to the dominant will rather than the subordinate will. For instance, if you shoot a person because there is a gun pointed at your head, then the second will is primary and the first will is secondary. However, the first will is not absent. I could have chosen to get shot to avoid shooting someone else.
How does will work?
Consciousness moves in and out, attaches and detaches, and by that attachment and detachment, it activates and deactivates a potential in matter. Thereby, we model matter as a potential which we call śakti or “power”. Power is not always used. It is used by the combination of will and power. Otherwise, power is inactive. Of course, power is not truly inactive, because power also triggers a will.
This requires a deeper philosophy of will and power, sometimes also called Shiva and Śakti, namely, that sometimes power activates a purpose, and sometimes, purpose activates power. For instance, if you feel the presence of power, then you will get a new purpose in life than if you think you are powerless. When you get the purpose, then you use the power.
Thus, power activates purpose and purpose activates power. These are not the same purpose and the same power. Power activates the purpose to eat, and the purpose to eat activates the power to cook. Since eating is also a power, and cooking is also a purpose, therefore, the same word can be used both as power and purpose. Thereby, Shiva and Śakti are one as cooking and eating, and different as power and purpose. They cause each other, are caused by each other, are two distinct personalities, and yet, they are mutually inseparable. So, it is a difficult subject if we go deeper, and ultimately not separable from a spiritual philosophy, but it is not incomprehensible.
How calculus created the illusion of determinism
The fundamental problem in science is calculus. If you take a pencil and try to draw a line on paper, the question is: What is the next point in the line? Should the pencil move upward or downward? Should the pencil go backward or forward? Should the pencil jump discretely on the paper, or move continuously? These are choices. But calculus has eliminated them by postulating two things: (a) continuity, and (b) smoothness. That means, the pencil cannot jump, and it should not take a sudden and discrete left or right, up or down, forward or backward turn. Even if the pencil turns, it should do it slowly and smoothly.
According to calculus, the hand should never draw a triangle or square because these have sharp vertices. A sharp vertex in calculus means that that rate of change denoted by dx/dt has become infinite at the vertex. If you get one infinite number in a series of numbers, the sum of those numbers will be infinite. To eliminate sharp vertices, the hand should never draw a triangle or a square. Circles, ellipses, straight and curved lines are fine because they don’t have sharp vertices. This means that calculus has put a constraint on the hand holding the pencil. The hand cannot do certain things. And that is called determinism. It is created by assuming that the hand cannot move the pencil in all the ways that the hand is capable of moving. Newton destroyed will through calculus.
But the reality is that calculus is false. The hand can jump and choose directions discretely. That discretization of the hand movement breaks calculus, and it breaks the foundation of science. This is why science is indeterministic: The hand can jump up or down, move left or right, forward or backward, discretely. So, if you assume calculus, it may work for some hand movements. But it will be mostly false.
The solution to this problem requires rejecting calculus. The hand can move both continuously and discretely, both smoothly and unsmoothly. To accommodate these contradictory scenarios, everything beginning with Newton’s mechanics has to be thrown in the dustbin. 336 years have been wasted in constraining the hand holding the pencil by so-called “laws of calculus” preventing it from moving in all the ways that it can move. That is not the nature of reality. It is true sometimes when the hand wants to draw a smooth and continuous curve.
How calculus was invented
Greeks and Romans did not have zero, let alone negative numbers. They could not do business accounting without negative numbers, because you have to do debits and credits to do accounts, and these require positive and negative numbers, along with a zero to balance the account. The West learned this business accounting through trade with India.
Likewise, the West did not have algebra; they got it from Arabs who got it from India. The West did some geometry during Greek times. However, it was not integrated with algebra because to combine geometry and algebra, we need an infinite converging series to calculate the value of numbers like π. If we don’t have an infinite converging series, then we cannot get accurate values of π. Without π, we cannot say that the area of a circle is πr2 or that the circumference of a circle is 2πr. That is the end of everything. So, the marriage of algebra and geometry is rooted in infinite converging series, and these series were discovered and studied in India centuries before Europe.
Newton took the idea of an infinite converging series and said: We can use it to create smoothness and continuity because the successive steps in an infinite converging series are closer and closer approximations to a limit number. For instance, π is a limit number, and you get closer and closer to this value if you add the successive steps in the infinite series. You can chop off the series to a fewer steps and you will get 3.14. If you add more steps, you will get a more accurate value.
Newton made these infinite steps mandatory in reality. This means that atoms must not exist in reality because that will break the continuity. This is why the quantum theory was such a big deal in science; it was contrary to the continuity assumed in calculus. But this atomism has to be extended even to time and space, which modern science cannot, due to calculus. Likewise, we can assert continuity and smoothness even for angles, by saying: If something is rotating by an angle it is going through infinite steps involving infinitesimal angles. So, if a planet moves around in a circle, it goes through infinite steps, but the circumference of the circle is not infinite.
For centuries prior to this, Zeno’s paradoxes had held Europeans back because infinite steps meant that adding those steps would certainly require infinite time, and therefore motion was impossible. There were serious practical issues in computing values of π and e and we cannot do anything in real life unless we get these values. Indians solved the problems of π and e through infinite convergent series. In a series, it still takes infinite time to add infinite steps, but the result of that addition is not infinite. Now, if we postulate that each of these infinite steps takes infinitesimal time, then we can claim to get a finite value in finite time. Newton made that postulate. With this postulate, it became possible to do calculus integration and get real numbers such as 2πr and log2x. If we don’t have infinite series then we don’t have π and e and then we don’t have 2πr and log2x. Infinite series made calculus possible. But that doesn’t mean we are actually walking through infinite steps with each step completed in infinitesimal time. It is just a calculation tool, not a fact about reality.
The process of movement, in reality, is discrete, and hence it always involves finite steps. However, it looks continuous to us because the observer is continuous whereas the sense perceptions are discrete. This is the theory of the soul, namely, that the soul is eternal, that it moves through discrete steps, so the soul takes discrete steps, but it looks continuous because of the soul’s innate property of continuity. The experience of continuity is the property of the soul, not a result of infinite steps.
Indian mathematicians were doing calculations with infinite series knowing fully well that this is not real continuity. Real continuity is due to the soul, but mathematical continuity is just for calculation. Thus, for Indian mathematicians, continuity and smoothness were not reality. They were heuristics. The reality was that consciousness is continuous, but its choices are discrete. So, consciousness moves from one state to another discretely, without creating a problem of continuity. However, to do some calculations, we can postulate the existence of infinite steps each infinitesimally long.
Newton extrapolated the calculation tool to reality and called it calculus. This means that Newton claimed that material reality is continuous and smooth when that continuity and smoothness are due to consciousness. By attributing continuity and smoothness to material reality, Newton rejected the role of consciousness in creating continuity and discreteness. This is the sole invention in the West. It removed the role of continuous consciousness and discrete choices from modern science. It attributed these properties to matter by giving matter continuity and smoothness, based on the infinite convergent series method previously invented in India. Thereby, Newton took the methods created in India and gave them a new interpretation. This is why he wrote: “If I have seen further than my predecessors, it is because I stood on the shoulders of giants”. He did not identify these giants. But they were Indian mathematicians who had solved integration problems. That solution is not the truth or reality. It is just a heuristic device for calculation. Once he transferred the burden of continuity, smoothness, and discreteness to matter, consciousness and will were eliminated from science. The world was no longer moving by will. It was moving due to force, exerted by mass.
Today we know that algebra, geometry, numbers, and infinite series are Indian in origin. Aryabhatta, Bhaskaracharya, and so many other mathematicians were doing these things centuries before Islam and Christianity. Indian mathematicians never denied the role of consciousness, nor did they claim that reality is working mathematically. Indians never said that the sun and moon are moving due to calculus. They just said: We can calculate their movement using algebra and infinite converging series. Newton converted that calculation device into how the planets are actually moving.
This is why quantum mechanics is so important. It destroys the assumptions of calculus. We can never solve the problem of quantum mechanics without consciousness because it is now proven that matter is discrete and the ideas of continuity used in calculus are false. Now we need a theory of how consciousness moves discretely through choice and yet has the experience of continuity and smoothness. But the West is going in the opposite direction. They are splitting consciousness into millions of pieces, such that there are many versions of each person living in different universes. This is how they want to preserve calculus. Every other ridiculous idea is acceptable, but calculus cannot be thrown away. Even if we tell them that calculus is wrong, nobody is going to accept it.
How calculus has been abused
Once calculus was invented, it was forced on everything. It became the model of reality for everything. People today think that nothing can be done without calculus. That is not true. Advanced astronomy existed in India without calculus. Indians calculated the new position of planets without saying that planets move in the same way that we are calculating it. Likewise, metallurgy, agriculture, medicine, and architecture were far more advanced. Everything that was needed was there.
Only bombs and missiles weren’t there. That science of warfare was being done with mantras and it was always a closely guarded secret. But that science has been lost at present because it was a Brahmanical science. Brahmanas were chanting mantras during Vedic rituals and they gave knowledge of some of these mantras to Kshatriyas. When Buddhists and Shankaracharya stopped these rituals in India, then Brahmanical science and practice were lost. The Kshatriyas did not have mantras, they just had bows and arrows. These Kshatriyas did not build cannons and bombs.
If we have mantra substitutes for bombs and missiles then we won’t need a military-industrial complex. We don’t need a factory to make a bomb or missile. Simply by chanting a mantra, weapons will be activated. Then nobody can attack because when they attack, a mantra will be chanted and the attacker will be burned to ashes. Infinite heat is already there in the body, but it is unmanifest right now. By a mantra, that heat is manifest. Thereby, mantras are chanted, heat is manifest, and the attacker self-immolates. Everything just burns to ashes without even having to fight. The whole army can be burned to ashes in a minute. This kind of warfare was known in Mahabharata times. When her husband Lord Shiva was insulted by her father Prajapati Daksha, Sati could not stand that humiliation. She could not say anything to her father either. So she just sat in one place, chanted a mantra, and self-immolated the body. That is because infinite heat is already in the body. It can be manifest through a mantra. We don’t need gas to warm the house in winter.
All these things might come back to India someday. Right now, India is getting bombs and missiles to protect the Vedic civilization. If mantras replace bombs and missiles, then the military-industrial complex will be finished. Very quickly, all forms of industrialization will be over. Then the whole world will again bow before India, just like it was bowing before Yudhisthira and Arjuna previously.
If modern science rejects calculus, then they would have thrown away 336 years of modern science as a huge mistake. Whoever says that calculus must be rejected will immediately lose his job. He will be ousted from his current academic position and his papers will never be published after that. This is a question of Western prestige and inventiveness. To say that they were wrong for centuries will totally destroy their prestige. So these things will be said after that prestige has already been destroyed.
This is why modern science will never solve the problem of will, consciousness, mind, and so on. They got one thing in the name of calculus, they ran with it for a few centuries, and now they are stuck forever. While playing a maze game, you can enter a path that leads to a dead end. You have to retract, come back to the starting point, and find another path. But those who say so will lose their job because it is tied to Western prestige. This is why Western science will never be reformed. It will die a slow and natural death. Until that death, modern science will make attempts to stop the hand from doing what it can do and claim that the hand is incapable of doing those things.
Did experiments refute free will?
This is again due to Judeo-Christian ideas on free will, where the soul is in full control of the body. The reality is different: The body proposes, and the soul accepts or rejects. When Benjamin Libet did experiments on the brain and found that brain activity precedes the verbal report of a choice, he said that we should not call choice free will. We should rather call it free won’t. That means that the body is proposing, and the soul is accepting or rejecting that proposal. If the soul always accepts the body’s proposal, then it will never experience free will because brain activity precedes the will. The body has proposed and the will has accepted the proposal in this case. This is contrary to the Judeo-Christian idea where will originates in the soul and the body obeys. In the Judeo-Christian claims, the soul has dominion over matter. From the experiment, matter has dominion over the soul. Christianity is trying to control matter and the Vedic civilization is trying to get out of material control.
Factually, will is experienced only when we reject the proposals of matter. We have to withdraw from the body-mind, and retract our association. The body says: Look here and there. The soul says: No. That is free won’t. I won’t do what you are telling me to do. I don’t trust the reasoning you are giving to me. I don’t believe your sales pitch of pleasure. This free won’t is realized by concentrating the mind and regulating the body. These are the ways of realizing the power of free won’t or detachment.
However, nearly all academic literature, and certainly the mainstream conversation on this topic, completely ignored what Benjamin Libet had originally said about this issue. They talk about free will alone. Then they say it doesn’t exist. We can agree that “free will” doesn’t exist, but free won’t does. Even that requires practice, renunciation, and discipline, which nobody wants to do.
Hence, for all the lazy people, there is no will; neither free will nor free won’t exist for them. They are robots, who should not be given any rights, cannot own any property, should not be allowed to vote in elections, and should not be rewarded or punished for whatever they do. This is the main agenda of saying that there is no will. The goal is to deny people their rights, take away their property, make their voting irrelevant and ultimately withdraw it, and control them by giving or denying food. The robot works when it is plugged into an electric socket and doesn’t work when it is unplugged.
However, as we have discussed above, neuroscience is not necessary for diagnosing the problem of will. We can show the problem even with the hand-pencil-paper analogy if we ask: Can the hand move discretely and unsmoothly? The answer is yes. Does calculus allow that? The answer is no. Does nature prevent the pencil from moving discretely and unsmoothly? The answer is no. Does calculus prevent the pencil from moving discretely and unsmoothly? The answer is yes. So, calculus is contradicting nature. If you throw away calculus, the problem doesn’t exist. But since they will not throw away calculus, therefore, they have created an artificial law that axiomatically denies will, and they want to make everyone subservient to that law of calculus to make them deterministic robots.
All this jargon about neuroscience experiments is just a way to confuse people. It is not necessary to understand the problem of will, how it is created, and how it can be solved by rejecting the entirety of modern science. A simple hand, pencil, and paper example suffices for understanding it.
- You must be logged in to reply to this topic.