Do You Have It?
Behaviour is the Result of Process,
Rather than Choice
Behaviour is the result of process rather than choice. If those thoughts are intriguing, you may find my book interesting, fresh, original, or perhaps fascinating.
Free Will, Do You Have It? It is the result of more than 30 years of pondering this question. The result is a book that goes far beyond the free will issue. Have you ever said or thought: “If I had known that I would not have done it” or “I had no choice”? Ever wondered why it is so important to find a motive for a murder? Perhaps because we cannot believe that a murder is just committed because someone suddenly wanted to kill another person.
If one of our friends, who has never left the country, would call us suddenly from Russia, one of our questions would almost certainly be: “What are you doing there?” or “Why did you go there?”
It strongly suggests that we believe there are reasons for what we do and not do. We just cannot believe that he or she got up in the morning and without any reason decided to go to Russia.
I enjoyed writing Free Will, Do You Have It? because it forced me to define my thoughts, organize them and let them lead. By this, I mean that I did not write this book with the third option in mind. As I started writing I went deeper and deeper into the thought processes, without knowing what the result would be. I kept challenging myself with difficult questions and so did my wife and friends. As new thoughts kept unfolding in my mind, they suddenly led me to the discovery of this third option. This third option provided me with a perspective and insight, I did not have before. It also made me realize that for many years the wrong question had been asked.
More than thirty years ago, a friend suggested we should visit someone he knew very well and who enjoyed philosophical talks. He said that I would enjoy talking with him. We drove to his home where he lived with his mother. We were introduced and before realizing it we were engaged in a lively conversation . Time passed without being noticed. When I realized what time it was, I said, “Sorry, but I have to leave.” Under normal circumstances a few “thank you” comments are made and then you are on your way. No one thinks any further about it and life goes on. This time was different. Right after I said I had to leave, someone asked whether I knew why. Of course I know that, I thought, Otherwise I would not have said that I had to leave. So I responded , “Yeah, I have to buy some groceries and finish some work at home.”
The other person’s remark has had a profound impact on my thinking. For over thirty years, I have thought about it so much that I have built a concept around the answer. He said, “You have to leave because there is nothing else you can do. Do you believe that you have free will?” Ah, I thought, that is too easy and I am not falling for this. So I replied, “OK, I will not leave but stay.” Looking back, I realize now that my reaction was one of ignorance as I had helped prove a point that I will use often in my concept. At the time, I had no idea about its value and usefulness. You may be thinking, No way, this is absurd. Of course you could have done something other than leave if you had wanted to. How could he ask you whether you believe you have free will? Of course, we all have free will. If true, it should be easy to defend.
After I left, that question would not leave me alone. Every time I decided to do something, it would pop up. I began asking myself whether I did have free will. I almost felt embarrassed because it was not imaginable that I couldn’t choose whatever I wanted. For days on end I asked myself, Why do I do what I do? Why do I make the choices I make? My brain went to work and produced numerous reasons for my choices. Some choices were so obvious that it would be absurd to even contemplate having made a different one. Gradually I started to focus on the reasons behind my choices and I began to ask myself what it would take to make a different one. I imagined that it would require coming up with different reasons because the reasons I had could not be used to support a different choice. If two plus two supports an outcome of four, it cannot also support an outcome of five, I thought. This made a lot of sense to me at the time. It had not occurred to me earlier to look at my choices in a numerical manner. Numbers are simple to use and understand. They make logical sense. At the same time, I thought it could not be that simple. I knew that although numbers are logical and easy to understand, mathematical equations can be very complex. Even so, it was a start to look at choices and reasons in terms of numbers. Later it proved to be even more helpful.