The unconscious operations that refute Free Will

The unconscious operations that refute Free Will

Aside from determinism, there are things about us that we are either not conscious of or have no ability to consciously control. Psychologists know a lot more about the part of the mind known as the unconscious or subconscious.

As an average dude, I can give a few examples of things that show me I am not able to think the thoughts I want or to do with my body as I wish. I often have songs in my head that I hear just as if the song was playing on my computer or ipod. I absolutely know which movie or video game that the song comes from but why exactly that song rather than another?

While I am pushing carts at my job, I sometimes hear the Flying Battery Zone song from Sonic & Knuckles that I used to play on Sega Genesis. Why do I still hear this song when I no longer have the game or even a recording of it? Obviously it is burned into my memory from hearing it for many years, but I have no clue as to why I sometimes hear that song and other times hear Let it Go from the movie Frozen.

Knowing the cause of having a song in my memory is easy. Being able to choose which memory pops into my head while I am doing something totally irrelevant to that song is impossible. It doesn’t cause me any harm but it is still a weird event that shows me I am not in control.

It is not just songs though. I also remember certain quotes from movies or books. Certain words often pop into my head and out of my mouth at the most unexpected of times. This has gotten me into trouble sometimes with certain people. What this means is that the books I read, games I play, and movies I watch cause my personality to greatly change. One example is that watching My Little Pony has made me a much more peaceful and happy person.

I could go on forever about the things I do both consciously and unconsciously and the interaction between them, but I believe I have made the point clear that even if determinism and indeterminism were ignored, the unconscious things that I can’t do anything about show my lack of free will. My will is not choosing which memories or preferences I have that cause me to choose one thing rather than another. Rather my will IS the sum of my memories and preferences up to the present time.

Speaking of memories, I am reminded of this quote from the book: “Free Will” by Sam Harris.

“Consider what it would take to actually have free will. You would need to be aware of all the factors that determine your thoughts and actions, and you would need to have complete control over those factors. But there is a paradox here that vitiates the very notion of freedom—for what would influence the influences? More influences? None of these adventitious mental states are the real you. You are not controlling the storm, and you are not lost in it. You are the storm.” – Sam Harris



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