love and heretics

It's better to light a candle than curse the darkness

Row your boat, free will shmee will….

And so I am mucking up the free will thoughts again in my wee mind.
It usually tells me to stop thinking about it because it doesn’t like being told
it doesn’t have free will. 😀

(Thanks Noel)

But oddly enough the old song popped in my mind and I thought…How is that for a philosophical argument?

Row, row, row your boat
gently down the stream
merrily merrily merrily merrily
life is but a dream.

That’s life!
We do not choose to be born…
we are in a boat, not by choice (the boat of life)
the stream takes us to the end….the falls…death.
However, along the way we have some choices. Will we paddle? will we jump out?
Will we end it all and just drown before we get to the end?
Admittedly some seem to be given a paddle to row with,
some two, and some none at all . (here I will admit if there is free will it is certainly
not equally distributed , consider the developmentally delayed vs a genius, and all of us in between
Consider where one is born, what type of body….wealth? easy access to things? chronic pain? or depression?)

Some seem to be given motor boats…while some of us paddle with one paddle and only one arm!

and yet….
in the end…
do we not have a choice about how we face what we are given, what we have to work with and how we get to the end?

“Yet it is possible to practice the art of living even in a concentration camp, although suffering is omnipresent.”
“We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread.
They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Viktor Frankl

I tend to get stressed out easily. I worry a lot. And yet even thought this is my predisposition, I am able to observe how another reacts to a situation and realize that their reaction would be better for my health than my own reaction. A friend who has a gift to respond to whatever comes her way…with…
‘It’s all good.” 🙂
I have learned muchly from her.
But if we are driven by no choice/free will then wouldn’t we be NOT able to learn and adjust our behaviors even go against the flow of our nature?

I await you ….who dare to disturb my happy cognition that i choose my own way… 😀



  1. I like row row your boat as a philosophical argument.

    That said, I have said we will act according to our nature. Those who in the concentration camps helped others, acted as they would even if situations were different, it is there nature.

    It is possible to learn from someone and think you will act that way when in a corner, it is only then you realize your true nature. You will act not as you think you have learnt from your friend, which is easier said than done, but according to your nature.

    However, let us for a moment allow us to have free will. Will we act different from how we have acted? What will be free about our choice except the thought that it was freely made?

    • But come now! people act against their nature all the time. People take lessons and pay big bucks to act against their nature!
      In fact…that is part of what made my job so very difficult. (i work with the developmentally delayed, and every day I go into work with the realization that I could get beat up. We go through lessons on how to react and respond (training classed) to behaviors. I am an avoid conflict kinda gal…but I am learning to face conflict. I was also trained to be a forgive seventy times seven , turn the other cheek kinda gal. But I am learning that those responses (though deeply engrained) are not always the best responses.
      And, through much effort I am learning to respond in different ways, as I have observed and learned that those responses sometimes cause more harm than help.

      • You make my days! Do they manage to do so for long or is it just for those few moments? Can they consistently work against their nature?
        The lesson of forgiving seventy time seven and turn your cheek are all life denying! With such an attitude, when will we ever stand up and say enough is enough and we can’t keep going this way!

        • ah, i couldn’t find the reply button directly under your reply…so i posted below, but now i have found it. The lesson of forgiving 70×7 and turn the other cheek can certainly be life denying. It took me most of my life to figure that one out… (i can be rather thick headed) 😀

          • You don’t seem to be doing so bad my friend :-D. I am enjoying the conversation.

            • good…I was hoping i wasn’t verging on the annoying flea level… 😀
              When i decide to tackle something i don’t understand…it takes me full throttle…
              more niggles that make my mind wiggle
              if we only do what is our nature…what inspiration is there to change?
              why punish people for being who they are? for doing what they cannot help?

              • In all my posts on morality, there is none where I have advocated punishment for the simple reason that doing so would mean this person had a choice, which I say she didn’t have. She couldn’t have acted as they did. I however have written that since society has a duty to protect itself, we have to rehabilitate such offenders, especially if they are repeat offenders.

                We have a duty to create a healthy society.

                Why do you think it is not part of our nature to be better, to improve? Why do you separate that from being part of your nature and that acting to be better doesn’t argue for having or not having free will?

                You are far from annoying me!

                • but who are we to judge what is healthy if we have no free will? how is their own nature not healthy? what makes it …wrong? without free will what is justice, or fairness, or good or bad? It could indeed be part of our nature to be better…but then what of those who fail that? My mind is going a million miles an hour on this one, and i must go…”live”…pick up the groceries, wash the clothes…so I suppose i should not..”choose” to stay and continue hacking this out…but…could i? 😉

                  • I do not talk of justice. It is revenge couched in a more polite language [ most times that is].
                    <em<Who are we to judge it is not healthy if there is no free will?
                    Is it healthy to kill people for food? Do you think having free will will make this a healthy pastime?
                    Depends, you will act in a specific way. If in someway you think you can get groceries later, you are going to stay here and rake your mind at a million miles an hour, dirty clothes notwithstanding!

                • Isn’t that ignoring the chain of choices made which led to the eventual crime, though?

                  • aye, good question John.

                  • You see your question asks about chain of choices which I don’t think exist. I think it was Blaise Pascal who said no one will do anything that doesn’t lead to their happiness. People can’t act other than as they have acted and to expect more is to be more than ambitious.

                    • I’d argue there are chains of choices. Consider a student. Over a semester she parties a little too much, neglects her studies, does poorly. She breaks that chain of choices (to neglect her studies, self-indulgence) by saying ‘no’ to parties and instead studying a little harder.

      • What are your thoughts on this one?
        “What people have the capacity to choose, they have the ability to change.”
        ― Madeleine Albright

        • Do you an example of one of these then I can respond?

      • Some do for awhile…some for a lifetime. But it is a choice each and every time yes? to go against nature or accept the inevitable. Do we wish for more? Do we set goals and strive to achieve them and conquer “nature” or bad habits we have allowed to rule us? There are some studies saying that it takes 21 days to make or break a habit. Things like stress or major events can send us down the hole back into old ways, but we can crawl back out again…

        • About setting goals or even things to do, how many times have you told yourself I will do this or that as soon as I get home and do something totally different? Or the number of times you start to think about something and your mind does its thing by going on a journey without your willing it?

      • Argus

        “Developmentally delayed”? Ye cats; is that modern PC speak for ‘retarded’?

        Damn—I’m so behind the times … oops, culturally retarded (bugger! I meant) “sensitivity-spoken reverse progressed” …

        Sod it, I think I’ll go bite someone …

        • lol…yes, it has been rather drilled into me. We go through all this training and you get it into your skull not to say the “r” word. I just laugh because in a few years I assume “developmentally delayed” will become pc’d out as well…after all it means the same thing. Imagine the little kindergarteners chasing each other…
          yelling out…”developmentally delayed!” then we shall have to come up with a new word….”idiot” “slow” all those outlawed words…
          but the “R” word….that was has become rather like the “N” word around here.

  2. Noel will kill me, but i’m coming to the conclusion we do have free will, although we only exercise it a few times in our life (if we’re lucky). Eastman, as you pointed out, didn’t exercise free will. The illness preempted his suicide. Perhaps free will is pure randomness? I once drove home (to Brisbane) from Canberra (1,300km) using only a pendulum to guide my path. I went onto the country roads and at every intersection i’d take out the pendulum and if it spun left i’d head left, if it spun right i’d take the right. I took me over a week and i found myself pretty much in the desert a few times but i did eventually make it home.

    Free will?

    • I remember lying awake as a kid at night…freaking out about the thought that god knew what i was going to do before i did it…could i possibly trick him? do something i would never do? act like i was going to do one thing…and then…foil him by doing another?
      could he read my mind? then i would have to think i was going to do that something else…oh wait..he could read me thinking about trying to trick him with my thinking! quite frustrating…
      But without god…I do believe a lot of our actions are dominated/controlled to many extents by genetics, mindsets we were raised with, habits we built over a lifetime, and circumstances. However I don’t think they are completely controlled. I think there is a bit of wiggle room for choices…and change.
      so far I can not be convinced otherwise.. 😉
      Noel can kill us both.. lol.
      But seriously he seems to just enjoy the questions and conversation. I think we are safe.
      I love your exercise of random free will! that was way cool!

      • University + Pot = Pendulum Navigation Experiment! 🙂

      • Holly, for all intents and purposes, if it is up to me, you are would have a long life as you desire! I would be the last person to kill you.

        Let’s take it a bit with some background. When does this free will enter into the fray? From the very first instant, no one chooses who their parents are, where they will be born and even the sperms or eggs that would interact. Those are out of control. Once born, tell me when you start to make a choice that I will be this or that or I will do this or that?

        To the most interesting of those places where people say they make choices, life partners. Is it a question of choice or can we rewind back to see a chain of events that lead to this one person out of a possible billions of choices? I will have to think about this too.

    • Hahaha, John you know of all the people I have come to know, I wouldn’t want you dead. I’d miss the wit and sarcasm that your posts are loaded with!

      Now onto your driving, I will have to give it much more thought and come back to it later.

  3. There is row row…, ‘such is life’, cieste la vie, and so on. If everyone exerts free will, it looks like much none of us have free will because we cannot control the environment we find ourselves in. Those that find themselve in fortuitous circumstance exert themselves as much as others but can make more independent choices. Many of the world do not find themselves in places where they can make choices which can be noticed in this way. Survival, being the prime occupation, causes most to follow the rules thus appearing to be without free will.

    The pain that change causes our brains will make us seem to be without free will. Change hurts so we avoid it. This keeps us following along with the program but it is in itself an act of free will. Nothing can stop you walking away from your current life and starting another. The pain of change typically does prevent this. When the current life is painful, we walk away for one less painful. See the movie ‘Million Dollar Baby’ as an example of someone who does this. It is not seen as unbelievable.

    Remember here the pain I’m refering to is that induced by congnitive troubles. Uncertainty causes phisiological reactions and acts like pain in as much as how we react to it. The pain of change, not lack of free will, causes things to look like they do. We are not by nature (generally speaking) wont to seek out the pain of change. Thrill seekers aside (they too keep routines) we tend to like calm and peace and understanding… preferring an idyllic setting to one of change and turmoil.

    In the end, we seem to have no control because to assert it would necessarily mean dealing with the pain.

    • That is a very interesting perspective myatheistlife. It rather makes sense to me. We can be one thing and yet be exposed to other things. Inspired by interactions with others…which can cause us to look past our comfort level, and habits…etc.

      • Being a non-believer I have tried to find truth. Removing just the ‘magic’ of religion is not enough. Understanding that I spoke of requires searching. Everything should make sense and there should be a way to understand the world that allows for everything to make sense without asserting magic or imaginary beings.

        Believe it or not, I arrived at this looking for what artificial intelligence is (in large part) which requires examining what it means to be conscious. Eventually arriving at a conditional/preliminary theory of mind which gives me what I wrote in the previous comment. Without an understanding of what consciousness is, we tend to make up stories or myths about it. We talk about free will without understanding what is consciousness in the first place – the presumed home/source of free will. I think the two discussions are not (yet) separable.

        Some (philosophers, theorists) have opined that we might live in a simulation. I posit that we do live in a simulation. We experience the world around us through a simulation in our brains – what we call consciousness is a simulation of the world based on information from our senses. Changes to the rules of that simulation cause us pain in as much as we can feel pain outside of our senses. In the simulation both physical pain and the turbulence of changing rules have the same effects, or similar enough to speak of them interchangeably. When the current set of rules in our simulation cause enough pain will will walk away and seek new rules, new ideas, new surroundings. How often have you heard people talk as if a change of physical location or job would fix all their problems? If you analyze it, their problems are all cognitively oriented and a change of thought usually will fix their problems where the change they were thinking really won’t.

        We don’t think of looking inward at the rules of our simulation or that we experience through a simulation – everything seems real, and in real time. It’s not. We fool ourselves because as babies we learn to compensate for the differences in time, the delays between real sensing and assimilation of the data into our simulation. We generally live about 500 milliseconds in the past. That’s okay because it is what we learned about the world as children. When babies are chewing their fingers and toes and grabbing stuff… this is what they are doing – building the simulation. Until it is built we do not form recognizable memories. At least they are not recognizable to us as adults. Each of us has memories as a child, but they are after the simulation was designed and built. As toddlers, the rules change so fast and drastically that we do not have the machinery to recall the memories once it changes to the new rules of the simulation.

        The theory of mind that I’m working on quickly can explain a lot of things that we have no explanation for yet. Research is not my field. I’m studying as much as I can. Child learning study’s support what I’ve said in as much as they do not contradict it. This is where I’m at with it. I’ve not found contradictory research. It might exist and I’m looking for it… just haven’t found it yet.

        Sorry, long comment. Apparently I need to get some things loose from my brain.

        • Awesome, MAL!

        • MAL, this is awesome.
          My contention is, why if we are living in simulation do you insist on free will? Where does free will come in in this simulation? I need to understand that part.

          • The simulation of the world is in your head, between your ears. Consciousness, in a nutshell, is that simulation. It is informed by your senses, memories, and rules for how the simulation works. The longer explanation takes into account and currently relies on explaining oddities about our minds that we don’t yet have a good understanding of. How do mammals, born with deformities, go through life as if it’s not really a problem? Their simulation was built with those deformities and so their normal simulation contains them. If you or I were to lose a limb, the simulation would have to be adjusted. This is difficult to do. Those inputs to the simulation will continue to be there putting out white noise for data, sort of.

            We experience the world through the simulation of it that we have created in our minds.

          • Somehow I misread your comment. Free will comes from the ability in our brains to choose how the simulation works and thus how we interact with the real world. Children have wild imaginations and this is a choice to allow their simulation not follow the rules we adults generally do. (yes, I’m an adult… 😉 )

            Free will is choosing the actions of the simulation … we can pretend, empathize, see things that are not there. The rules of the simulation are created and modified by us. Choosing how they are modified or ignored etc. is an act of free will.

            Just as consciousness has layers of analysis, free will is not centered in a single process but is the amalgum or gestault of many.

        • I agree with John, this was deeply impressive. Thank you so much for taking the time to share it here. (long comments are always welcome) 🙂

  4. Cyanide and Happiness, a daily webcomic
    Cyanide & Happiness @


  6. Argus

    I started doing the ‘free will’ bit once but got horribly sidetracked. So I’ll try again in a new post but it will of necessity be a loooooong one. Only after I’ve posted I’ll take a beak at the one you linked above (Noel). I want to get my own thoughts down—and if he says the same as moi, I’ll take that as a confirmation.

    But if we look at it from the Christian angle (didn’t I already do this, somewhere?)—

    * God is everywhere
    * God knows everything
    * God is omnipotent

    —so if God knows what you will do—WILL do, note, not ‘might’ do—even before you are born; then what ‘free will’ can you possibly have?
    Just an inconvenient illusion …

    • oh yes, that disturbed me greatly as a child. I went round and round with it…
      wondering if there was some way i could beat him, and trick him into doing my own will..without him …catching on. In the end I found it horribly depressing to imagine life as a piece on the chessboard being moved about by someone else….
      or a character in a book being forced to respond the way i was written too. That just did NOT sit well with me…. 😀

      • Argus

        ‘Tis all a Chequer-board of Nights and Days
        Where Destiny with Men for Pieces plays:
        Hither and thither moves, and mates, and slays,
        And one by one back in the Closet lays.
        — —Omar Fitzgerald

        • ::stamps foot:: I refuse to be a piece!!! I shall resort to cognitive dissonance if it is true, and happily believe that i make my own moves iiiiiirrregardless… 😀

  7. Argus

    And I always (try to) read the comments only AFTER I’ve made my own comment, which refers to the post itself.

    Some interesting stuff above …


  1. Everything and nothing… | Wasted times.

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