Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A poem on free will.

A leaf was riven from a tree,
"I mean to fall to earth," said he.

The west wind, rising, made him veer.
"Eastward," said he, "I now shall steer."

The east wind rose with greater force.
Said he: "'Twere wise to change my course."

With equal power they contend.
He said: "My judgment I suspend."

Down died the winds; the leaf, elate,
Cried: "I've decided to fall straight."

"First thoughts are best?" That's not the moral;
Just choose your own and we'll not quarrel.

Howe'er your choice may chance to fall,
You'll have no hand in it at all.

     Came across this beautiful poem on free will, written by Ambrose Bierce. The way we rationalize our actions/decisions and the way we continuously continue to believe that we are in control of  ourselves & our actions is indeed surprising. A large amount of research has been done on this topic - whether the decisions we take are really the results of deliberation done by our conscious self (i.e 'I' or 'me') or whether our brain decides stuff and makes it appear to our conscious self that it was the one that took the decision. In other words, how many of the decisions we take (should I overtake this car or not ? should I buy this brand of soap or the other ? should I ask him/her out or not ? ) are conscious decisions and how many are taken unconsciously. A clear answer to this question won't come until the big daddy of all philosophical questions is answered - what exactly is consciousness ? Where precisely does it reside and how does it work (inside the brain ? outside ? is it emergent ? epiphenomenal ? quantum mechanical ? fundamental ? adaptive ? darwinian ? mystical ?) Where (in actions of humans) does the conscious end and unconscious start ? These questions have been reflected upon for hundreds of years.
     With the increasing additions in technology and overall sophistication, I hope to see these questions answered in my lifetime...

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