I don't believe in the same things I used to believe in ten years ago. I won't necessarily have the same opinions a year or two from now. These thoughts felt much smoother while I was lying in bed thinking wether or not I should get up and start writing this entry on my laptop.
People's opinions have flaws in them. But it's their current opinion. Seeing the flaws in someone else makes me realize we all have flaws in our perception of the world around us.
But having an opinion is something we have to do wether we like it or not. They say sky's the limit, and technically it is, but the reality of it is quite different.
For example, there is nothing stoping me right now from downloading the complete works of Descartes and downing them in one go. I won't ever do that though, because I don't want to. There is nothing stopping anyone from giving their heart and soul for the next decade by studying trout fishing or fabric processing automation in the 1800s industrial evolution era Britain. But they won't do that . Most of them won't.
The best way I can prove my point is to paint the following picture with words :
You are a train that's going through life riding pre-determined railroad tracks. You didn't choose your parents, your education, your inclinations , the country and economy you were born in. The era , your genes and sex. You had no say in your appearance or what your favorite food is. All of those things were predetermined for you. This may sound a bit dark but the truth is, knowing that is liberating.
Knowing your own limits , more of what you want in life is quite soothing. Why did I start writing this blog entry? I don't know. I know that I did start writing it though.
All I'm trying to say is that even though you play a small part in a big world, the possibilities of which aren't quite endless, it's not a depressing thought at all.
You work with what you have, and all what you have is your mind . You are the conscious witness of your life. How people think they have free will is astounding. You didn't create the thoughts in your mind, you merely expressed them. But your knowing that you have no say in what creates your thoughts is liberating. You know that the thoughts are going to rise and fall in your mind, well let them do just that. You can watch from a third person view as the ebb and flow of the mind is unfolding.
Knowing the thoughts are pre-determined by factors that are not up to you allows you to choose more wisely from the multiple threads of thought that arise in your mind at any given moment.
In Japanese, there is an expression that means "To notice". (Ki ga tsuku) Translated literally, it means to attach your mind to something. (気が付く)
Multiple thoughts come and go , but which are the ones you want to attach your mind to ? Most people spend their whole lives thinking without realizing that they are thinking. It's not the thoughts themselves that are bad, but thinking without noticing that we are doing so.
Knowing beforehand that the thoughts are going to come anyway makes you better at evaluating and choosing which of them you want to expend your energy to.
Thus , you are more free in realizing that you're not free.
Determinism may be true, but realizing it can be a life-changing experience, transcending what is usually considered to be “free will”.
For Sam Harris.