Folks, those of you who have followed this blog know yours truly does hold the view that we don’t have free will. I have written quite a number of posts that can be found here, here, here, here and here that try to espouse my thinking on the idea or opinions by other philosophers of old on the same question. At the same time, those who have followed the discussion know of my friend whom whereas we agree on many issues, we don’t seem to find common ground on this question.
He recently did a post where again this question was raised and in which he introduces a new dimension to the conversation. First he offers a definition of consciousness and stages of consciousness that I would like to borrow, especially since I have not read much about it, but which I think is appropriate for our use. He writes,
Firstly, consciousness can be defined as the waking state. This essentially means that to be conscious, one needs to be awake, aroused, alert or vigilant. The stages of consciousness can range from wakefulness, to sleep to coma even. Secondly, consciousness is defined as experience, a far more subjective approach. This notion suggests that consciousness is the content of experience from one moment to another. Consciousness is highly personal, involving a conscious subject with a limited point of view. Thirdly, consciousness can be defined as the mind. Any mental state with a propositional content is considered conscious. Thus this includes beliefs, fears, hopes, intentions, expectations and desires.
We can agree that these definitions, for lack of a better word, represent the stages of consciousness but doesn’t necessarily tell us what consciousness is nor does it add to the knowledge of what the essence of ‘I’ as a being that thinks is.
I want to introduce a third position to this very interesting and ongoing debate. The third is the position, that I believe, Hume, the great skeptic would have offered, that we can’t know whether we have free will or not and should suspend judgement. The reason for this being that we are trying to answer a question about us as an object in itself, a cognition we are not capable of making. Whereas, this answer is not satisfactory to many, I think it is one that need some thought. In advocating skepticism, I shall in the meantime, maintain, not dogmatically, but from reason that we don’t have free will since as things in nature, we are not exempt from the cause – effect continuum.
I have been, in the past 2 or so weeks been reading Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason and he writes that the following four questions are at the apex of all cosmical questions that human reason aspires to find answers but that it can at least as far as we can tell, we can’t have the correct answer. The questions are
- does the universe have a beginning and a limit to its extension in space
- do we have a soul
- are we free agents
- is there a supreme being
What are your answers to these questions and can you justify your answers. Are there any other questions that you think I[he] left out and which are these questions?