“[T]hat one wants to combat the vehemence of a drive at all, however, does not stand within our own power; nor does the choice of any particular method; nor does the success or failure of this method. What is clearly the case is that in this entire procedure our intellect is only the blind instrument of another drive, which is a rival of the drive whose vehemence is tormenting us. ... While ‘we’ believe we are complaining about the vehemence of a drive, at bottom it is one drive which is complaining about the other; that is to say: for us to become aware that we are suffering from the vehemence of a drive presupposes the existence of another equally vehement or even more vehement drive, and that a struggle is in prospect in which our intellect is going to have to take sides.”
— Nietzsche, Daybreak: Thoughts on the Prejudices of Morality
Tamler: So the question is: is it possible that our natures are flexible enough that—after due reflection—this commitment to free will and DMR [deep moral responsibility] can be softened, or even eliminated?
Galen: I think this question may be the only really interesting question left in the free will debate, because the answers to the rest are really pretty clear by now...
...Given that the experience of DMR is seemingly inevitable in our everyday life, can we shake free of it, can we at least diminish it, can we somehow truly live, breathe the impossibility of DMR, and not just accept it in a merely theoretical context? And is the inevitability of the experience of DMR just a local human fact, a human peculiarity or limitation, or is it going to be inevitable for any possible cognitively sophisticated, rational, self-conscious agent that faces Oxfam-box-type choices and is fully aware of the fact that it does so?
Well, I’m not sure. But I think that perhaps it’s not inevitable for human beings, and here I have a couple more quotations I like. The Indian mystical thinker Krishnamurti reports that the experience of radical choice simply fades away when you advance spiritually: ‘you do not choose’, he says, ‘you do not decide, when you see things very clearly.. Only the unintelligent mind exercises choice in life’. A spiritually advanced or ‘truly intelligent mind simply cannot have choice’, because it ‘can … only choose the path of truth’. ‘Only the unintelligent mind has free will’ — by which he means experience of radical free will.
“I’m thinking of what psychologist Eleanor Rosch says in a talk she gave in San Francisco last August called ‘What Buddhist Meditation has to Tell Psychology About the Mind’. At one point she was discussing the Buddhist doctrine of the endlessly ramifying interdependence of everything, and observed that ‘an understanding of [this] interdependence has clinical significance. It can provide people who suffer from guilt, depression, or anxiety with a vision of themselves as part of an interdependent network in which they need neither blame themselves nor feel powerless. In fact it may be that it is only when people are able to see the way in which they are not responsible for events that they can find the deeper level at which it is possible to take responsibility beyond concept and (depending upon the terminology of one’s religious affiliation) repent, forgive, relax, or have power over the phenomenal world’.”
— Galen Strawson
There are three great comforting lies at the heart of the cruel and corrupt monstrosity we call “Western Civilization”
– three all-important factual allegations that, like Santa Claus, are treasured not because there is scientific evidence for them, but because they offer an emotional cushion some are loathe to live without – the three lies that are the opiate to which nearly everyone is addicted....
The three lies are: God, immortality, and free will. They are joined together in a religious narrative, founded in medieval theological dogma, which remains the unquestioned basis of our American culture and our American system of law.
“If the moon, in the act of completing its eternal way around the earth, were gifted with self-consciousness, it would feel thoroughly convinced that it was traveling its way of its own accord on the strength of a resolution taken once and for all. . . . So would a Being, endowed with higher insight and more perfect intelligence, watching man and his doings, smile about man’s illusion that he was acting according to his own free will.”
— Albert Einstein
“Other animals are born, seek mates, forage for food and die. That is all. But we humans – we think – are different. We are persons, whose actions are the results of their choices. Other animals pass their lives unawares, but we are conscious. Our image of ourselves is formed from our ingrained belief that consciousness, selfhood and free will are what define us as human beings, and raise us above all other creatures.”
— John Gray, Straw Dogs
“...there is no ‘being’ behind doing, effecting, becoming; ‘the doer’ is merely a fiction added to the deed—the deed is everything.”
— Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals (First Essay, Section 13)