To deprogram oneself necessitates keeping to very specific schedules, which are what Foucault, once again, described as techniques of the self, echoing Seneca. Holidays are a moment to practice such programmes. Myself, I use relaxation as a form of deprogramming. When I go on holiday, I work early and write all morning. Then, I swim, a lot, until that state when physical exertion stimulates a rush—because the brain produces a lot of endorphins. Swimming thus becomes a journey within oneself, during the course of which I run back through my memory of everything I wrote several hours earlier. Then I lie in the sun, drained, and I let my mind empty, since this is how unlikely thoughts can arise: a programming emerges from all of this. Then I return to writing: I note all that has arisen — first in the water, then in the sun — all through rereading and annotating what I wrote in the morning.
Under the sun, I sense that this mass of hydrogen that has been combusting for several billion years is a cosmic programme that intervenes in my physiological programmes — muscles, brain, various organs — and which, in this intervention, produces a difference, a change of programme which allows me to write another kind of programme: a book in which I comment generally on other books.
Books, when they are good, are thus deprogramming programmes, unlikely programmes, like poems, in which there must be, wrote Paul Claudel, “a number that prevents counting”.
“[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
“In this period there was a culture of what could be called personal writing: taking notes on the reading, conversations, and reflections that one hears or engages in oneself; keeping kinds of notebooks on important subjects (what the Greeks call ‘hupomnemata’), which must be reread from time to time so as to reactualize their contents.”
Foucault, The Hermeneutics of the Subject: Lectures at the College de France 1981-1982
“It is noteworthy that Plato (through Socrates) describes liberation as an active process, a process of learning and engagement. That is quite different from ideas that are more popular, though to me less inspiring, where salvation comes about through external grace, or through renunciation.”
— Frank Wilczek, A Beautiful Question