The Hiddenness of Freedom

Suppose that you parachute from an airplane into a vast unoccupied desert. The lifeless sand is a warning. You have enough supplies in your pack to last a week. You look across the east horizon for any sign of hope. To your surprise there is something off in the distance, a vague object. To the north there is nothing as far as the eye can see. To the west there is, to your surprise, another vague object. To the south – nothing. Which object do you seek out, the east or west? The objects are as vague as to be indistinguishable. It seems that choosing one or the other is a matter of pure randomness, so without any more consideration you start heading east. After several days of trekking, the eastern object is beginning to take form. Finally, it appears to be a rock formation with some skeletons, an ominous sign! What do you do? You decide to retrace your journey and make for the other vague object. Several days later. . . it feels as if death is encroaching as your supplies dwindle. You are parched; the sun threatens to burn the flesh right off your bones. Thankfully, the other object begins to take form. It is just another rock formation, but is that some green? At closer inspection there is a small green plant. You climb the rocks and look upon the other side. . . Is this a mirage? A hallucination induced by dehydration? An oasis appears before you complete with water and palm trees!

Where is our freedom?

Some say there is no freedom. Human actions are entirely determined by circumstances and the brain, an immensely complex computer. As you traverse reality, you are not “deciding” anything at all; in fact, the brain already had an answer before the question was asked. The brain already had the output before the input was received because with any given input there was only one possible output. And, any feeling of freedom is simply an illusion. But, has science ruled out the possibility of freewill? Is science even capable of detecting systems with freedom? A system with freedom may be unpredictable enough as to be hidden from science.

My thinking is that, yes, a form of freewill does exist amidst the deterministic components of the brain. The freedom is found in the ability to seek, to inquire, and to ask. One might argue that these tendencies are innate, that we don’t actually have a choice to seek. This may be true in many or most instances, but it may be that there are instances in which a true expression of freedom, a decision to seek truth and morality, is undertaken. We don’t have to know when we express freedom to be expressing freedom. Indeed, an expression of freedom may be hidden from our own knowledge.

As we are surrounded by vague objects in the distant horizon, we have the ability to seek their true form, hoping to uncover just a tiny bit of the mystery we find ourselves surrounded by. Hopefully we can find an oasis.