The illusion of free will

There are several episodes in my life about which I sometimes stop and think, and wonder how things might have turned out had I chosen a different path.

The 'first' frame of the Mandelbrot fractal, the one that is most widely recognised

Frozen in time

In each case, the decision I made at the time was determined by the overall situation. Had the circumstances been different, I would have chosen another path.

“Ah, if I knew then what I know now…”: a futile thought. It’s currently impossible* to transmit information into the past. And if it were possible, well, that would result in a classic paradox: the new path chosen in the past (as a direct result of the additional information) would cause the present to disappear in a puff of logic — and so there would be no information to transmit to the past in the first place.

An animation of the Mandelbrot fractal

Life is a circle

Still with me?

What’s done is done; the past is dead and gone. The future, though, that’s a different matter: the decisions we make today impact upon the lives of others; our actions spread like ripples on a pond.

Do we have free will? It’s a mystery.

* I don’t, as a rule, hold with the concept of ‘impossibility’ — until something has been tried, you don’t know what might happen.

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About pendantry

Phlyarologist (part-time) and pendant. Campaigner for action against anthropogenic global warming (AGW) and injustice in all its forms. Humanist, atheist, notoftenpist. Wannabe poet, writer and astronaut.
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11 Responses to The illusion of free will

  1. Martin Lack says:

    In Against The Wind, Bob Seger said, “Wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then…!”

  2. Jeannie says:

    thought provoking post! I try very hard not to cry over spilled milk. What I’ve determined in my 58 years of living is that we make the best decisions we know how, given our current situation and circumstances. We decide and move on, learn from our mistakes and don’t beat ourselves up over the would’ve, could’ve, should’ve.

    Free will? I think so….but keep in mind, what ever our life’s destiny is, it seems to me we find unrest and discontent until we are walking it…and I do think we all have our special place…but not every one realizes it or believes it to be so.

  3. pendantry says:

    Well, I’ve learned something new today… 🙂

  4. Eric Alagan says:

    Jeannie said it all for me. Thanks, Eric

  5. Fantastic points altogether, you simply received a new reader. What could you suggest in regards to your post that you simply made some days in the past? Any positive?

    • pendantry says:

      WordPress flagged your comment as spam (I don’t know why). Sadly, I’m unable to answer the question you pose, as I’m sorry to admit that I don’t understand it. Could you rephrase?

  6. witsendnj says:

    Here’s an interview with the author of a very interesting new book (speaking of free will): How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior.

I'd love to hear what your views are!

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