No personal free will according to an Indian philosophy?

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Ulrich Mohrhoff just posted in his blog some interesting expositions about the beliefs of the Indian philosophy of Sri Aurobino regarding the free will controversy. Essentially, he says that per this body of spiritual teaching, the isolated human individuated self and surface personality (with no direct conscious knowledge of its intimate connection and underlying melding with Spirit) is totally subject to the determinism of the physical world. In other words, for the common man's individuated self not conscious of his Soul, there is no free will, just the illusion of it. In this scheme of thought, it is only the Spirit that is an agent free of determinism.

In this philosophy the only manifestions of true free will in life are the occasional influences of the soul in humans making creative decisions. 

I think there are many basic problems with this philosophy, such as the practical necessity of assuming free will decisions when it comes to the criminal justice system - people simply must be assumed to be consciously responsible for their actions in order for society to work. And in general, if most all decisions of individuated personality selves are predetermined by hidden long cause and effect chains, there is no true human creativity and no true human responsibility. This philosophy would appear to imply that we are basically meat robots, as claimed by many materialists. And presumably AI robots (being in essence machines whose programmed interiors are devoid of anything but mechanisms predetermined to carry out long chains of instructions), can somehow, as humans do, manifest immaterial consciousness.

Quote:"[t]he apparent freedom and self-assertion of our personal being to which we are so profoundly attached, conceal a most pitiable subjection to a thousand suggestions, impulsions, forces which we have made extraneous to our little person. Our ego, boasting of freedom, is at every moment the slave, toy and puppet of countless beings, powers, forces, influences in universal Nature. (SY, 59–60)³"


(Mohrhoff): "As long as we live in the ignorant seeming, we are the ego and are subject to the modes of Nature. Enslaved to appearances, bound to the dualities, tossed between good and evil, sin and virtue, grief and joy, pain and pleasure, good fortune and ill fortune, success and failure, we follow helplessly the iron or gilt and iron round of the wheel of Maya. At best we have only the poor relative freedom which by us is ignorantly called free-will. But that is at bottom illusory, since it is the modes of Nature that express themselves through our personal will; it is force of Nature, grasping us, ungrasped by us that determines what we shall will and how we shall will it. Nature, not an independent ego, chooses what object we shall seek, whether by reasoned will or unreflecting impulse, at any moment of our existence."

Quote:Our notion of free will is apt to be tainted with the excessive individualism of the human ego and to assume the figure of an independent will acting on its own isolated account, in a complete liberty without any determination other than its own choice and single unrelated movement. This idea ignores the fact that our natural being is a part of cosmic Nature and our spiritual being exists only by the supreme Transcendence. Our total being can rise out of subjection to fact of present Nature only by an identification with a greater Truth and a greater Nature. (LD, 960)

(Mohrhoff): "At what point in evolution does free will cease to be wholly illusory? Most systems of Indian philosophy share the fundamental distinction between self (Purusha) and nature (Prakriti). Prakriti, which encompasses not only our bodies but also our minds, functions deterministically. (Indian philosophy virtually takes for granted that the consciousness belonging to the self must be distinguished from the operations of mind.) Purusha, identifying himself with certain physical and mental operations of Prakriti, wrongly believes that he chooses when in fact she (Prakriti) chooses. But the Purusha is also capable of becoming aware not only of his independence from Prakriti but also of her dependence on his sanction."

Quote:[T]he mental human being is not aware of a soul in him standing back from the mind and life and body, detaching itself, seeing and controlling and moulding their action and formation: but, as the inner evolution proceeds, this is precisely what can, must and does happen,—it is the long-delayed but inevitable next step in our evolutionary destiny. There can be a decisive emergence in which the being separates itself from thought and sees itself in an inner silence as the spirit in mind, or separates itself from the life movements, desires, sensations, kinetic impulses and is aware of itself as the spirit supporting life, or separates itself from the body sense and knows itself as a spirit ensouling Matter: this is the discovery of ourselves as the Purusha, a mental being or a life-soul or a subtle self supporting the body. (LD, 886)

LD = Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine (Sri Aurobindo Ashram Publication Department, 2005).

SY = Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga (Sri Aurobindo Ashram Publication Department, 1999).
Heh, well few in India have even heard of Sri Aurobindo, so I wouldn't take this as a national/cultural gospel.

There's even a Hell, though temporary, for people who made immoral choices.

All that said, this question of influence over our choices and the degree to which even a normal person is an "addict" or someone who is "conditioned" is an important one. Think of Colin Wilson's assertion that much of life is lived in robotic fashion until a person makes that first important choice to break out of that state.

“Stay together, friends.
Don't scatter and sleep.

Our friendship is made
of being Awake.”

― Rumi

Edit: The example he uses from Hammeroff seems to misconstrue the doctor's intentions. Hammeroff was arguing for a genuine conscious agent in the single celled organism, not the simulacrum of one.
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell


(This post was last modified: 2021-09-03, 07:51 PM by Sciborg_S_Patel.)
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