Wednesday, December 15, 2010

What is the Mind and it’s Relation to the Brain? Free Will vs. Free Choice

In my view, the mind and brain are two sides of the same coin. We can say that the brain is the objective side of experience, while the mind is the subjective qualia of phenomenon. Although most of the mind’s components can be reduced to brain activity, there is still one occurrence unaccounted for: the unitary sensation of being in the here and now, also known as “the Self”. No group of neurons are responsible for this feeling of unison. Thus, in that regard, the mind cannot be accounted for in its entirety by the actions of the brain. To illustrate, a class of psychotropic drugs named dissociatives (this includes substances like PCP, DXM, Ketamine, and Nitrous Oxide) block certain areas of the brain, producing states of depersonalization characterized by dissociation of the senses and thoughts. Therefore, the subject witnesses all of their psyche’s parts floating about individually, yet while retaining a sense of self to witness such events. So with the exception of the feeling of self (awareness of the centered present moment)the brain’s proceedings can account for the minds affairs.
In the case of free will, living in a casual universe should give us the answer explicitly. Yet it does not feel so, and that is because we mistake free will with free choice. Free will is when one can will to do something, free from any kind of restraint. In other words, free will is randomly willed choice. No such thing is possible in a casual brain; all of your choices are predetermined by your personality, and other external factors that you have no control over. Even if we take free will to be the vetoing power of the mind on behavior, the will to veto is still determined by temporal and exterior factors. Free choice on the other hand is when one can choose for themselves from a list of options. The implication should not be to lose our autonomy, for we still have it! We can still have freedom of choice, and be responsible for our actions on others. What should be gained from this fact is the understanding of the roots of behavior. People make decisions according to their current context and past conditioning, not by their unbiased free will.