I want my words to live in a redeeming, magnificent song
to worship the hole in freedom

was originally published on Meandering home

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Meditation on freedom

Breathe in and think about a beginning. How to start a meditation on freedom? Do we have an entry point, a route that we can follow? Let’s clear our head of all that has been said about freedom. Smile. We are going to choose freely what we mean by freedom here. We are gaming ourselves. It is an existential.

So we are aware of Libet’s experiments. We raise our arm first, and the neurons that are associated with our decision to do so fire some milliseconds later. Our body decides, our consciousness follows and creates an evolutionarily useful internal theatre of the free will. It seems there is nothing more to say about the subject. What we call freedom is a certain fysiological dance of axons and dentrites.

Lo and behold! We have begun to find freedom ‘boring’. Can we still wonder about the ‘privateness’ of a phenomenon? We have been here a million times, we can accept that freedom is a ‘dance’ of the elements. Some philosophers have insisted that such dance needs to be indeterministic because that is how we experience our freedom. Something inside us must be god-like, they seem to think, for we are the creators of our inner worlds. Perhaps the quantum indecidibility is what makes freedom possible on an ontological level. The thought that whatever I will decide next was already ‘written in the stars’ contradicts our experience of freedom, and the latter certainly should count as a genuine source of knowledge?

Let’s breathe a bit more. Thinking is praxis. And so is a meditation on freedom! A deterministic view that we can hold about freedom can lead us to discard the concept of responsibility and punishment. This is of course simplistic and lacks the elegance of philosophical reasoning. The decision to get rid of punishment and the concept of responsibility itself is ‘inevitable’ or ‘automatic’ in this story. But if we decide nót to get rid of responsibility some causal chain must have lead to it and in this story we accept causal chains. What we are saying (intentionally in a vague way) is that such conclusions from the alleged absense of freedom require some sort of ‘loyalty’ to a perceived truth. But loyalty is a concept of the same category these thinkers want to get rid of!

We close our eyes. Breathe again. We defend, against all too quick naturalists, the enigma of our freedom. When we say it is a ‘necessary illusion’ we don’t mean this lightly. Can intelligent machines experience freedom? Imagine a robot that has passed the Turing test. I think we can never tell, just like our human freedom must remain an enigma for each other. This humanist consideration would be an argument in favor of some legal status of machines that can interact like humans. I find this a hard discussion.

It is time to get up. Feel our living bodies again. Practise awareness. The freedom that we mean is the experience, not of an abstract moment in which we can or can not lift our hand, but the experience of a fulfilled life.

Meditation on freedom was originally published on Meandering home

The Good Life

Mark likes to play computer games. In real life
he fixes televisions. There are solder spots on his hands,
when he sends his armies to the front lines.

Paul, who measures buildings before they are inhabited,
enjoys spinning a lifetime of infinities in his mind.

Oscar, the media guy, prefers sitting in the sun.

Justine with an e, who owns many clothes and signals,
squats tearfully on shattered glass.

Such a grand vision of humanity.

The Good Life was originally published on Meandering home

Incitement

I hear the frequency of my kitchen

the deafening sound of appliances

that killed the wind, the quiet

murmur of the grass and the cicadas

and the death throes of little animals

I try to remember the smell of the earth

her dirt, her ashes, her streams, her stones

her forests, her oceans, the long traces

of life in her atmosphere. Instead

I glance at plywood fronts and plastic

and marble and steel and glass and all

brand new, and clean. Inert, threatening

to kill me

I am organic life forgetting itself

forgetting that time is in order

and that I am free, because of it

‘Freedom’. 50x50cm, Acrylic on canvas by Camille van Neer

Incitement was originally published on Meandering home

Free like a Tiger

grrr!

Freedom is a very popular concept in philosophy, and the question about the essence of freedom has divided philosophers in many camps while the variety of different answers has been at the heart of different views of science, religion, ethics, and nature itself. The question is still pondered in faculties (and canteens) around the world, with brain researchers, having made mindboggling progress, asserting they have already found the ultimate answer.

I have written a dissertation about freedom and responsibility, yet I have no clue about freedom. I simply fail to grasp the philosophical concept of a generic definition of freedom. What do we have? Imagine a large sociological research project with abundant result in the form of recounts of actual, lived “freedom” – well, what the interviewed people think they think it’s freedom. All the data in the world won’t be enough to formulate a generic definition of freedom. The famous absence of a private language in philosophy implies that the private language of our mind is not translatable into the public language of words, precisely because it doesn’t exist.

So what if we take a modest position, looking at natural objects and considering their freedom? A tree is freer than a rock because it interacts with it surroundings; a fish is freer than a tree because it also has locomotion; and so forth. Why don’t we understand freedom simply as the ability to move within certain “rooms” (space, sensomotorical experience, time, monetary possibilities, the internet, minds, the scale of power). Locomotive freedom is the main metaphor for this, and the main flaw as any philosopher would immediately attest.

A little complication comes to mind. How can we decide if someone is free to locomote, when that person doesn’t locomote but merely understands her own potential movement? A neurochemical test of that understanding seems a bit far-fetched and doesn’t improve our understanding of freedom. Sidetrack: What have we got so far? Is a helicopter freer than an airplane? But they don’t have minds. So it’s all in our heads, and the locomotion metaphor is dead. You can be free with Sartre in a prison cell. Or is it about a balance of potential and actual, enacted freedom? But can such a balance be expressed in language? What is the language of freedom?

And what about the freedom of the tiger? What is his take on freedom?

grrrr.

March 30. Time, being, freedom, etcetera.


Instead of this:
“Time/being/freedom/the soul/matter/consciousness itself is like dripping honey” I advice you to write this:
“I think about dripping honey and I feel good.”
Perhaps you like those abstraction. I reckon you know them much better than I do. I don’t like to talk about these words because it O feels like arguing it feels very bad. Regardless of how many books I read about time, being, freedom, the soul, matter and consciousness, people keep explaining me what it is. And I totally lost my interest in them. I’m almost sorry I don’t like to talk about them.
I don’t remember this day. I probably wrote in a café until the evening and tried in vain to catch a movie at the BAFICI, went home O early thinking about my next writing and falling asleep with sore eyes and without brushing my teeth! This looks like a travel weblog. And tomorrow I’ll write what I had for breakfast. I’ll write I had time, being, freedoom, the soul, matter, and consciousness for breakfast O.

March 30. Time, being, freedom, etcetera.


Instead of this:
“Time/being/freedom/the soul/matter/consciousness itself is like dripping honey” I advice you to write this:
“I think about dripping honey and I feel good.”
Perhaps you like those abstraction. I reckon you know them much better than I do. I don’t like to talk about these words because it O feels like arguing it feels very bad. Regardless of how many books I read about time, being, freedom, the soul, matter and consciousness, people keep explaining me what it is. And I totally lost my interest in them. I’m almost sorry I don’t like to talk about them.
I don’t remember this day. I probably wrote in a café until the evening and tried in vain to catch a movie at the BAFICI, went home O early thinking about my next writing and falling asleep with sore eyes and without brushing my teeth! This looks like a travel weblog. And tomorrow I’ll write what I had for breakfast. I’ll write I had time, being, freedoom, the soul, matter, and consciousness for breakfast O.