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Friday, July 29, 2016

Freedom

"Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose...."

-----Janis Joplin "Me & Bobby McGee"

Well Pearl is about as free as you can get and has been for a long time, but I don’t think it’s doing her any good. While there is definitely a certain freedom is not having many consequences left, there will always be consequences….until there truly are none left, and then it’s too late.

Recently I have been having a great exchange with one of my favorite people about “freedom”. It started out pervertedly enough in discussing whether dominance and submission affect one’s freedom in a contradictory way but then it descended into a wholesome discussion of determinism vs. dualism. As bad an influence as I try to be, sometimes even I just can’t help having a regular conversation. The following quote is what started it all:

“A submissive gives up control for freedom. A Dominant gives up freedom for control.”

Now I know I have to be one of the most cantankerous bastards around, but to me this is what you’d find inside of an “inspirational” Hallmark card if the company was run by Goreans. I hate platitudes to begin with. “Inspirational quotes” normally just inspire me to vomit. So when kinky people start writing this way I feel like a vanilla person would feel if the Pope began celebrating Black Masses. However, the quote as used in Dan’s blog was completely valid and prompted a worthy discussion, so that’s cool. It’s the quote itself that bugs me.

I get the second part to a degree. As Ben Parker advised Peter, “with great power, comes great responsibility,” and responsibility has a nasty way of making one feel less free. Therefore it makes sense that if a Dominant is taking on the responsibilities of leadership and authority while looking to do so in a way that benefits their sub, they might feel less ‘free’ to just do whatever the hell they want. But that first part? Really? How is having to obey someone else’s rules or else be punished a road to freedom? Contentment perhaps, if submission is your thing…….but not freedom.

I have rules to live by and consequences if I don’t adhere to them, and the arrangement keeps me balanced and focused…… and certainly scratches my submissive itch, but I certainly don’t feel freer because of it. I felt free before the restrictions, but that freedom led to irresponsibility at times. Now I have responsibility benevolently imposed………………or I get my ass roasted. I’m better off because…………I am LESS FREE.

But enough of that. What about ‘freedom’? Specifically “free will”? Do we actually have free will at all, or is it the neurological illusion Paul Bloom postulated? I am pretty much a determinist………………mainly because I have a penchant for eschewing anything metaphysical or supernatural. However, I do understand Dan’s point that the inability to test determinism (at least through measurements currently available) renders it a theory open to criticism. But if determinism is wrong…….what then?

Well, you get dualism. And as I said to Dan…..”if you don’t like determinism, try proving dualism.” Dualism necessitates all sorts of things that get pretty sticky pretty quickly………….mainly that there is some other aspect to us besides what we can measure. And even if one is willing to give this aspect credence, you have to ask, “what is it?” A soul?  What’s that?  Is there a purpose to it? If so, what gives it that purpose? Is there design to it all? Then who is the designer? Where did the designer come from? What does it want? Yadda……yadda …..ad infinitum.

And as much as Dan might bristle right now, I have to whip out my ‘Occam’s Razor’ faster than an Italian barber. Determinism may have a multitude of variables, but dualism? Holy Guacamole! Isn’t it more reasonable to believe that a combination of biological and sociological factors lead us directly to the decisions we make? Or is it better to assume that some metaphysical entity with no known motive has implanted some intangible imperative in us that somehow exists separately from our brain?

Whenever anyone has told me that what we are physically is not who we really are, but rather our identities are defined by a metaphysical soul, I have countered by asking, “then why is it that when the brain is altered by damage, disease, or chemicals, personalities change?”


But you can believe whatever comforts you. You are as free to do that as Janis was when she bought that bad batch of heroin. Too bad she just didn’t stick with the booze.





15 comments:

  1. Kind of off-subject, but I'll get back.

    I tripped over my dog late Monday night. Because Shilo was at work, 911 was called. I have a broken humerus. Right arm.

    Yes, I make the rules, but I'm fiercely independent. I cook the meals, etc.

    I currently need assistance to use the bathroom, and I try to feed myself, but I wind up wearing most of it.

    Freedom? I have none Independence? I'm seriously lacking there as well. Shilo is in charge. Stitch does what he can.

    I'm not a patient teacher. Things that would take me under a minute take 10 because I have to show Stitch how to do it. As a Dominant, I had freedom. Now I'm just a cranky old lady.

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    1. I'll refrain from saying 'a broken humerus isn't funny' but I will wish you the very best. You are my most loyal reader! So you make sure Stitch & Shilo take good care of you.

      At least you are still posting with the broken arm. Showing that women CAN do anything men can do..............because let's face it......don't most men cruising the internet use only their one free hand to do so?

      All the best my dear............and have a truly Wolverine-like recovery!

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    2. Don't feel bad, I've been saying it all week that have broken humerus isn't funny. I will admit that I have been cheating though, I am using speak to text because I can't do anything with my left hand either.

      Thank you for the well wishes I will keep you posted.

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    3. That's terrible! Sorry to hear that happened.

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    4. Thank you. As soon as I start to feel a little better I plan on learning how to swing with my left arm.

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  2. I put like an hour into a response to your post! Didn't you get it? Unlike yours that I accidentally deleted, mine was like a page long! Whatever I write now will suck by comparison!

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    1. Oh that sucks. I'm not sure what's going on but another visitor recently had the same issue. He posted one and it loaded, then his second went missing and then his third loaded. Maybe Blogger is a bit twitchy? I don't have moderation activated.

      I have had this problem myself in various places and now if I write something long I do it in Word first and then copy/paste it. Then if it doesn't stick, I still have it. I hope you try again since I wrote this almost exclusively so we could knock this around.

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    2. Yeah, Blogger does not seem to be the most stable of platforms. Oh well, so here goes as best I can recall what I said.

      -- I'm not sure that "Determinism" and "Dualism" are the alternatives. I've spent some time the last few years exploring Zen and other Buddhist traditions, and many of them reject dualism and believe there is a single unified reality, but it is Mind. So, you seem to a "materialist" through and through -- everything is matter. Zen would probably say everything is mind or consciousness or maybe even energy. So, you have two traditions coming from polar opposite starting points, but both rejecting dualism.
      -- One of my quibbles with Determinism is it seems to assume that if we know every input, we could predict every output. But, that entails this very mechanistic view, which has always seemed far too simplistic, but give modern quantum physics and all the weird things it entails, this view of matter and energy as bringing about these pat cause and effect chains seems very 19th century and seems to just ignore a lot of modern science.
      -- The materialists (and I wonder if that is the better term, rather than Determinism), seem to be the last people on whose behalf you can invoke Occam's razor. The latest pet theory from some of the theoretical physicists is that there are an infinity of universes, each of which comes into life every time you and I and everyone else takes one action instead of another. Every single action or non-action by each and every one of us produces a new universe. Now, there is not one bit of empirical evidence supporting it, but they are trotting it out because it is the only way they have come up with to "explain" how it is that this universe came to have the exact right combination of elements and physical laws that support life, because they know that given the tiniest of changes, the universe as we know it would not exist. So, their theory is that if you have an infinity of universes, statistically one of them would have that perfect mix, and so here we are. Now, all of that is trotted out as a way to refute those who look at the fact that just the right combination did exist as some indication of intelligent design. I totally get that for a hard core materialist, an intelligent design argument is a non-starter. But, is the idea of an infinite number of universes jumping to life with each and every action each of us takes one bit more plausible or one bit less fantastic? It's hard to see how it is. And, a whole lot of modern quantum physics IS hard to accept, because it is so counter-intuitive. Like entwined particles in which a change in one "causes" a change in the other, yet it happens instantaneously and with no connection between the two. Of that the "same" particle can exist in two places at once. It is thoroughly mind-warping stuff, and it seems to me to make the Determinist (if I do A then B will happen) devotion to Causality as the ultimate reality very problematic.
      -- In the end, there simply isn't any proof that Determinism is right. It is just another unproven theory, and the level of devotion to it has a lot of the trappings of religious fervor. In my opinion, many of the materialists/determinists have just replaced "God" with "Causality," but with no more scientific evidence of the latter than for the former. And their excuse always, "Well, we just don't have enough data or computing horsepower." Nice dodge and very convenient.

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    3. Part 2:

      -- Occam's Razor is not a physical law of any sort. It is a philosophical theory. And one that seems pretty hard to justify on the facts. Given the weird shit that quantum physics teaches us today, can we really say that the "simple" answers are more likely true? Even where human behavior and events are concerned, does anything in life ever seem simple? Don't complex and counter-intuitive things happen all the time? Occam's Razor is, therefore, for me one of those theories that sounds so reasonable, yet I don't see one iota of evidence that it is right and a hell of a lot of evidence that it is wrong.
      -- I don't now whether belief in some power or force outside yourself is "comforting." Given that a lot of religious traditions include an immensely powerful figure who is always watching and judging you -- that would seem to be a very anxiety producing state of belief. On the other hand, I have never met a truly happy or care free atheist. In fact, most of them I've talked to personally seem very stressed out or "earnest" to an extent that is not within the norm. So, maybe you're right that they are less comfortable or comforted than those with some kind of dualistic belief system.

      On the less theoretical issue of freedom in D/s, my personal view is that it is a matter "little picture" versus "big picture" perspective. Little picture, you're right -- if you are now subject to a rule you weren't subject to before, you are less free. But, what if having someone impose rules on you frees you from the weight of all the accumulated bad habits, personality ticks, self-destructive tendencies, etc., that limit your choices and your possibilities in life just as surely as any imposed "rule"? I do see it as akin to Zen practice, the goal of which is to free us from our world of illusions and delusions, but the means for doing it is surrender . . . giving in to what is. And, interestingly, in some of the Buddhist traditions, ways you get there includes someone hitting you with a stick when you aren't doing what you are supposed to do in meditation.

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    4. Sorry. I've had guests for both Saturday and Sunday. I will respond tomorrow when I have some time.

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    5. OK, I have some time to respond now. (And thank you for posting such a thought-provoking argument.)

      Let's look at the simplest one first: Occam's razor. I am the first to agree that Occam's razor is NOT a 'proof'. It is merely a logical 'reminder' of the benefit of simplicity over complexity. A complex solution may well end up being the correct answer once proven......but it will require more proof than a simpler explanation. Let's revisit the missing Oreo. There are two kids in the family and a pack of Oreo's goes missing. Both kids deny taking the cookies. In fact they defend themselves by claiming that other friends have told them of a magical, cookie-eating unicorn who appears out of nowhere, steals cookies, and then magically appears. One could assume it is more likely that one of the kids took it. However, suppose a neighbor stopped by and came inside, saw the cookies and took them thinking to send a text that they borrowed some cookies and would replace them in a bit.....and then forgot to send the text? Again, not as likely as one of the kids being guilty, and certainly not as simple......but suppose a bit of research proves that to be the case? In this situation the neighbor is an unforeseen solution and a bit complicated.....but not utterly implausible. The unicorn is a bit harder to prove....or disprove. So Occam's razor slices pretty deep into that unicorn......just as it does with supernatural explanations for things that could be more easily explained materially.

      (to be continued.)

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    6. OK, so onto determinism. Yes it is just a theory. And so is the 'multi-verse'. Another widely accepted theory for particle behavior is wave theory.

      One of things I have observed when researching ANYTHING is that the information one gets is always slanted towards the views of the group presenting it.

      I saw one website that 'seemed' very scientific which went on about the universe being a product of the mind ....much like what you say the Zen Buddhists believe and they use certain quantum theories to support that view. But click on another site for Physicists and multiverse is given credence only in that it is mathematically consistent with particle data. But so is wave theory, and the physicists seem quite content to stick with wave theory until more can be tested and proven.

      It's like the ghost hunters who use 'scientific equipment' to hunt for specters. OK, it's a machine and it did go 'beep'..........but that beep does not necessarily prove what the paranormal folks believe it does.

      Any phenomenon that is difficult to prove or test for opens a door to metaphysical speculation, but it's not the first door we should be jumping through to prove anything.

      Also, I get antsy when the holes argument is used to discredit something that makes a lot of sense but is not complete and needs more research. Evolution is a great example. Another "theory", it is shot down by those who want an Intelligent Designer because of the things that don't have full explanations....even though the premise has held through various disciplines. Sure what I was taught as a kid is not what we know now.....but there's a big difference between looking at how jumps occur and explaining those jumps with a supernatural being.

      Determinism makes more and more sense as more of the brain's functions are mapped (Again Bloom and free will). It's not a warm and fuzzy theory though and it opens weird doors for how to deal with social issues like crime. But while complex, it is simpler than the cookie-eating unicorn, though perhaps more hard to prove than the one lying kid.

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    7. Not quite the same thing, though. Particle and wave theory are, depending on the interpretation, often seen as two aspects of the same phenomenon. Sometimes something acts like a wave, and sometimes like a particle. The multiverse is not an alternative to wave theory. Instead (in one flavor) it is a theory advanced to explain something that scientists can't find another way to deal with, i.e. that the universe is here despite the overwhelming odds of that happening. The difference is, the debate over whether matter is a particle, a wave, or both results from empirical observations. The multiverse is not much more than something pulled out of a physicist's ass when he couldn't come up with anything else.

      I also don't see the "holes" problem as on the same level for evolution versus determinism. Evolution may have some gaps in the record, but the empirical evidence is massive. Determinism, however, keeps positing a power of prediction that never quite happens, regardless of how much brain mapping occurs.

      I actually see Determinism as way, way warmer and fuzzier than free will or the idea of a supernatural force that watches and/or impacts us. The first implies (a) that if you understand every cause, you can manipulate the effect (though, in doing so you did nothing other than what your own causes caused you to do -- which is a bit of conundrum), and (b) the idea that we are in any way morally responsible for our actions is pretty much out the window. So, in your criminal justice example, there might still be an argument for locking up a criminal if our deterministic powers of prediction showed that he would otherwise offend, though there wouldn't really be any moral judgment or stigma attached to his actions or moral good attached with doing "justice" by locking him up. That amoral state of affairs seems HUGELY more comforting and fuzzy than either (a) judgment or manipulation by a powerful supernatural being; and (b) moral culpability for our bad acts.

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    8. I'm not sure where to go from here? I understand your responses and feel like we are looking at the issues squarely, but deriving something different from them. That's not a bad thing, but there is a point at which it seems unlikely that further debate will solve anything.

      While I will admit to physics not being my favorite thing, I just don't get the same conclusions as you. And I think your last paragraph in particular makes me think of two people looking at a teal wall and one insisting it's blue and the other maintaining it's green.

      So rather than keep banging this around..............go read my new story ;-).

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  3. Damn, I just had a post disappear just like everyone's been saying. Fuckinola! Sorry but I don't have the patience right now to reconstruct it.

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