Monday, 30 September 2013

Free Will or Fatalism?

How do we know what we know? To know something, we must first of all establish what we accept as data, and what we consider requires definition and proof, that is, we must determine what we know already, and what we wish to know. And, we know from the very first step towards cognition that a man is struck by two obvious facts: The existence of the world in which he lives and the existence of consciousness in himself. Neither the one nor the other can he prove or disprove, but both of them are facts for him. This is all we have the right to accept as data. All the rest requires proof of its existence and definition on the basis of these two data we already possess. The direct outcome of these two fundamental data; the existence in us of a psychological life, i.e. sensations, representations, concepts, thinking, feeling, desires and so on, and the existence of the world outside us is a division of everything we know into subjective and objective, a division perfectly clear to our ordinary perception. Everything we take to be the properties of the world, we call objective, and everything we take as properties of our inner life, we call subjective. The 'subjective world' we perceive directly; it is within us. The 'objective world' we represent to ourselves as existing outside of us is most clearly denned by the fact that we perceive it as existing in time and in space and cannot perceive it or represent it to ourselves apart from these conditions. Usually, we say that the objective world consists of things and phenomena, i.e. of things and of changes in the state of things. A phenomenon exists for us in time, a thing exists in space. But such a division of the world into subjective and objective does not satisfy us. By means of reasoning we can establish that, actually, we only know our own sensations, representations and concepts, and that we perceive the objective world by projecting outside of ourselves the presumed causes of our sensations. Further, we find that our cognition of both the subjective and the objective world may be true or false, correct or incorrect. The criterion for determining the correctness or incorrectness of our cognition of the subjective world is the form of relationship of one sensation to others, and the force and character of the sensation itself. In other words, the correctness of one sensation is verified by comparing it with another of which we are more sure, or by the intensity and the taste of a given sensation. The criterion for determining the correctness or incorrectness of our cognition of the objective world is exactly the same. It seems to us that we define things and phenomena of the objective world by means of comparing them one with another; and we imagine that we discover the laws of their existence apart from ourselves and our cognition of them. But this is an illusion. We know nothing about things separately from ourselves and we have no means of verifying the correctness or incorrectness of our cognition of the objective world apart from sensations.

Since the remotest antiquity, the question of our relation to the true causes of our sensations has been the main subject of philosophical research. Men have always felt that they must find some solution of this question, some answer to it. These answers alternated between two poles, between a complete denial of the causes themselves, and the assertion that the causes of sensations lie in ourselves i.e. we have free will and not in anything external and the admission that we know these causes, that they are contained in the phenomena of the external world, that these very phenomena constitute the causes of sensations, and that the cause of observable phenomena themselves lies in some subtle forms of external world i.e. fatalism.

In simple words, free will is the ability to select a course of action as a means of fulfilling some desire which is under control of oneself. David Hume, put it as a power of acting or of not acting, according to the determination of one’s will while fatalism is the doctrine that all events are preordained and predestined in such a way that human beings do not have control over them. Nietzsche described it as an attitude of resignation in the face of some future event or events which are thought to be inevitable. 

A huge debate is going on with lots of argument: both in favor and against. Natalie Barney sees fatalism as the lazy man's way of accepting the inevitable. Bill O'Reilly denied the concept of free will by saying “You don't have free will when you have lung cancer.” Alan Moore’s opinion is “As far as I can see, it's not important that we have free will, just as long as we have the illusion of free will to stop us going mad.” There are many who do not share either of these extreme views and hold a place midway between free will and fatalism. Kant established that our sensations must have causes in the external world, but that we are unable, and shall never be able, to perceive these causes by sensory means, i.e. by the means which serve us to perceive phenomena. Jawaharlal Nehru put it as “Life is like a game of cards. The hand you are dealt is determinism; the way you play it is free will.”  

Life only thinks about itself. Life is only concerned about itself. Life everywhere faces two problems: survival and propagation. Life is being busy to resolve these fundamental issues or else goes extinct. In the words of Charles Darwin, “It is survival to the fittest.” Life in humans has some addition features due to having a larger brain in humans as compared to animals.  The misery in humans hampers the quality and performance in terms of survival and propagation.

Thus, by determining everything we know is about survival and propagation through our senses in terms of space and time which is indeed confirmed by Special Theory of relativity that space and time are not properties of the world, but merely properties of our perception of the world by means of sense organs. In the words of Einstein, “Time and space are modes by which we think and not conditions in which we live.” Consequently, it is we who invest it with these properties when we sense and perceive it. Quantum Physics, further, acknowledges the role of an observer in the observed physical world. The observed physical world is described rather by a mathematical structure that can best be characterized as representing information and propensities: some information about all the possible choices is simultaneously present in the quantum state, and the possibility that any one of the mutually exclusive alternatives might be pertinent. Whichever choice the experimenter eventually makes, the associated set of predictions is assumed to hold.

According to Kant, everything we find in external world is put into it by ourselves. We do not know what the world is like independently of ourselves. Moreover, our conception of things has nothing in common with the things as they are in themselves, apart from them. And, most important of all, our ignorance of things in them is due not to our insufficient knowledge, but to the fact that we are totally unable to have a correct knowledge of the world by means of sense-perception which is in congruence with the Principle of Uncertainty. Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle states that one cannot simultaneously know the position and momentum of an object with arbitrarily high precision. The more precisely the position is determined, the less precisely the momentum is known in this instant, and vice versa.

Sir Roger Penrose, studying the physical basis of consciousness applying quantum physics and Einstein's general theory of relativity on Plank's scale, figured out that consciousness involves a factor which is neither deterministic nor probabilistic but non-computable. Conscious choices and understanding may be non-computable and life may be seen as a combination of deterministic pre-conscious processes acted on by a non-computable influence.

It could be deduced that one can never know whether free will or fatalism. It is also clear that the main question is not about the free will or fatalism but to avoid the misery or sorrow in life. All schools of philosophy and religions are directed to solve this problem. The theory of free will, fatalism or concoction of both was devised to tackle this problem.  It is now a well establish fact that relaxation in concepts of absolute free will and fatalism appeals most of the people and could better cope with misery in majority. When Yagyavalkya, ancient Upanisada sage of India, was asked about free will or fatalism, he said “The concept of free will and fatalism are like two wheels of a cart; if anyone is missing, the cart only moves in circle- round and round. To ensure proper movement on path, one needs to use both the wheels.”

The same confusion was put before Muhammad and he asked the person to lift one of his legs. The person lifted his left leg. Again, the Prophet asked the person to lift another leg but he is bound and could not lift his leg. Initially, the person was free to lift his leg; in fact, he had options to choose whether he wanted to lift his left leg or right leg. As soon as he chose, he became bound. The concoction of free will and fatalism could also be understood by considering a sailboat analogy. A sailor sets the sail in a certain way; the direction the boat sails is determined by the action of the wind on the sail. One cannot change the direction of the wind but can adjust the sail to be in right direction.

One could think beyond space and time but could only express within the limits of space and time. Conscious choices may be non-computable but expressed algorithmically through deterministic or probabilistic statements. It could better be understood through biology of brain. The newest area of human brain is neocorex. The neocortex is responsible for rational and analytical thought and language. The limbic brain is responsible for all of feelings, such as trust and loyalty. It is also responsible for all human behavior and all decision-making, but it has no capacity for language. The communication takes place directly with the part of the brain that controls decision making, and the language part of the brain allows rationalizing those decisions. The part of the brain that controls the feelings has no capacity for language. It is this disconnection that makes putting feelings into words so hard. Again, the part of the brain that controls decision-making doesn't control language, so we rationalize. Rationally, one knows that one’s explanation isn't the real reason. So, enlightened people could not express the higher level of consciousness in words and keep silence over the subject and when speaks one’s version is found to be different from another enlightened one’s rationally as in the case of Muhammad’s explanation and sailboat analogy.

There are also the cases where absolute free will was experienced; that is why, statements such as “Thou art That” and “I and My Father are One” were stated independently in different cultures and religion.  It is not possible to obtain absolute free will without entering in the realm of occultism and very few would have such psychology-type to combat misery in one’s life.

Basically, human beings can be broadly classified into four types according to their psycho-somatic conditions: the active type, the mystic type, the philosophic type and devotional type. This classification is based on the predominance of one or the other three aspects of the human mind: the will, the intellect and emotions. In the light of latest biological researches, the active type, devotional type, the philosophic type and the mystic type can be attributed to neurological pathway dominated by four major neurotransmitters: testosterone, estrogen, serotonin and dopamine respectively.  

Any single theory or concept could not meet the different requirements of all pyscho-somatic types. So, it is obvious to formulate various theories and concepts to alleviate sorrow and misery  in one's  life keeping in mind the  necessities of different psycho-somatic  types.

You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way and the only way, it doesn't exist.
~Friedrich Nietzche

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Discipline- Essence of success

Steam without chamber and water without dam could not produce electricity, so is man without discipline could not achieve success.

Discipline is collection of scattered components of personality within and channeling them towards success by being a part of the system. Discipline is in fact derived from proto-Indo-European word “dek-” which means “acceptance.” Discipline is the acceptance of the fact that channeling requires confinement; a sense of sacrifice for something better; a sense of hardship to forge a character as steel.

Gary Keller and Jay Papasan in their book ‘The One Thing’ state “this pervasive idea that the successful person is disciplined person who leads a disciplined life is a lie. The truth is we don’t need any more discipline than we already have. We just need to direct and manage it a little better.” And they are right.

There is a principle in physics which says that under constant volume, increase in pressure is directly proportional to increase in temperature and upon this principle, pressure cooker are made to cook the food fast as compared with traditional cooking. A gas pressure cooker is a device to cook food by raising pressure and subsequently raising temperature inside the cooker placed over the ordinary flame produced by domestic gas. It contains a metal base packed with all sides except top, a lid to cover the top after placing the food inside the cooker, a gasket or sealing ring and a weight. The lid has an opening for escaping the gas and releasing the extra pressure. The working is very simple. Food is placed inside the cooker along with some water and is closed with lid and sealing ring. Weight is put over the opening in the lid. The pressure cooker is now put on flame. Due to the heat of the flame, the temperature starts rising inside the cooker; the increasing temperature makes the water boil and evaporate. Since there is a weight on the opening in the lid, steam could not escape and increase the pressure inside and the increasing pressure raises the temperature. The process continues till the required pressure and temperature obtained. When the pressure exceeds the required limit, it lifts the weight on the lid and let some steam escape to maintain the required pressure and temperature inside. The lifting of weight and escaping of steam produce a whistling sound and it is the number of this whistling sound that determines whether the food is cooked inside or not. The same principle is applied in steam engines to run turbines for producing electricity or moving wagons on rails through railways.

What will happen if lid is not properly closed or there is defective sealing ring? The steam leak and required pressure and temperature will never be achieved. And, what will happen if weight is fixed or opening in the lid is closed? The cooker will burst due to excess pressure builds inside. The case is same with discipline. Lack of discipline incapables us to achieve success and on the other hand, excessive discipline breaks the system. We need optimal amount of discipline in order to succeed and we are already born with that. We must take care that it doesn’t leak through procrastination or other ways. In fact, we always do not need discipline; sometimes we have to relax it as marching over the bridge by the army. When army marches, all the members move their legs together in synchronous manner; all the left legs put together and all the right legs put together and this is dangerous for the bridge because of the pressure applied by the simultaneous feet at a time. 
I think all of us know that it is easy to break a single stick and very hard to break a bundle of sticks. This is also reflected in the potential damage of bridge by collective feet pressure of a battalion at a time and the collective pressure of steam inside the cooker while lifting the weight placed upon the lid. The purpose of unity is to focus on a common point and discipline is involved in it. Discipline is like a magnifying glass which concentrates the beams of sunlight on a point and helps burn a match stick without rubbing on match box. Focusing, channeling, directing or unifying mean stopping the leakage and make them available for our purpose. Discipline involves sacrifice and priority. Discipline helps us in reserving our vital strength and enthusiasm for more useful and productive things. In the words of Brian Tracy, “Discipline is having dinner before dessert.”

Discipline doesn’t mean to work mechanically like a robot with certain sets of programs pre-installed in the body. Discipline doesn’t imply to follow rules like a zombie but assimilation of principle to break the rules when necessary to sustain the principle. Discipline is courage to make a right decision for betterment in long terms rather than enjoying short term gratifications.  Paulo Coelho put it as just a choice between what one wants now and what one wants most.

Monkey-hunters use a box with an opening at the top, big enough for the monkey to slide its hand in. Inside the box are nuts. The monkey grabs the nuts and now its hand becomes a fist. The monkey tries to get its hand out but the opening is big enough for the hand to slide in, but too small for the fist to come out. Now the monkey has a choice, either to let go off the nuts and be free forever or hang on to the nuts and get caught. Guess what it picks every time? It hangs on to the nuts and gets caught. The monkey thinks that it is free and have right to get what it wants and now the thing of desire is in its hand. It seems happy but its happiness dries out as it get caught and put into cage for life long as a showpiece for entertainment of others. Epictetus said “Freedom is not procured by a full enjoyment of what is desired but controlling the desire.” Discipline is needed for not getting trapped in the web of unending lust and remain free. Discipline is yajna in which momentary happiness is sacrificed to get everlasting happiness.

Discipline is sense of love and responsibility. Shiva Khera said “Discipline is loving firmness. Sometimes you have to be unkind to be kind: Not all medicine is sweet, not all surgery is painless, but we have to take it.” Giraffe gives birth to a baby giraffe while standing; the baby hits the hard ground directly out of the comfort of mother's womb, and sits on the ground. The first thing mother does is to get behind the baby and give him a hard kick. The baby gets up, but his legs are weak and wobbly and the baby falls down. Mother goes behind again and gives him one more kick. The baby gets up but sits down again. Mother keeps kicking till the baby gets on its feet and starts moving. It is hard for a mother to do such thing but it is necessary because  she knows that the only chance of survival for the baby in the forest is to get on its feet otherwise it will be eaten up by other wild animals. 

Discipline is hardship too. Butterflies feel very pain and trouble while coming out of cocoons.The pain is unbearable; almost nearly to die but it is necessary for their wings and survival. Without this process, they would die. Similarly, in one's life, there are many situations when one has to take hard decisions because they are necessary to sustain life. Discipline is the ability to willingly make sacrifice in the present to secure the success in the future. In other words, discipline is bringing the future into the present so that something could be done about it in now.

Discipline is self-mastery which involves determination, hardwork and persistence.  Michaelangelo put it, “If people knew how hard I had to work to gain my mastery, it wouldn't seem wonderful at all.” Calvin Coolidge said “Nothing will take the place of persistence. Talent will not: Nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not: Unrewarded genius is a proverb. Education will not: The world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

Mahatma Gandhi in his autobiography confessed about a time when he felt double shame because of his carnal lust. His father was suffering from fistula and he was one of the principal attendants with the duties of a nurse which mainly consisted dressing the wound, giving the medicines and massaging his leg untill his father fell asleep. This was also the time when his wife was expecting a baby. He mentioned that while every night his hands were busy massaging his father's legs, his mind was hovering about the bedroom and that too at a time when religion, medical science, and commonsense alike forbade sexual intercourse and when relieved from duty, went straight to the bedroom. His father's condition had been deteorating day by day and then the dreadful night came. As usual he was giving the massage, this time his uncle offered to relieve him and he gladly accepted and went straight to the bedroom,  woke his sleeping wife up but within five or six minutes, the news came that his father was no more. He realized that if animal passion had not blinded him, he should have been spared the torture of separation from his father during his last moments. He took it as a blot that he would have never been able to efface or forget. But he overcame that desire and duing his later stages of life he slept naked with naked ladies beside him on a single bed without any thought on the subject in his mind. He wrote “It took me long to get free from the shackles of lust, and I had to pass through many ordeals before I could overcome it..... All these efforts did not seem to bear much fruits, but when I look back upon the past I feel that the final resolution was the cumulative effect of those unsuccessful strivings.”

Do not surrender to initial failures because to give up when get tired is a easy way to live but winners always go on. Winners are committed and put on pressure not for winning but for hardwork and preparation. Steve Jobs said “It is impossible to connect   the dots forward but it is very very clear looking backwards ten years later.” When a wall falls due to hitting hundred times, it is not because of the hundredth hit but it is due to the cumulative effects of all hits. And so is the case with every endeavor as Mahatma Gandhi admitted.

In the movie 'Invictus' Nelson Mandela is shown to get inspiration from a poem which, according to him, helped him to stand when all he wanted to do was to lie down.

Out of the night that covers me
Black as the Pit from pole to pole
l thank whatever Gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
ln the fell clutch of circumstance
l have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of fate
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
lt matters not how strait the gate
How charged with punishment the scroll
l am the master of my fate:
l am the captain of my soul.