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Jacob69's avatar

Is “control” an illusion?

Asked by Jacob69 (38points) November 22nd, 2018 from iPhone

I was boarding a bus when this thought flashed across my mind. It was probably because I found myself unconsciously walking towards a seat and I started thinking about everything we do and whether we are actively involved in these decision making processes. Though I’ve considered the possibility of life being a compulsive process before, this time it hit me a bit more profoundly. I was pondering over the possibility of us being mere observers of our existence who feel like they are actively living their lives. I would love to hear your thoughts.

P.S. Pardon me if I sound too vague and hippie like.

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7 Answers

Bill1939's avatar

Believing one can control others or the environment is an illusion. Reality is an ongoing Now; the convergence of an uncountable number of effects with an even greater number of causes extending to the beginning of time that will diverge into causes of future effects that become causes of future effects extending to the end of time, if there is an end of time.

Now seems to be determined, but this too is an illusion. Singular effects result from multiple causes and can generate multiple causes as effects and causes interact. The effects of past and future causes are probabilistic, possibilities, not actualities except at the instant of Now when probability equals one.

If reality is not predetermined yet one does not have control over it, how can one be free to assert a will? Are we not like steel spheres in some kind of universal pinball game, launched into existence by an invisible force applied by the actions of an unknowable being to be buffeted about in a life filled with unpredictable bumpers, kickers and other mechanisms propelling our journey, careening up and down, left and right, until eventually we lose life’s momentum and disappear in a hole at the end of the game; maybe to be reinstated in front of the plunger that gives life again.

Scientific evidence leads to the conclusion that all behavior is the product of non-conscious physiological functions, instinctive predilections modified by experience. Survival requires one’s needs be met. We are born as self-serving animals. When needs are unsatisfied, the emotion of angst is generated innervating conscious mental functions that seek means of gratification producing the emotion of pleasure when found.

However, conscious mental functions also enable consideration of prior acts and envisioning actions with the potential for preferred outcomes that become virtual experiences with the same ability as actual experiences to modify impulsive responses to similar circumstances. In addition, the perspective one’s conscious sense of self provides can be extended to include the perspectives of others and their needs alter our desires if among our desires is the will to be this kind of creature.

P.S. You are pardoned, Jacob69, if you pardon this old hippie’s ramblings.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I don’t know. Sometimes you can control things, other times, no matter what you do, something steps in and rips that control right out of your hands.

Zaku's avatar

Yes and no. It’s a matter of perspective and there are many different insights available depending on how you frame it, such as:

1. Yes, you can choose to do whatever you want, and get different outcomes.

2. Yes, most people, especially older people, run most of their lives in habitual behavior and conditioned responses, and can be quite predictable, and often don’t realize how much of their life is spent doing and saying nothing really new or choiceful.

3. No, it’s not pre-determined… from the usual perspective people mean. You really could change your entire life’s path by making some changes, and what exactly happens is up to an incalculably large number of detailed causes and effects.

4. However, from several perspectives, time may be an illusion.

5. From other perspecitives, there may be an infinite variety of universes of possibility.

6. From another perspective, our situation is a different thing from our consciousness, which is timeless

Bill1939's avatar

@Zaku, while it is true that as one ages habit (which is conditioned responses) plays an increasing role in determining behavior, the younger one is the more predictable their behavior because instinctive predilections are less likely to have been modified by experience. The increasing complex of learned responses produces greater variability in impulsive behaviors as one reacts to subtler aspects of experiential reality.

Zaku's avatar

@Bill1939 Wouldn’t you say that that too varies by perspective and what you’re looking at and saying is predictable?

In the frame I was thinking of when I wrote 2 above, I was thinking of how much adults do that they have already done so many times before, often without relating to the situations as actual new situations with choice or even thought. Making breakfast, driving to work, typing characters on a keyboard, even doing many jobs and interacting with people, are often done on auto-pilot, without thinking about them much if at all. The consciousness can be dreaming of other things and paying almost no attention to the current state.

I think that’s also a large part of why many adults feel like time passes for them so much more quickly than it did when they were younger…

Bill1939's avatar

@Zaku the idea that the sense of time passing seems faster the older one is is because more non-conscious activities leaves less time spent in conscious awareness is interesting. I’ll be 79 in a few weeks and recalling how long is seemed to take from one holiday to the next when I was a child, a week then is like a year now. However, I’ve found that thinking of something else while performing a habituated task produces mistakes. It is as though my ability to multi-task is impaired.

Perhaps the number of new experiences one has as a child, their consciousness rapidly flitting from one thing to another makes time seem slower. The rate the number of neurons are being produced, development of functional areas of the brain and new interconnections growing before neurological pruning begins may also contribute to the sense of temporal delay.

One’s perspective encompasses the totality of experience. Initially, a child’s perspective is almost limited to their physiological and emerging psychological self. With maturity, perspective increasingly includes that of others, at least for most people. This expanded perspective permits greater integration of experiences freeing consciousness from the need to resolve perturbations in non-conscious mental functions, which would otherwise require conscious intervention and the sense of slowed time.

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