The Nature of Consciousness

Piero Scaruffi

(Copyright © 2013 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions )
Inquire about purchasing the book | Table of Contents | Annotated Bibliography | Class on Nature of Mind

These are excerpts and elaborations from my book "The Nature of Consciousness"

The Nature of Free Will and the Free Will of Nature

"Ex nihilo nihil fit". Nothing comes from nothing. Consciousness can exist only if it is a fundamental property of nature, due to a quantity that exists in every elementary particle. Free will can exist only if it is a fundamental property of nature, due to a quantity that exists in every elementary particle. If everything has free will, then it is not difficult to explain why humans have free will. The obvious objection to this view is that a table doesn't seem to have free will. But the truth is that nobody can predict how a table will disintegrate, and, if you use a microscope, you can see that countless things about the table have evolved changed over the years. Some of these changes can be easily explained as due to the action of the environment (say, a stain caused by a spill of milk) but some are just "random" changes. The difference between the human brain and the table is in the timescale: the free will of the human brain operates at a very small timescale whereas the free will of the table operates at very large timescales. That means that changes due to our free will are much more visible than changes due to the free will of a table if observed by someone like me who lives a very short life. Someone who lives a life of millions of years would be less impressed by my ability to exert free will at such a rapid pace. The timescale ends up influencing the spatial range affected by my free will: i can cause quick actions that will destabilize objects very far from me, whereas the table will take a much longer time to affect distant objects. Hence the impression that we can change the world whereas the table cannot. Within the limits of our lifespan this is true. At the microscopic level, free will is actually more visible, and that's the source of uncertainty in quantum mechanics: an electron is free to choose its position.

The US mathematicians John Conway and Simon Kochen proved a theorem ("The Free Will Theorem", 2006) according to which no information about the past enables us to predict the outcome of a measurement. The human experimenter is free to choose which experiment to make and when to make it, but, at the same time, the particles are free to choose the outcome of the experiment (their position, speed, energy, etc). This provides a new take on Henry Stapp's "tripartite idealism": a deterministic process allows us to predict the state of "mind" of Nature, and a conscious process make us decide to perform an observation, but Nature is free to reply with an "observed" quantity of her choice (what Stapp called the "Dirac process").

Everything has free will and that's why we do.


Back to the beginning of the chapter "Self" | Back to the index of all chapters