Blog Post from 6/18: Observations on Free Will, Intention, and Meaning.

Familiar with an idealist notion that our thoughts create reality? Or, a realist notion that reality exists independent of minds & from its own side? I invite you to take a look at how our desires bring about experiential, living reality–an alternative to the other positions.
Examining experience takes a bit of practice, luck, & sometimes, help. Let’s begin with an examination of desire. Desires may be seen to arise quite selflessly. We don’t elicit them, do we? We don’t say “I would like to arouse a desire,” do we? Did we desire to arouse desire?
And if that was the case, what would have aroused that desire to examine desire? What would it be like to elicit a desire? What would be the necessary and sufficient causes and conditions in place that would give rise to a desire? Let’s examine our experience, shall we?
By carefully watching our experience, we can be witness to something quite surprising, the absence of a self that desires. Let your attention rest on of the birth of a desire. Sit quietly long enough and a desire will arise. (Perhaps a desire to move, or adjust your posture arises.) Just witness it. See if you actually, that is, consciously and explicitly act in such a way that you can actually and honestly say that “you” created a desire or made a desire arise in your experience. Now, did you actually give rise to that desire? Were you present at the birth of that desire? Were you there actually creating that desire? Did you design it? Did you structure it? Did you select the words that are its content? Can you honestly say that you explicitly took those actions to create a desire?
Yes, in anticipation of a question, without question, all experience arises selflessly, even those characterized as “evil” or “self-centered.” Blame is a mere convention and implies only a naive, conventional guilt. Blame requires a notion of a free agent who, with deliberation, decidedly performs an action out of her own free will. Now, given what we know of desire from the above remarks, do you think this is a possibility? Do actions not result from desire, an intention to act? Then, what gave rise to the desire? Again, did one consciously say, “Hey, I think I will desire to do such and such an act?” Is this the way it happens? Let’s say for the moment that it did happen that way. Now, what would be the next step that gives rise to the act for which we can lay blame? If we think clearly about this, without uncritically adhering to the presuppositions (the habitual) that immediately enter our minds to muddy the waters, we must say that some sort of a decision takes place. So, how does that happen? Do we then think, “Oh, okay, I think I will decide to perform this act?” Is this what happens? Or, is it something like, “Should I perform this act?” Say it is the latter. Okay, now what happens next? Do we then decide? Since we have decided to decide? Okay, do we then decide to decide to decide to do the act? You must see where this is going? An infinite regress occurs. No act will ever take place. Certainly, this cannot be the process of acting upon desires.
Consider this: “I forgot….” On first listen, this sentence may appear to reflect a process of forgetting. But what would this process entail? A self that has deliberately forgotten something. What is that self? What is that process? Think about it. How would such a process appear? Is there a self who willingly places a something someplace where they will forget it? How would that be possible? How would this forgetting process be enacted? Maybe with some sort of drug, or a really great hiding place that one may forget. But if it is such a great hiding spot then how might it be forgotten if you just remembered about it now so that you may place this object in it? Does this not seem rather oxymoronic? “I’ll put this somewhere so special that I can forget where I put it–so I cannot remember it? Sound right to you?
One of several presuppositions grounded as the false hope of the enlightenment is that we, as independently existing selves, arrive at a point where each of us will rationally know, will have gained that knowledge where we suffer no more, will not age, will be happy, will be healthy, and on and on. This assumption of independently existing substantial selves (IESS) grounds the belief that conceptual knowledge is what should and can guide us to some sort of rational knowledge that will bring all of IESS to fulfillment in a better future. Some of us even have a dream of AI that will enable us to accomplish this utopian future. This is not in keeping with what experience with a truly focused, quiet, and non-conceptual attention tells us is the case.

*This brief entry originally appeared on 6/18 my blog at

Leave a Reply