David Dobbs mentioned the curious topic of the philosophy of the pee-pee dance, and since that’s one of my current obsessions, I had to read about it. I’m currently suffering with prostatitis, which means I’m somewhat, um, clogged. And worse, when I have to go, I have to go…so about every three hours, night and day, I’m standing in front of the porcelain receptacle of pain, weeping as I dribble what feels like gravel through my urethra. This has obviously wreaked havoc on my sleep schedule and my state of mind — and also, supposedly, my philosophical interpretations of theories of free will. I’m supposed to believe less in free will now.
…the researchers next demonstrated that even healthy subjects have less belief in free will when they’re subtly reminded of their own physical limitations. Ent & Baumeister had people respond to a battery of questions not just about free will, but also about their current corporal desires. The desires that negatively correlated most strongly to belief in freedom were: a) the desire to urinate, b) the desire to sleep, and c) the desire to have sex. You read that correctly: when people feel stymied in their desire to sleep or to procreate, among other things, it affects their opinions on one of the most hotly debated issues of all time.
Yeah, I can see their reasoning…but I already didn’t believe in free will, not because it does or doesn’t exist, but because I consider it a really stupid question. It assumes an autonomous consciousness that can make “decisions” independent of the physical being, and some people get troubled at the idea that unconscious activity instead determines what your mind will decide what to do. But I don’t. There is no conflict. All is physical; mind is the sum total of natural, physical activity; everything is input, it’s all processed or discarded or filtered at multiple levels of a complex signal transduction chain. The doer does. To expect something to be operating in a pure shining bubble of perfect thought floating somewhere above the gemisch sounds to me like a vestige of dualism. I’m sorry, poor deluded free-willers, but there ain’t nothing here but physiology all the way through, and if the possession of reliable plumbing allows you to hallucinate dreams of control in your heads, that doesn’t change reality — smoothly running physiology generates delusions just as effectively as badly misfiring physiology.
I feel that way when all of my desires are fully satisfied, so no matter when I took Ent & Baumeister questionnaire, I’d probably set the floor of their results.
No, I’m not just cranky because I need to pee.