Deep Thoughts from years spent on a Trident submarine.  
The nature of free will

Often the night watch in the reactor control room was very boring. We'd be tooling around the Pacific at 5 knots. And after being awake for 18 or more hours, it was very hard to stay awake. On one of these nights, I thought I'd try to stay awake by discussing philosophy with the reactor operator.

me - "OK, let's talk about the mind-body problem." I said out of the blue.

RO - "What!"

Of course I got one of those looks like I was loosing my mind.

me - "It's a philosophical problem. You experience your thoughts as independent of the physical world yet somehow your physical body must interact with your thoughts. How does that happen?"

RO - "I don't understand what you are talking about."

me - "One possibility is that your thoughts are manifestations of the physical state of your brain. As your brain changes state, in cause and effect ways, according to biological, chemical and physical principles, your thoughts change."

RO - "That sounds reasonable to me, I believe that."

me - "But if that's true then no one has any free will. Our thoughts and decisions could be read and predicted by scientists with sufficient understanding and information about our brains."

RO - "OK, I see the problem." He thinks about this for a minute then comes back with... "I give up. What's the right answer?"

Email me

Back to Index

Return to Pat's Planet home page