“I” did this.
I think I have me figured out. And believe me, I’m not as simple as I look.
What had me confused was my definition of “I” and “me.” That is, I thought of myself as some kind of spiritual operator independent of the body, i.e., the “mind” or the “spirit.” Accordingly, “I,” the mind or spirit, ran the show. That made my brain an accessory to my mind, an organ that “I” controlled.
There is evidence that this is not the case. In this video, John-Dylan Haynes discusses how the mind seems to be a function of the brain, rather than controlling the brain.
Source: John-Dylan Haynes (Charité Berlin) at 2013 WORLD.MINDS: Do We Have Free Will? Brain Reading. Event curated by Rolf Dobelli.
It makes sense, from a physiological point of view. It’s simply a matter of timing. “When we make a choice, Sam Harris says, the decision has already been made somewhere in our brain; when we become conscious of it, we believe we are making it. We then take ownership of it and call it free will.” ~ Juno Walker
So my conscious mind is not the boss of me. I don’t do what my mind tells me to do, my mind thinks what I (my brain functions) tell it to think. Or, rather, those thought processes that reach a certain level of complexity and organization become part of my consciousness. The processes occurring in my brain are not doing the thinking, they are the thinking. The thinking, or the thought that results from that process, is what I think of as me. In reality, I am the process, the total of all the physical structure of my brain, my body, and all the processes taking place therein.
That’s where I had it mixed up. If “I” am some spiritual thing separate from my body, it appears that “I” am not in control at all, ergo, no free will. But really, I am my body. My mind is part of that body, and so is any other entity I may claim to be—my soul, my aura, whatever. My mind ends up in accord with what my brain generates.
I am doing what I want, and what I want is determined by my genetic structure and all the input into my system, plus some random variations. Is that free will? I choose to call it that, because it allows me freedom to think clearly and actually decide to do things. I won’t sit around worrying about who is “really” making those decisions.
Think about it. It isn’t any different than if my “spirit” were making the decisions. The spirit would do that based on its nature and the input it received. That’s no more free than the way I understand who I really am. I no longer have a conflict, since I know that my mind is under my control, not the other way around. Perhaps surprisingly, that knowledge has freed me up to be more productive.