Thursday, May 22, 2014

Herman Melville on Free Will

aye, chance, free will, and necessity---no wise incompatible---all interweavingly working together. The straight warp of necessity, not to be swerved from its ultimate course---its every alternating vibration, indeed, only tending to that; free will still free to ply her shuttle between given threads; and chance, though restrained in its play within the right lines of necessity, and sideways in its motions directed by free will, though thus prescribed to by both, chance by turns rules either, and has the last featuring blow at events. -- Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Ch. XLVII
There is remarkable insight in this passage, an insight scientifically discovered in the form of far-from-equilibrium processes on the borderland of order and chaos. Order -- necessity; chaos -- chance. And on the borderlands, the far-from-equilibrium state -- free will. Free will? Indeed, the realm between order and chaos, between necessity and chance, is the realm of maximum freedom, the far-from-equilibrium state, where strange attractors emerge and create emergent complexity. And this includes free will. We are, psychologically, neither chance nor necessity -- alone. We are both, together. And not just us, psychologically. Our social systems and cultures are the same -- and thus, free. Our living cells are the same -- and thus, free.

Science, again, discovers what the poets knew.

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