Selfs of yesterday and today


I've been obsessed with free will. Here's my beef: According to physicalism the meaning of life is what we do, which is all that brain chemistry acting alone can be concerned with. On the other hand, if in defiance of physicalism consciousness can act back on the brain to direct behavior, the meaning of life is what we experience. We do what we've learned will give us the experience we want.

I've been puzzled so few people share my obsession. A brilliant summary of social science writing by Joseph E. Davis in the Spring 2011 Hedgehog Review solves the problem. The consensus is, a wide variety of factors and influences have converged to replace a deep-self conscious primarily of currents within itself with a shallow-self primarily aware of being entrained by currents in the surrounding culture.

I am a time capsule. Open me and you find an old self from the first half of the 20th century whirring away, for which the issue of free will is central. When I and others like me are no more, concern with free will will disappear. That does leave a related concern, however, which is the division between the Two Cultures. What consilience can unite the Two Cultures? This issue is not about free will specifically, but about, maybe, how to unite traditional motivations still active in society (concern of the humanities) with the view of human nature emerging from science. This concern is not self-depth dependent, That will be more narrowly what this site will focus on.