Reading in La Roy Ladurie's excellent study of the people of Montaillou, came across his observation on the musings of these 14th century peasants on freedom of will, do we have it or not? Began thinking of this question in light of my musings on the speed of consciousness. I had suggested that the speed of light is actually a measure of time, the time it takes us to leap from one moment of existence to the next. Light itself has no speed since at its "speed" as we measure it, time does not exist. Light relative to itself is everywhere it will be at the same moment. The universe it illuminates is therefore that which exists across all time at once, the universe as an eternal whole. Our consciousness – embedded in matter and not traveling as light – experiences time and sees light crawl along at so much slower than infinite speed.
Could freedom of will exist if a timeless universe also exists? If everything that has happened, is happening and will happen “already” exists in the same instant of creation in the Big Bang, what could be new? Are we conscious beings just crawling along lines that already exist, just following what is already fated to happen?
Being is an interesting word. It can be both verb and noun. I can be something, I can be being sad or happy. I can have a state of being, we can talk of human and supreme beings or even alien beings. Being is simply the condition of existing, of having existence. But does a rock have being? It does exist but would we say that a rock is being anything. Even just being a rock? Being implies something more, it suggests a subjective agent, someone who is being. Only something that is being could also be conscious. Consciousness is the awareness of a being. The speed of time is the pace of a beings movement through moments.
Back to freedom of will. We certainly feel, at least some times, that we have it. Life can be so complicated with so many random seeming events and difficult choices to make that it is hard to believe that it has all already been written. Sure, sometimes it seems we have no choice but to have done what we have done but in reality at each moment, we can decide among almost anything. How to square this with a relativistic universe in which the true speed of light is instantaneous and in which everything has already happened?
What if being is quantum, both particle and wave? Each of us are particles. We move through a material universe with time. We are attached to particular assemblages of matter we call bodies. We observe and act within the time-bound material world and with our wonderfully complex brains our consciousness blossoms into self-awareness and thought. Being also exists as a wave. We would not necessarily be able to understand that, as such being – accompanied by an experience of everything at once – is not easy to grasp. But such being – being beyond time – would not become aware of the particles of being before (or after) they acted because before and after would not exist. In other words, there is no text for us to follow, no “fate” which limits or determines our actions, because what we do can be known only as we do it. If the eternal, timeless universe is one conscious thought of being, it is nothing but what we particular beings immersed in time have made of it. We collapse the wave function.
Just a thought.