Hello! This essay is far from complete, but I'm stuck and I'd love some feedback. I know that 1) I need to shorten it, and 2) I certainly need it to focus more on why the subject matters to me. But, again, my creativity needs a jumpstart. Thanks!
As your eyes are processing the text of this essay, who is controlling your actions? This question may first appear as trivial, but it is extremely complex. Though you may feel that it is you who wills your behavior, many would argue that you have no say in your actions. The free will argument has been an ongoing dialogue in my head since early adolescence. What of our behavior do
we have control over?
I started to approach this question academically after watching Robert Sapolsky's "Human Behavioral Biology" lecture series. In each lecture, Prof. Sapolsky outlines the biological underpinnings of human behavior. He discusses the role of modulatory hormones in relation to aggression, how developmental environment has epigenetic consequences, how parasites can drastically change the action patterns of their hosts. After learning of how factors beyond our conscious control have innumerable effects on our actions, I couldn't help but wonder if biology allows for ANY choice.
The reductionist in me wants to claim that we cannot have free will--our behavior is dictated by our brain, which is dictated by cells, proteins, molecules, and so on. Thus, our behavior emerges from bodies which are subject to the laws of mechanics. At what point does our "free will" intervene? But this conclusion is entirely counter-intuitive; we feel that we make decisions constantly. Furthermore, it isn't at all compatible with our societal structures. Responsibility lies at the heart of our legal system.
My intellectual development from this idea has had real consequences on the way in which I live my life. I cannot help but to be more forgiving. Also, I view myself much differently--I don't use the aforementioned excuse to allow me to do whatever; rather, I study myself to learn about my behavior; I often imagine my conscious stream as a third party observer to the physical manifestation of "me." It has heightened my self-awareness considerably.