Free Will And The Past

The fundamental question is why do we remember the past and experience the present, and have memory or knowledge of the future. In a fatalist universe, lack of knowledge of the future defines free will. With knowledge of the future, an illusion of free will cannot exist because it would be clear how every action, which is a reaction for a former event, would logically proceed.

I am alive now. I have a sense of knowledge and location in time and space, a sense of being and the ability to collect data about my current surroundings, and memories of past ones, and thus form a picture of present reality.

Myself from a year ago had the same feelings and abilities, but feels that it is one year ago. That person has knowledge of preceding years, but not subsequent time.

Myself in one year's time will have the same feelings and abilities, but that person is unknown to me, like any person or thing from that time.

All beings have a sense of now at all times, but their idea of now is relative to external events (the hand on a clock, the sun in the sky, the season, etcetera). With no external events, now would be defined only by sense memory, which would fragment over time. People also have an inherent sense of time passing, although this is not totally reliable because memories can fragment. A lost memory might indicate a long time past, but if the memory is lost completely, is there any record of the past at all? Irrespective of memory, it appears that people have timing circuits, and a knowledge of location in time and space, even in sensory deprivation environments, perhaps this is due to the echoes of prior memories? Consciousness does stop when asleep and not dreaming, and the sense of time passing, so this feeling can be switched off. It does appear, however, that sense collection and the storage of sensory information are vital components of consciousness.

If we had knowledge of the future we would have no free will, as we would be aware of what we were about to do before we did it. Why is it important that we have, or feel as if we have, free will?

Perhaps the simplest answer is that it isn't, simply that beings or entities that are aware of their future and destiny, such as atoms aware of their paths, have no comment to make on the matter, or no ability to comment.

Copyright © 4 January 2016 by Mark Sheeky