Back    Prev    Next

      The Worldview of Relative Simultaneity         (MURAYAMA Akira)

CHAPTER IV    Ethics issues (The Theory of Freedom)

2. Time Flow and Free Will

Imagine a free state that can be considered as ideal. Suppose that you are very healthy, you are full of stamina and you are a good athlete. You are also good at music, enough to win several awards in violin competitions, and you have scored good marks at school and have graduated from a prestigious university. In addition, you have much knowledge and have many qualifications. You are multilingual and have received numerous accolades from many people. You have a track record of having worked at top-ranking posts in leading companies. You became an independent freelancer, thinking that your lifestyle was not to continue working as a corporate employee. You have copious assets inherited from your parents, as well as self-earned savings, which will enable you to open factories and shops and employ many people if you want. You do not have a family to support but have many women who want to marry you. You have no special obligations and have all the necessary furniture, electric appliances and cars you need. You can buy new things whenever you need them and you are neutral in terms of politics and religion. In short, all of life’s options are open to you and you are free from everything. You can use all your time as you so desire.
   To interpret this kind of state according to Jean-Paul Sartre (1905–1980), you are shouldered with an enormous burden of freedom and are supremely condemned to be free. You must continue to 'projet' yourself at the future to come. You must do 'engagement' toward yourself, society and all of humankind. You are shouldered with such a huge burden. In general, this kind of state is called “versatility never pays.”
   It seems that you are endowed with a highly rich form of freedom. What is certain is that there is one thing that you can never do: You cannot turn back the hands of time and start all over again. Home video games enable you to return to where you started and start all over again, but in real life, you cannot do such a thing. If you do something in the world, it inevitably becomes history over time and will control the future to some extent. Will you live without doing anything? Will you do nothing and stay home? This is also an option and is nothing but part of your historical process. Whatever you do, time never fails to progress and as long as your life involves an end, the rest of time you can experience will shrink. You cannot save time by stopping it from passing as if to shut off a water faucet.

   Next, imagine the following situation that is very far from ideal. Suppose you are a girl who has been weak since childhood and you are poor at both sports and studies. You have often been bullied by other people. You earn just mediocre grades even by working hard and you are not endowed with any special talent for art or music. Your parents manage a small metal shop, but their business condition is deteriorating because of economic recession. They manage to run the company with working capital they borrowed from other people, but they are desperately trying to repay the interest. In such a tight situation, you cannot go on to high school and you decide to go to night school by working at a nearby food-processing factory and saving money. You have no ambition in life and you cannot put up with the monotonous and demanding factory work. In addition, you cannot get along with your coworkers and boss and you finally quit the job because you become ill. At that moment, your parents default on a loan and the company goes under. Your family cannot even sleep because of the incessant demands of loan collectors. Finally, your father commits suicide. Your family gets only a small amount of money from a life insurance policy and manages to dispose of the company by selling the factories and negotiating with several business partners. Then, one day your mother is hospitalized because of fatigue from hard work. You begin working at a massage parlor in secret to your family, hoping to save money to let your brother go to high school. You are not particularly good-looking and cannot attract many customers. You manage to save money by reducing daily expenditures. In spite of all your hard work and hope, your brother falls in with the wrong crowd and becomes a delinquent. He is a troublemaker, often asking you for pocket money and being physically abusive. Just as you get to the stage of being completely worn out, you happen to meet a considerate man who cares about you. You believe in him and want to do everything you can for him. One day, he gets the opportunity to open a shop on his own, which has been his long-cherished dream. He says that he wants to run the shop with you but that he needs additional money to invest in the business. In response to his request, you decide to borrow from your savings to help him. The next day you give him the money, but he suddenly disappears and you never hear from him again. As you are wandering along the street, believing that he has not deceived you, a car hits you. Then, you find yourself lying on a hospital bed. You are alive but the doctor warns you that you will be bound to a wheelchair for the rest of your life.
   There are conceivably worse scenarios than this, but even in this case, it cannot be said that you enjoyed a free, satisfactory life. It is certain that you have free will. Except for when you are sleeping, you have free will throughout your life. Even at this moment when you are lying on a hospital bed, you are free to turn your head to the right and left. You can decide on your own which way you turn your head. Of course, you could also gaze at the ceiling without turning your head to either side. In fact, you cannot control the passage of time and inevitably everything becomes history. You cannot change the history of your head directions. Of course, you can take a philosophical view of life and can turn your head unconsciously, which is probably normal. In this case, you react to a sound regardless of your will and automatically turn your head to its direction. Conversely, if you have no choice other than to turn your head consciously every time, you will find doing so inconvenient.
   The existence of free will is just one form of psychological phenomenon linked with the consciousness of time flow. At least, the existence of free will is not a critical factor for the two contrasting scenarios. It is inappropriate to reduce the subject of freedom to free will and it is an illusion to think that freedom is based on free will.
   In the first scenario, imagine that you are deprived of various given conditions. You do not have great wealth. You do not have a prestigious academic background. You are not in good health. Then, do you find each condition problematic? By the same token, in the second scenario, imagine that your given conditions are changed for the better. You had a traffic accident, but you regained your walking ability because of state-of-the-art medical technology. You were clumsy with human relations, but someone pointed out that you were endowed with a special ability to relax people. You finally met a partner who loved you. The question is whether you feel you obtained freedom at each phase. In accordance with this reasoning, the concept of freedom is closely related to personal talents, circumstances and human relations (apart from the fact that love may relentlessly steal freedom).

   In the first scenario, imagine that you buy factories and shops and employ people to start a new business. You have an extreme state of freedom by making this active choice. Through the process, you can now do what you could not before and what you did not even consider doing. However this is too one-sided a view. You sacrifice other forms of freedom by obtaining this one form of extreme freedom. As a corporate manager, you have to pay close attention to markets or customer trends, and you have to seek niche markets and try creative imitation to prevent your competitors from getting ahead. In some cases, you have to devise a wide range of strategies, including the idea of not trying to go against the general market direction. You have to make sure that your right-hand man will not betray you and you also need to make sure that your employees retain their motivation for productivity. Your character as a manager matters. You have to consider commercial law and implement measures for taxation and bank loans. If your company goes public, it can easily assemble capital, but it will also need to take measures against corporate buy-outs through stock purchases. You have to be keenly aware of political and business trends, new technologies, new initiatives and other environmental changes. Starting a specific business means the transference of current assets with high liquidity into stock goods, materials, fuel, land and structures with low liquidity. The choice of what to buy is a kind of gamble that cannot be easily replaced. You will fail in the ultimate business goal of changing products and services (specific assets that cannot be easily maintained) into assets with high liquidity that can be easily exchanged and maintained at higher prices than their purchasing costs unless you buy quality goods from proper suppliers (including a source of employees) at fair prices and maintain those products according to elaborate plans. To borrow Marx’s words, this act of selling products is a “fatal leap (salto mortale) of capital” and the most difficult part of business. Current assets are those with the highest level of freedom and the freedom obtained by acquiring those assets has maximum value in economic activities. In contrast, to continue to have assets with lower levels of freedom is a huge risk and a prelude to economic destruction. However, you cannot increase value if you just keep your assets in the form of cash, and if you stop your economic activities, your assets will lose value because of your fixed costs. That is why you have to proceed with your business activities. In this way, you are constantly bound by the results of your economic judgments, choices and activities. Once you start your activities, you lose the freedom to stop. You become enmeshed in the process of establishing market history for your survival and the survival of your family, stockholders, employees, and their family. In addition, those processes of market establishment can be linked with environmental and human destruction, which go beyond the level of normal market activities. This series of conditions can be considered a kind of freedom loss. The freedom to be enjoyed by the so-called economic liberalism does not refer to this kind of freedom. In fact, there exists an extreme form of freedom as a reward for the risk of taking such a gamble: This is the freedom to rule others in the market. Of course, it also involves the risk of being ruled by others. However, if you are successful, you will not only make a fortune and secure a wonderful life but you can also make a major difference in human lives and even create a path to new innovations and development. Even if you cannot go that far, you can be proud of providing customers with trustworthy products and you can enjoy an irreplaceable sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.
   The freedom obtained or lost in these specific human activities, however, does not mean that free will exists or that such freedom is unaffected by free will. At least, essentially, free will is not related to the existence of such freedom. Of course, without the mental function of free will, those activities would be impossible. This is the same as saying that without the mental function of recognizing, memorizing, considering and judging something, those activities would be impossible. This just means natural assumptions. If you actually intend to think about what freedom is, you have to pay close attention to the nature of the objective world, not to the mental function of free will.
   Freedom is a kind of structure that is constructed in four-dimensional space-time. Therefore, the idea that thoughts giving credit for the existence of four-dimensional space-time denies freedom is fundamentally based on a misunderstanding of freedom. An essential creation of the world based on free will is an illusion. However, freedom as a structure with a focus on the illusion is an objective matter.
   Viewed from this perspective, freedom comprises complicated structures characterized by various phases and types and is not a simple concept. If you try to reduce freedom to free will or base freedom on free will, you will lose sight of those complicated structures and fall into a slogan in name only.

Back    Prev    Next