Category Archives: Blog


Okay, to hell with boundaries. I make a sport of this blog confusing everything with everything else.

Reading Malazan book 6 I found a quote that is basically the Malazan formulation of the Kabbalah quote:

The gods, old or new, did not belong to her. Nor did she belong to them. They played their ascendancy games as if the outcome mattered, as if they could change the hue of the sun, the voice of the wind, as if they could make forests grow in deserts and mothers love their children enough to keep them. The rules of mortal flesh were all that mattered, the need to breathe, to eat, drink, to find warmth in the cold of night. And, beyond these struggles, when the last breath had been taken inside, well, she would be in no condition to care about anything, about what happened next, who died, who was born, the cries of starving children and the vicious tyrants who starved them – these were, she understood, the simple legacies of indifference, the consequences of the expedient, and this would go on in the mortal realm until the last spark winked out, gods or no gods.

Here’s again the quote from Kabbalah:

(about the question “What is the meaning of my life?”)

“It is indeed true that historians have grown weary contemplating it, and particularly in our generation. No one ever wishes to consider it. Yet the question stands as bitterly and vehemently as ever. Sometimes it meets us uninvited, pecks at our minds and humiliates us to the ground before we find the famous ploy of flowing mindlessly in the currents of life, as always.”

Then I happened on this page (with some interesting nice pictures), and I found this quote that metaphorically matches the previous posts on Free Will and being bound to a point of view:

The descent of the divine emanations concretized in cosmic creation is occurring at this moment, and the fact that the world is such or such a thing, for the modern mentality, or that in accord with our viewpoint we perceive this or that, is completely indifferent to the process of the universal creation, which is ongoing, even visualized from the horizontal viewpoint, and simultaneous, from the vertical projection.

The interesting part is the formulation of the system as “simultaneous, from the vertical projection”. Meaning deterministic. There’s no time scaling. Yet experience from within, our viewpoint, is bound to time and seen as becoming.

So this aspects of Kabbalah seems to retain (and explain away) the problem of compatibilism.

Related, but only if you are a particular type of crazy like I am, here’s a page of David Foster Wallace’s personal copy of Joyce’s Ulysses. Showing how a text with bi-dimensional perspective is given three-dimensionality because of 2nd level (recursive) observations:

Let’s sum the previous posts on Free Will into a system of overlapping patterns, and formulate god as a formal system.

God = origin of creation = totality (one and boundless) = pure light.

Light = information. Wholeness of creation = totality of information (knowledge).

Totality of information = omniscience = providence = nature.

Totality of information = god.

Partiality = Point of View (wedge, slice) = pain and suffering (lack of understanding).

Pain is the direct consequence of lack of wholeness. You are bound to your personal life and egoism, separate from the rest of nature. You versus the world. The inside of the point of view, versus the outside/alien. Egoism = partiality.

Partiality = partial information = concealed light/concealed god = can’t see/can’t understand.

Free Will = not-god.

Why Free Will is antithesis of god? Because total of information equals deterministic world (everything behaves following laws of nature). Science, as the external point of view (and so not partial), declares lack of Free Will. Hence god cannot give freedom of choice, unless through a partiality.

In order to FEEL and BELIEVE THE FEEL, you need to be like in a dream state: believing the dream. A dream like a veiled truth. Experiencing limits. Without limits = omniscience. No Free Will.

So formally this equals the religious formulation: in order to give freedom of choice and Free Will, god had to conceal himself (omniscience, total point of view, wholeness). The totality of god is opposed to the partiality of man. But it’s that closed, occluded perspective that grants us the CHOICE. God can’t interfere, we decide our morality, we decide our laws. WE HAVE TO. There’s no external system that tells us what’s absolutely right or wrong, being concealed from god/knowledge, we have the imposition to decide for ourselves. Otherwise, if we all had omniscience, we would all knew what was the right thing to do, and we would all agree on that. Because totality of knowledge = wholeness. There’s no discord in the totality, as there’s no discord in god. There’s one voice. Quoting Kabbalah: “He who knows all mysteries will testify that he will not turn back to folly.”

Being freed of pain means exiting the occluded perspective. Pain is always transitory if you know what it is meant to be, and if you can transcend from it. Leaving behind the misery of the lack of light (lack of knowledge, lack of motives and understanding). But it’s only the limited perspective that grants that freedom.

It’s as if god (or the formulation of the system as it is) is saying: there wasn’t any other way.

Free Will comes with pain because Free Will comes from partiality of information. Partiality is pain, but so is Free Will.

Free Will is the antithesis of god. It is only a mechanism of life that operates through partiality (or dichotomy from nature, as in “self” versus “nature”, or humanity versus hostile external world).

As science develops, we discover more and more that Free Will doesn’t exist in this system of nature. It’s just an illusion. Religion already anticipated this fact, because religion knew that the truth was the wholeness of nature, and this wholeness didn’t admit true, non-illusory partiality within.

So science only declares what can eventually happen: Free Will can only be lost, not achieved. Which is the ultimate destination declared by religion as well: reunion with god. Science reveals the truth: consciousness is the illusion. Exactly as religion declares mortal life as illusion. For science and religion both, we belong to the wholeness. The partiality of life is the illusion.

Hence science only defines the destination. It’s the voice beyond the veil of existence. Concealment. Hidden light.

If you want to put this in the most brutal way, then you can say that both religion and science have the exact same idea on “death”: transience. Not because you appear into some metaphysical afterworld, but because consciousness was always an illusion. Occluded horizon, like a soap bubble. You always were part of a bigger system, unite with it, and so you always were and always will be with it and part of it. What dies is only consciousness. And, again, that was mere illusion like a dream.

The religious “heaven” was always an image, a concrete formulation of an abstract idea: wholeness with god. Hence religion always told the truth, through metaphor.

Or: science is equal to religion without metaphor.

Since I know nothing (Jon Snow) I can come up with the most absurd theories by just playing with patterns and generalizing them. And sometimes I even get some nice intuitions, whether revelatory or merely fun from a mythological perspective.

The fun part isn’t when you simply make whimsical associations, but when the whimsical associations actually get confirmed and produce more “sense” on their own. As if you merely try to see if a piece fits in the puzzle, and then it really does and tells you more than you were expecting.

So let’s make wild associations and see what fun comes out.

I watched an hour long video of a conference with Sean Carroll that I truly recommend because it’s one of those rare things that explain complex science while making it crystal clear (without losing too much precision, I hope). In this case it was an update on how science sees reality thee days, and the Higgs boson in particular:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RwdY7Eqyguo

After that I went reading on his blog some more complex and convoluted stuff about quantuum fluctuations.

I really can’t follow that stuff well, but I try to focus on the macro patterns that seem to come out.

So, just for fun, I propose four different, totally gratuitous associations.

1- My interpretation of that blog post, or what it seems to come down, is that quantuum fluctuations don’t seem an intrinsic property of a field or object, but the result of an interaction. In this case observation. “what we call “quantum fluctuations” aren’t true, dynamical events that occur in isolated quantum systems. Rather, they are a poetic way of describing the fact that when we observe such systems”.

More specifically he explains:
It has nothing to do with consciousness or intelligence (of course). An “observation” in quantum mechanics happens whenever any out-of-equilibrium macroscopic system becomes entangled with the quantum system being measured. It will then decohere (become entangled with the wider environment), which causes a splitting of the wave function into separate branches.

That I transformed into:
it’s like I’m seeing the object a little different because it’s as if I look at it from a certain angle. If I change my angle of observation, then the object changes. So this “fluctuation” depends on the angle.
Or:
the macroscopic system has a kind of “imprint” that defines “where it comes from”. Like in science fiction usually is defined as a “vibration”, with parallel words having different vibrations or phases. So it seems you say that when an observation occurs, the entanglement happens because it’s the fingerprint of the macroscopic system that gives a peculiarity to the thing observed.

Here the pattern (if you’ve seen the video linked above): what if the “angle” of observation, or the branches that compose the multiverse, is dependent on the “height” of the Higgs field in respect to all the other fields? As if that field defines a particular wavelength that differentiates a world from the next. The fingerprint vibration.

I was just recently reading the “Otaku Tower” and it definitely had fun playing with these ideas. Here’s an actual quote (and first layer of actual mythology):

“We only know how things work in this world. We assume the workings of this world are absolute. But what if there were a great number of other worlds and it turned out the rules of this world are great exceptions compared to the other worlds?”

“But we do not know of any other worlds, so we can only assume they would be the same as us.”

A bitter smile appeared on Ooshiro’s lips when he heard that response.

“True,” the old man said. “But another world is another world. They are fundamentally different. What we think is simply ‘how things are’ and what the other worlds think is simply ‘how things are’ are fundamentally different.”

“Are you saying,” Sayama looked down at his feet, “there is a world where this is how gravity works?”

Ooshiro nodded, walked over to the opposite window, and stood on it. He looked straight up toward Sayama.

“The ten other worlds and this world are perceived as individual gears and so we refer to them as such. 1st-Gear through 10th-Gear all had their own unique characteristics. And do you know what we called this power of ‘how things are’?” Without waiting for an answer, Ooshiro said, “Concepts. We called them concepts! They are a power that can control even the laws of physics. They are the ultimate reason behind everything. That is what concepts are!”


“That was a Concept Text. It is made by gathering inferior reproductions of an extracted concept. Each individual concept is very weak, but it can be heard as a voice once it reaches the level of a Concept Text. This space also has several weaker concepts added on as well, but they cannot be heard as a voice.” He continued. “When an out of phase space has concepts added to it, it is known as a Concept Space. We think of a concept’s identity as a variable fixed-period vibration wave that we call a string vibration.”


Ooshiro had said an alternate world was a world with different concepts. In that case…

“So alternate worlds are worlds with different string vibration frequencies?”

“Yes. And everything in any of the worlds has a string vibration for their world and a string vibration for the object itself. The one for the world we call the parent string vibration and the one for the individual we call the child string vibration.”

Sayama nodded and said, “So is it like a numerator and denominator? The denominator tells you what Gear they belong to and the numerator tells you what the individual is.”

“Yes. If the numerator differs, it is a different individual. If the denominator differs, it may be the same existence but from a different world. These alternate worlds are not parallel. They exist in multiple phases atop each other. According to the records, a ‘gate’ that alters one’s parent string vibration is needed to move to and from different Gears.”

2- The second pattern is an association with the property of Free Will I defined in previous posts: the limited horizon that makes impossible to acquire knowledge to deny free will. This claim reveals already a pattern similarity: Bakker’s BBT. This formulation of Free Will relies of the impossibility of integrating knowledge. So integrating information. Bakker’s BBT is all about consciousness not being able to access (and so integrate) information. But I’ll get to this later, with its own patter.

In this case instead the pattern of a closed perspective seems to match a pattern in actual physics: Complementarity What was surprising for me was finding the concept actually /present/ in physics. Even if it’s applied to a different context, this concept exists. It’s actual, accepted science. What matches isn’t the details, nor it’s a way to use the murkiness of quantuum mechanics to imply some metaphysical properties. Nope. It’s the pattern. Sean Carroll brings it down to the ground again:
“For black holes, complementarity was taken to roughly mean “you can talk about what’s going on inside the black hole, or outside, but not both at the same time.” It is a way of escaping the paradox of information loss as black holes evaporate. You throw a book into a black hole, and if information is not lost you should (in principle!) be able to reconstruct what was in the book by collecting all of the Hawking radiation into which the black hole evaporates. That sounds plausible even if you don’t know exactly the mechanism by which happens. The problem is, you can draw a “slice” through spacetime that contains both the infalling book and the outgoing radiation! So where is the information really? (It’s not in both places at once — that’s forbidden by the no-cloning theorem.)”

I can’t really track and resolve the detail here, but there seem to be this idea of a limit, a horizon. My pattern-matching simply suggest that this could say something about the information horizon that defines Free Will in my formulation. Free Will is theoretically possible because information that proves it (Free Will) wrong can’t be accessed. It’s “either or”. Complementary information whose integration DEPENDS on the point of view. Where the point of view imparts authority, so reality.

3- Let’s now match this pattern to Kabbalah, because it’s hanging there, so close. The first association is the simplest possible. Science works with “information”, Kabbalah with “light”. It’s not even pattern matching, they are really just formulations of the same, light IS information, as we know.

What is physical reality according to Kabbalah (and also a bunch of other religions)? Concealed light. The upper world, where light is pristine, is spirituality, whereas the physical world, where light isn’t pure and is instead concealed, is Malkuth. The sephirot at the bottom of the tree. The Kingdom.

Why is there pain in the world? Answering with a non-answer: because the light is concealed, otherwise a pure light would be void of bad feelings or “wrongs”. This transforms into: why I feel pain? Because I’m not omniscient (I don’t know the reason of pain). Because all pain is justified as long it can heal. As long it leads somewhere better. As long there’s revelation at the end. As long it can be salved, left behind, and a life lifted to a better world. As long it’s revealed as just one part of a better whole.

Some quotes from a Kabbalistic text:

“42. Indeed, you should know that the reason for our great distance from the Creator and that we are so prone to transgress His will is for but one reason. It became the source of all the torment and the suffering that we suffer and for all the sins and the mistakes that we fail in.

Clearly, by removing that reason we will be instantly rid of any sorrow and pain. We will immediately be granted adhesion with Him in heart, soul and might.”


Thus, understanding His providence is the reason for every good, and the lack of understanding is the reason for every evil. It turns out that this is the whole axis that all the people in the world circle, for better or for worse.


4. Now you can understand the words of our sages about the verse, “therefore choose life.” It states: “I instruct you to choose the part of living, as a person who says to his son: ‘Choose for yourself a good part in my land.’ He places him on the good part and says to him: ‘Choose this for yourself.’” It is written about this, “O Lord, the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup, Thou maintainest my lot.” You placed my hand on the good fate, to say: “This take for you.”

The words are seemingly perplexing. The verse says, “therefore choose life.” This means that one makes the choice by himself. However, they say that He places him on the good part. Thus, is there no longer choice here? Moreover, they say that the Creator puts one’s hand on the good fate. This is indeed perplexing, because if so where then is one’s choice?

Now you can see the true meaning of their words. It is indeed true that the Creator Himself puts one’s hand on the good fate by giving him a life of pleasure and contentment within the corporeal life that is devoid of content, filled with torment and pain. One necessarily departs and escapes them when he sees a tranquil place, even if it seemingly appears amidst the cracks. He flees there from this life, which is harder than death. Indeed, is there a greater placement of one’s hand by Him than this?


“Are not these evils come upon us because our God is not among us?”


“The reward is according to the pain.”


“When He who knows all mysteries will testify that he will not turn back to folly.”

In general the idea here is somewhat typical. The pain is necessary from this perspective only to “know good”. Think of it as a learning process. There’s ideally always a benevolent hand that guides us. The benevolence is that the pain is merely necessary, but not the end. Yet, in order for this lesson to work and be truly understood, “the hand that guides” can’t be seen. It needs to be concealed or otherwise we would know it’s all a trick. Think about dreams. They only “work” as long you are immersed in them and truly believe it’s an authentic experience, and not merely a dream.

In order for this to happen, you need not to know. The concealment is necessary. The perspective needs be partial instead of total. In order to “feel”, you need to divide from the whole. Hence the reason why god supposedly created humanity, by dividing himself, Adam Kadmon. Hence why pain is necessary: it’s the partiality to cause pain. Whenever you are rejoined to the “whole”, all pain is erased. You are back with god.

This is not only a religious pattern, but also what I formally described in my formulation of Free Will. It is a partiality. Consciousness feels pain because it feels itself as “stranger” from nature. Divided from it. Nature is hostile to us, as if we are aliens in this world, fighting it with all our strength. Banishing, cursing it. Everything happens because we cannot reach and feel the flow of nature. If we die, our world dies. We cling to our life because we cling to our perspective. We die and the world dies with us, because we are no more. It’s a self versus everything else. Or: a self that perceives itself as separate.

Separate from Nature, separate from god, from light, from eternity. Just a small piece of “egoism” and desire. The Will to Receive. Endlessly. Give it to me. I.

4- The last pattern is the information horizon and Blind Brain Theory. Bakker says consciousness is merely illusion because it cannot integrate information about itself. Hence it’s all a distorted impression of the world.

My actual challenge is: what if we turn this upside down? My formulation of Free Will DEPENDS on the lack of information. Or better: the impossibility to integrate that information.

The pattern here emerges before the ideas themselves. It’s the state of concealed light that grants us the first person perspective (and pain). Omniscience (god or science) is merely the wholeness of the process, from whom we are separate. We are strictly vessels that have Free Will because information cannot be integrated.

If information is theoretically possible to integrate, and so accordingly to BBT you achieve a more precise and realistic knowledge of how consciousness works, then you escape this condition, open onto some sort of “singularity”. But I’m saying that this can’t happen, because it can’t formally happen. It’s not merely part of the progress of science because the boundary here isn’t a boundary of knowledge, but the boundary of the actual box we live in.

As if we are back to the concept of complementarity in physics. You cannot integrate these two levels. The horizon of reality occludes the light. You can project points beyond, but these still appear on OUR SIDE. Like stars painted on a dome. These stars are theoretical holes that lead beyond, but factually they are only theories of holes, ideas.

You don’t get to feel what’s outside the dome. Only the possibility of it. And whether you walk with faith or cynicism, you are still only various degrees of miserable.

Just a nicely worded quote from a Kabbalistic text I was reading this morning. Lots of these give me many doubts, but this one is a rather accurate description:

(about the question “What is the meaning of my life?”)

“It is indeed true that historians have grown weary contemplating it, and particularly in our generation. No one ever wishes to consider it. Yet the question stands as bitterly and vehemently as ever. Sometimes it meets us uninvited, pecks at our minds and humiliates us to the ground before we find the famous ploy of flowing mindlessly in the currents of life, as always.”

A follow-up.

Because that framework is so powerful it also leads to other revelations. What Gödel represents for math, he also represents for science.

Science depends on a fixed, independent world, where theories evolve because they can be tested on reality. So reality needs not be mutable. Those rules governing its events need to have the totality of control (and, if there are changes, then the rules have to account for that change). Nothing metaphysical can bleed through, obviously.

But once again science exists only if the world is finite. Only if this world has an “inside” but no outside. Because if the system of the world is contained within a bigger super-system(*), then science would have to embrace that larger system to count for all phenomena. So it’s again the necessity for a one-sided space. The Klein bottle. Science cannot allow for something external (something outside its grasp). And if something external is actually discovered (you could make a case for quantum physics) then it needs to be brought back in, so that science reaches out and includes, integrates. So that the practice of science and theory-making can get closer to the actual ideal of Science: explain everything with no omissions or gaps. Science has the liking of an omniscient light cast upon the world.

From another perspective: science is valid only as long no outside is found (or: only until science conquered everything and there’s nothing left “outside”). Its determinism holds only as long the world is indeed finite and one-sided. Leading directly to Gödel’s paradox (no system seems to be able to fully close itself). If you think about it, it mimics the perspective of “free will”. Free will is possible only UNTIL an outside claims it false. Or: the perspective remains valid only if the wall that defines it, is breached. It exists because it doesn’t. Science postulates determinism, determinism negates free will, on the premise that if the system is closed and one sided, then free will has no leverage, because a mind only exists within the system and so slave to its rules. In determinism the mind is moved, not moving. But in the same way we are vulnerable to science (it denies subjectivity through hard reality and facts, it debunks faiths and beliefs), so science is vulnerable to its own “outside”. Because science for us represents a similar “outside”.

But let’s avoid the ambiguity held in the idealism of language. Let’s call the science that describes the physical world as we know it as Science-1. If a bigger system of reality is then discovered that has total control over the physical world as we knew it, then it’s obvious that Science-2 totally invalidates Science-1. If before we thought Science-1 had the total control (of description) of reality, then instead we discovered that Science-1 was merely under total control of Science-2. Just another slave. Formally, again it’s information from the outside breaching in, demonstrating that Science-1 wasn’t a closed system. The same happens with out mind/consciousness. Experience says that our one sided view is the whole thing. We feel as we have control of ourselves and freedom of choice. But then external knowledge proves us this may be just an illusion, and that the brain is also subject to the rules of the physical world. The problem is that what is “legal” in the example above, isn’t legal in this one. We can’t use that information.

So how is it possible to have both? How can Free Will be made compatible with Determinism? From my point of view, and this framework, it’s a matter of handling the perspectives, because mixing them leads to the paradox that generates the incompatibilities themselves. Science demands a one sided space, that it can fully dominate. Human beings, free will or not, are systems that exist within the “system of the world”, so the domain science casts its claim on. Through science we access knowledge of the world outside of us. Hypothetically even knowledge that unsettles us, like the demonstration that our perception is skewed, or entirely false. But we lack the authority to ACT on that knowledge. We simply discovered how things always were and always will be. So while Free Will is explained away, it still doesn’t render us empty of consciousness. Formally the discovery has no power on us. Meaning: the discovery of us lacking free will couldn’t possibly motivate something like a change in law practices and morality, because we don’t have the Free Will to deal directly with those things and modify them.

Determinism basically says that us, as observing systems, were always “system”. Religion actually explains this much better: we are all part of the same thing, something like spiritual unity with the entire creation. Yet we perceive ourselves as a life with a very narrow perspective (and needs, and selfish desires). Consciousness only sees itself with an idea of “identity”. This perspective can be judged false by information that comes from the outside (science) but it cannot be invalidated. It’s like we are a robot that is programmed to go on its course, able to access knowledge of the impossibility of acting otherwise. So this isn’t a “stage”, like recognizing a lack of free will in order to truly achieve it. It’s just knowledge with no power, invisible. Not there. It’s illusion. Because knowledge that creates no difference is knowledge that does not exist. The lack of free will is itself pure illusion. Why? Because the perspectives get mixed. From our perspectives our actions depend on what we decide. We can’t suddenly stop doing that. Nor the reasons why we do this and that, or the way we organize ourselves, can change on the knowledge of lacking free will. So, again, we can’t use that information. Following that, we cannot not-act. We cannot surrender, or even modify, the free will we think we have.

There are two possible scenarios or ideal worlds. One were we gain some sort of enlightenment and reach some spiritual betterment where we can achieve true free will. The other where we “let it go”, in the sense that we entirely give up the illusion and really start feeling ourselves as the robots lacking will we are. The point is: neither of the two is possible. The first is not possible because we can’t exit the system. The second isn’t possible because robots have to do their thing. What we currently call Free Will isn’t an ideal, but simply us “doing our thing” in the way we always did it. It’s a relative, yet inescapable perspective. It’s fourth wall breaching. Knowledge not possible. So “lack of free will” merely defined the EXACT same thing we until now called “free will”. We swapped the *term*, but what it points to remains the same.

Practically, for us, knowledge of lack of free will doesn’t change the description of the free will we actually have, it changes *what it is*. But being the description the same, it continues doing and behaving the exact same way as before. It continues to appear the same way. Think about this: the “qualia” of consciousness has been described as the perception of a one-sided space (and again the requirement of this type of space to issue the control). Or: lack of perception of what falls beyond the light (of consciousness). Scientific knowledge is just about awareness that there’s something beyond these boundaries. But this knowledge defines and frames the space, it doesn’t remove it. Even though “science” doesn’t merely claim to be a dominating side, but also that no other side can exist, since science is always inclusive and totalitarian.

In the end it bogs down to something truly simple: does a character in a book have free will? Nope. Because we know there’s an author that actually decided what that character does and says. Yet, if you “ask” the character he will explain what he does and what he says in the context of his own “free will”, so the actual motivations of someone thinking himself as a real person. Which one the correct perspective? Depends. You look from the outside and you know it all depends on the writer. Yet if you ever care about a book it is because you are interested in the perspective in there. “As if”. Pretending to see from the inside of that world as if there’s no other outside. That world only exists and matters as long there’s someone willing to be there. A tautology: the perspective is valid as long it is valid. Which is a recursion. A loophole.

(*)
It is also funny to consider that if there’s a super-system that governs reality as we know it, it’s possible that also determinism as we know it is proven entirely false. With this hypothetical entity continuously poking things within our system, at its whims (but in a way that is hidden to us, because it sits in the super-system and is unperceived in ours, like a form of spirituality). Yet we would likely be entirely under the effect of the super-system’s determinism and its rules. It’s just *our* determinism that would be proven false (or merely encapsulated and then occluded, just a spectrum). Which is a variation on the theme of “why is god shaped in the liking of a human?”, or, why should the super-world, and its governing rules, be anything like we see in ours?

I had this article on free will bookmarked for quite a while because I wanted to add a few observations of my own to it. So now I’m checking boxes and coming to it.

In that article it’s the term “free will” that is being questioned and I always though that when a complex discussion ends up focusing on a word then the point is being missed. Language is merely convention. A word only means what it is useful for it to mean, and whenever you need a more specific term, then a new one is produced.

If you focus too much on what the term means then you miss the point. When dealing with “free will” I have this scheme that I think helps to frame the problem, and so more easily look for solutions. In this specific case the meaning and usefulness of the term depend exclusively on perspective. So we have two opposite answers that are both valid depending on who’s asking (or, from where he’s asking). And that’s why it all ends up in so much confusion and controversy. But in the end this is not a problem of an ambiguous term, it’s instead a problem of perspective and context.

So once again let’s start from the center. We pose the question. “We” are consciousness, and consciousness happens in the brain. It became evident that the peculiarity of consciousness compared to everything else is associated with language. And the peculiarity of language, and of that association by extension, is one of its functions: the metalingual. What is that makes this function “special”? Reflexivity. Reflexivity is the propriety that lets language describe and define itself, and reflexivity is the property that enables a brain to develop a consciousness as we know and experience it. This reflexivity is the true, fundamental culprit of all these processes. This was all properly identified and described in “Gödel, Escher, Bach” as a “strange loop”, and the peculiarity of a strange loop is again the reflexivity.

In information theory the concept of reflexivity is used on the observation framework. What makes reflexivity (or the loop) “strange” is that recursion on itself. Reflexivity in observation means, essentially, introspection. Which means “confusing” subject with object. When observing, you observe an object. But when self-observing, you end up with this weird duplication: you as a subject observe yourself as an object, so at the same time you are both subject and object, here and there. This split is at the source of what we call the human “condition”. That we also know as Cartesian Dualism. That dualism fundamentally originates in the split and duplication of the observation. The mind detaches itself from a body, perceives itself as something else, “more than”. This “mistake” is the base that causes all consequent conflicts and paradoxes.

So we have reflexivity on one side, and a split of the process on the other. The dichotomy infuses everything else. There’s not just a conflict of subject/object, but also one of inside/outside. If observations (as distinctions) happen in the general structure of system (the subject of observation) and environment (what is observed), then system/object are essentially built as inside/outside. A distinction between a self/subject/inside and an environment/object/outside. So, formally speaking, we already have the paradox laid out: we perceive consciousness as something else than a brain, or, we consider consciousness (a subject) separate and independent from its ambient, which is the physical brain. Otherwise neither reflexivity nor observation are possible. They require distinction, and an object that self-observes without a distinction perceives itself as a wholeness. So as something that is formally not observable (aka: non conscious). A brain without consciousness obviously doesn’t “think”, because it can’t observe. It can’t recognize itself from anything else. So it’s undivided from the flux of all creation. Exactly as all non-conscious things, alive or not. It’s non-discrete.

The problem is embedded in the formality of the process that allows us to be conscious. It means that consciousness is based/enabled by a contradiction. So it’s also obvious that it can’t escape itself. Consciousness is bound to its rules, and so to its limits (aka boundaries). This is important when we’ll define whether “free will” is an useful and appropriate term.

What I just described is a simplification that is useful to “frame” the problem. One of the basic distinctions I took out is inside/outside. This is important because it’s the context that motivates free will as a concept. What is free will? This: something that controls itself independently from the outside. Determinism runs counter to free will because it says, in Bakker terms, that what comes before strictly defines what comes after. Which means that there isn’t any freedom of consciousness in there, at some point, to take control. Everything is already set-up by the pre-conditions. Which also means that it’s the outside (environment) that determines what goes on in the inside (system). So the inside/system/consciousness is merely under the complete control of what’s outside. Everything is already firmly determined. There’s no “freedom” of choice.

Now let’s ask the important question: how would free will happen (if it was truly free and not some surrogate)? Free will, formally, is a system with the possibility to be independent. In the case of a human being, so a system that is part of a much larger system with its rules (physical reality, or the universe), free will means escaping the larger system. So it means the possibility to “exit” the physical reality, escaping it. In religion free will exists because consciousness is seen as a metaphysical entity that ESCAPES rules of physical reality, so religion defines consciousness as something that can’t be merely described by the physical properties it comes from (so consciousness is seen as “more than a brain”). By being “special” (and metaphysical), consciousness acquires its “superpowers”, or: the possibility to punch holes in the physical reality, so transcend it, so, formally, to “exit” the system.

Exit the system. That’s what defines free will as a possibility. But remember that I also said consciousness originates as a paradox, and the paradox allows for consciousness but doesn’t allow consciousness to truly break its rules and boundaries. Which means, from the scientific perspective, that a consciousness isn’t allowed to “transcend” physical reality. So a consciousness can’t exit the system (physical reality), obviously, and so science says that, nope, we don’t have free will, because we are inside this system and subject to all its rules. We are slaves to the system, or, formally, just a system wholly contained within another (and so defined by it, not independent).

How the hell do we exit then? Through information. This is kind of tautological, but if you can actually reach some kind of information external to the system, and bring it inside, then the system is essentially broken. You exited it, by introducing something new into it. So you added variables that were not yet there. Hence forced an outcome that wasn’t previously defined. You obtained “free will”.

Now I’ve defined the superpower but this doesn’t mean I have it, or can obtain it. That’s not the point why I’m writing. The point is that the frame, of outside/inside, is useful to understand the deal with free will. The point is: the system who’s asking the question (whether free will is available or not, or useful as a term) is the same system that pretends to answer it by self-observing. What I mean is that the question CONTAINS the paradox, and then why it then can’t easily obtain an answer. Do I (system) have free will? Who will answer? Still I. So I am both subject and object. I am the entity that asks, analyzes self and then offers the answer. Which means confusing subject and object, inside and outside.

So where’s the mistake? The mistake is that, formally, who says that human beings have no free will is an abstract entity that is not assimilable to a “self”. “You don’t have free will” is not what an human can tell to another human (or to himself). Because the observation “you have not free will” is only possible for the system of reality (that we simplify as a surrogate: science). It’s Science, to whom we give voice, that tells us: you have no free will. So we know we don’t.

We know we don’t, but we don’t EXPERIENCE we don’t. Because Science is not an external entity. We give science its voice. It’s a golem, or a man-made god. Which means that, sure, we have that judgement and may believe it, but since we can’t truly POSSESS that affirmation (we can’t formally tell ourselves we lack free will, because we can’t formally make that observation) then it simply means that knowledge/experience of that affirmation, “you’ve got not free will”, is… useless. It’s *formally* useless. It can’t formally produce any change (or we would have actually enabled free will by not having it, since finally knowing that we have no free will would have actually brought CHANGE, learning something new, and so obtaining actual free will). If we don’t have free will, then it means that knowing we don’t have free will doesn’t “move” the system. So it’s as if we know nothing new. Which means this knowledge is IRRELEVANT, whatever the outcome. We can be sure it’s irrelevant in all possible cases.

The point of this whole deal is that this question isn’t “legal” in the formal system. Only an external system can say we have no free will. The system can’t speak (or it would be equal to “reach god”, or have a transcendent experience). So the system isn’t allowed its answer. We may IMAGINE that answer, but whenever we further consider it we violate a formality, and so produce something false. Like breaking a mathematical rule. So I’m saying we can’t, formally, get an answer. It’s denied. And, in any case, even if we got an answer it would be irrelevant for the reasons I’ve explained. So we covered all possibilities.

The lack of free will is an actual impossibility. We are basically FORCED to have free will. Or: to live as if. We can’t formally live otherwise. This is bound to the human condition: you can’t NOT make use of your free will. You have free will because it’s formally impossible for you to NOT have it (as long you possess consciousness, and so reflexivity, and so possibility to self-observe).

Everything else is just consequence. Morally, considering the possibility of a lack of free will, as discussed in that article, is pointless. Because our morals exist on the premise we have free will. And as far as we are concerned we HAVE free will. Only god (the system) could tell us we got no free will, but god won’t speak to us (if it did, we’d automatically and immediately acquire legit free will). Science could tell us, but science is given a voice. That voice is ours and we aren’t allowed to tell ourselves that sort of thing.

All this simply amounts to going repeatedly at a solid wall. There’s no way through (again because of the formality of the inside/outside rule, you can’t be both inside and outside, so when you try you get the wall in the face). No way around. Which means that the concept of free will as a term is only useful to us in the measure we already use it: the idea of consciousness and free will as we *experience it*. Because that presence of free will applies to us, and exists for us, exactly in that measure.

Which is very similar to the example of the flipped coin. Is a coin being flipped truly “random”? Nope, because we know that the face the coin will fall on depends on a myriad of variables, all dependent on the initial stages that coin was in. The result is already determined, but *for us*, the coin being flipped is an usable approximation of “random”, merely because we just can’t effectively manipulate the outcome. It’s beyond our grasp and so we accept the randomness of a flipped coin even if randomness isn’t a thing in a deterministic world.

Same as “free will”. We can only have a good approximation of it. We are forced to exercise it, as long we live. There’s no way out, there’s no way in. You can only live and use that will, relatively free or not. Knowledge won’t let you free, in this case.

This is noir, pure and simple, a small-scale holocaust of the human soul–Lovecraft without the tentacled bodies; Revelations without the horsemen.

Elsewhere I commented the rest of the show saying that after the third episode it normalized itself and became more conservative and harmless. Now that I’ve seen the finale I confirm that view. Narratively the show is extremely conservative and all its stakes are on flawless execution.

But flawless execution it is. Despite the lack of excess of ambition I thought the finale was absolutely excellent and overall the show is the best television I’ve ever seen in such format. So I could accuse it of not pushing enough against the boundaries of convention, but this was only my wish, not the original intention of the show.

I don’t want to write a full review, just pointing out a couple of things. The most important aspect that transcends execution (how it’s written, how it’s acted, how it’s shot) is how the story bounds to its theme and how the mythology is bound to both.

When the King in Yellow was first mentioned we didn’t know anything about what to expect or where the show was going with it. We just thought it was a neat wink to this corner of geek culture. But this blog has a good article on what it means. It explains well what the King in Yellow represented in the life and breadth of work of his author.

What it couldn’t foresee, though, is that that was the key to the show as well. Here’s a good article by proverbial Jeff Jensen (who always enjoys the playful shows, like LOST or Fringe) on the finale and the meaning of it all (his articles are always more interesting for what they suggest than factual interpretations).

What I appreciated is that the King of Yellow isn’t just there to represent an undefined form of threat, that is finally defeated and exorcized/banished, only to reappear at the very last moment as it happens in dreadful horror shows. Because in the horror shows the threat is there, originating where the mythology comes from: some mythical, magic space beyond reality. But in True Detective all this mystical veil is redirected to an actual origin: the human mind. It starts with the human mind, it ends with the human mind. If the King in Yellow, accordingly to that article, was just the sublimation of a certain decadent culture:

This is also the most literal interpretation – The King in Yellow “himself” could also stand for, well, quite a few things. Take, for example, opium. Chambers wrote The King in Yellow following his experiences as an art student in Paris during one of its most decadent eras. Both opium (Thomas de Quincey’s “the dark idol”) and absinthe (“the green muse”) were prevalent – especially amongst the city’s population of Bohemian artists and poets. It isn’t much of a reach to think that “The King in Yellow” – a play that inspires weird genius, but is also addictive, physically debilitating and sanity destroying – is a metaphor…

And maybe even more telling is how Lovecraft criticized Chambers for not sticking to the mythology itself, as a form of purity that doesn’t need to be disguised (or sullied) in worldly matters.

True Detective, then, takes Chamber’s stance. You shouldn’t look at the mythology because it’s just a false idol. True Detective is not a show about the supernatural, and it never gives in to that temptation. Jeff Jensen pulls the curtains nicely:

He was fooling himself. Rust Cohle has always been fooling himself. His cynicism, his callousness were parts of the mask he wore to engage the world, to deal with himself. But it offered no protection when his mind — tweaking from the fetid evil around him — conspired against him and waylaid him with a vision of a coal-black vortex spiraling down to claim him. Maybe you were thinking: They’re going to do it! Cthulhu is coming! Coming to take us away, ha-ha! Ho-ho! Hee-hee! Beam me up, Lovecraft!

But nope.

True Detective was always all about authenticity — or rather, the lack thereof, and the stories we tell ourselves to get us through the day (religion, or nothingness, or our private Carcosa) and in turn imprint (and inflict) upon the world.

Carcosa is then a place of the mind. It’s just environment that contains this specific flavor of human evil. It’s projected and given a name, it’s made ideal and symbolic.

This is also the show’s dualism well represented. The show’s opening with the blending of shapes with landscapes stresses the dualism: we are people, made of solid matter, but we live in thought. Our life is symbolic. The mind is separate from the body, yet the mind is of the body. It’s made of those landscapes, we are part of that, continuous to that.

So Carcosa is our place, the place of the mind, of symbols and myths.

the stories we tell ourselves and in turn imprint (and inflict) upon the world.

We bring Carcosa to the world because Carcosa is our true self. “True” becoming perspective. What’s true, the symbol or the substance? The world as it is, or the world imagined? Matter or thought? Void or form?

As in Bakker’s “the darkness that comes before”, as human beings we enjoy displacing things. We create gods and then place them before us, so the gods can create us. Then we create evil and place it before us, so that we are not responsible.

Hence, the show’s corny final words are coherent with the theme. We decide and make the difference between light and dark. It’s on us. There’s no mythical elsewhere we can blame for our actions (or lack of).

But the ultimate point is also that the darkness is already here, all around us. And there’s no supernatural or fictional elsewhere to banish it to.

(required reading, for the point of view of the writer and context, and brilliant answers about accuses of misogyny)

I think there’s a lot of self-projection going on in certain cases; like the show has become a Rorschach test for a specific contingent of the audience in which they read their own obsessions into it.

I think True Detective is portraying a world where the weak (physically or economically) are lost, ground under by perfidious wheels that lie somewhere behind the visible, wheels powered by greed, perversity, and irrational belief systems, and these lost souls dwell on an exhausted frontier, a fractured coastline beleaguered by industrial pollution and detritus, slowly sinking into the Gulf of Mexico. There’s a sense here that the apocalypse already happened. And in places like this, where there’s little economy and inadequate education, women and children are the first to suffer, by and large.