One of the many ongoing conversations between Husband and me is about free will, and if we've got it.
Roughly, it goes something like this: There is no material difference betwen, say, rocks and people. Rocks don't have free will, therefore people don't have free will. QED.
Since we've had this discussion several times we're both aware of at least a couple of objections. First, it really feels like I've got free will, and second, how do we know that rocks don't have free will? (Aside: "Maybe rocks are really relaxed and they just tense up when we touch them")
This evening I've had a new thought. Reviewing the evidence ("It really feels like I've got free will", and "No-one has demonstrated a material basis for free will") suggests another approach to the problem is that people (and maybe rocks) have free will, but we just don't know how the mechanism works yet.
I've always been a materialist (Aside: "always been" in this case means "as far as I remember", which is not very solid evidence for anything) that's scoffed at "souls" or "spirit", but maybe I'm wrong. A few years ago I started acting like the things around me (trees, computers) had a sprirt, and maybe I should extend that to people.
I don't think I'm talking about "mind" here, which appears to be an "emergent property" of a sufficiently complicated switching network, but rather the combined effects of the feedback loops that an entity shares with it's environment. (Knowing where to draw the boundries of "entity" is one of the problems with this approach. "Heaton" is an entity, made up of people, houses, shops, traffic, and others, and itself is part of the larger Newcastle entity).
This is a bit of a scary thought for me. I'm used to seeing myself as "other", sperate from everything else, and this is looking a bit like it could threaten those boundries.
Maybe that's a good thing?