Freewill and Attention

© C.O. Evans, 1975[mentalstates.net]


Theoria to Theory, 1975, pp. 189-205
Published by Gordon and Breach Science Publishers Ltd.

Is there some actual process for which the concept of freewill would be an accurate characterization? This is the question to be explored in this paper, and part of the exploration will lie in considering one possible answer to this question; the answer that the concept of freewill is an accurate characterization of the process known as the selective direction of attention.

This question arises for a person who has been introduced to the concept of freewill as a problematic concept. The concept is problematical for a person who has some understanding of it, but for whom the major issue posed by the concept is the issue whether or not it applies to anything in the real world. For such a person the real issue is this: can a freewill process be identified independently of the fact that it is a freewill process? It follows for anyone for whom the concept of freewill was introduced as a problematic concept that any answer to that question would be received by him as in the nature of a suggestion until he had been shown reason for thinking that the process pointed out to him possesses precisely the characteristics he would expect a freewill process to possess. This paper is addressed to such a person and its aim is to show him that there is reason for thinking that the process known as the selective direction of attention has precisely the characteristics he would expect a freewill process to possess.

What then are the characteristics we would expect a freewill process to have such that having those characteristics would make us want to call the process a freewill process? (A) It must be a process connected with the performing of overt actions: visible

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public behaviour. (B) It must be a process which can be brought under control. And (C) It must be a process in which control is in the hands of no one but the subject whose process it is. In sum (D) It must be a process of self-control.

The characterizations (C) and (D) hide an important ambiguity, and to remove that ambiguity a further characterization needs to be added. The ambiguity arises because a subject can be mistaken over the question whether he has control over the process or not. A subject may think that the control of a process is within his hands when in fact he could be under the control of an invisible mechanism. For instance, stimulated by subliminal advertising I get up to get an ice-cream fully thinking that I am performing an act of freewill, i.e. fully thinking that the doing of this act was something over which I had full control; that it was my doing in the deepest sense of those words. Thus we need the further characterization of freewill (E) that although the subject is sometimes mistaken when he thinks he is exercising his freewill, there are occasions in the lives of certain men when it is true to say of them that they are not mistaken when they in their primitive credulity believe that the act they are doing is wholly and completely within their own hands. 1

Although if I am right this characterization takes care of the ambiguity, we can make ourselves still clearer about it. There is a presumption that the only threat to our freewill is an act of coercion, or the threat of such, by our fellow men. Thus we may think that a subject has performed an act of freewill when there is no one around (in a physical or in a psychological sense) to interfere with the control of the process which results in the act he performs. As I hope to make clear an equally great threat to our freewill comes from the control over the process coming from the environment itself. This point will be very specifically dealt with in the body of this paper.

Now that we have before us a characterization of the properties any process must have in order for it to qualify as a freewill process, we are in a position to consider the suggestion that a process that actually occurs which has these properties is the process of selective direction of attention.

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This suggestion has been made most recently by R. L. Franklin in his book Freewill and Determinism. As he says,

The picture at which we arrive is that in serious cases of deliberation and choice there is a frequent selective directing of attention, which I suggest should be seen as the basis of Libertarianism. 2
My purpose in this paper is to carry the discussion of Franklin's suggestion further than he himself has done. Basically I accept his suggestion but I think that it is necessary to identify some of the complexities of the idea if its persuasiveness is to be fully appreciated.

Before I go through the argument to show that the actual process of selective directing of attention has the characteristics enumerated, and thus qualifies as the correct identification of the freewill process, I would like to connect this discussion with some of the work that has been done by experimental psychologists on attention. For the purpose of making my own points I would also like to use some of the terminology psychologists working in this area have developed.

A summary of the work done on attention in a number of laboratories has been given by Neville Moray in the book Attention3 and this is the source book I shall use for the purpose I have just indicated. The terminology employed by Moray which I wish to adopt contains the words "input space" and "output space". These words are themselves used as differentiations of "information space". We owe this terminology to D. Broadbent who suggested that,

It may be desirable to think of the stimuli used in any experiment as having positions in an "information space" made up of all the dimensions discriminable by the sense organs. 4

Taking this point of departure Moray adds,

We shall say that any signal or event which occurs at or after the receptors in a sensory pathway may be described as occurring in some region of "signal space". When dealing with the initial reception and transduction of signals we will call this the "input space", and when dealing with the organization and initiation of responses we will call it the "output space"

Input space can be thought of as a space of many dimensions. Any stimulus may be defined as a point or region in this space. 5

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In addition to the terminological reasons for making reference to work on attention done by experimental psychologists, I have the further reason that in referring to this work I am referring to evidence for the proposition that there actually is such a process as the selective directing of attention. We are certainly dealing with a process which actually exists if we are dealing with a process which has received detailed investigation in a number of laboratories. A final reason for referring to this work is that I intend to utilize some of the striking findings that this research has produced as a point around which my whole argument turns.

What, then, is the typical laboratory experiment on attention? Here is the answer Moray gives:

A signal is therefore presented in some region of input space, and in a typical attention experiment another will be presented simultaneously in another region of input space. The observer's task is therefore to select one region of input space and to discriminate between the signals (identify the signals) which occur in that region. If he can succeed, and in particular if he can enhance his discrimination of signals in that region and reduce the discriminability of signals in a neighbouring region, then we say that he can pay attention to that region. 6

At this point I would like the reader to note that Moray describes these experiments as cases in which the observer (subject) is selecting, and thus the above passage gives at least prima facie plausibility to Franklin's thesis that freewill and selective directing of attention are one and the same thing.

The experimental situation Moray has just described in scientific language can also be described in ordinary language by describing a particular type of experiment which is an instance of the experimental situation. The experiment consists of putting a pair of stereo headphones on a subject, and feeding different messages into each ear. The subject is then told to pay attention to the message coming in through the right ear. In a further refinement of this experiment the subject is also asked to repeat the message from the selected region of input space as he hears it. This process is known as shadowing. Shadowing helps to lock attention into the selected region of input space, and to block out the message of the unwanted alternative region of input space. In shadowing a certain region of output space is related to a certain region of input space.

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Of great interest in these experiments is the fact that although the subject succeeds in blocking the message coming from the rejected region of input space, he does not cease to hear signals from that region of input space. Nevertheless he has only the haziest of ideas as to what the signals are. C. Cherry found the following.

When the listeners were asked what they could report about the rejected message their responses suggested that its semantic content had been completely blocked. They were able to say whether it had been speech or some other kind of signal, whether in a man's or woman's voice, often whether it was a list of words or continuous prose, but never could they report the content. Indeed the language of the rejected message could change from English to French to German to Latin to reversed English and back to English, and the listeners would not notice. Apparently there was a complete blocking of the message except for what have come to be called its "general physical characteristics". 7

It is worth noting that Cherry's experiment was an experiment in shadowing.

In my own thinking on attention as set out in my book The Subject of Consciousness, I distinguished two aspects of consciousness, which I called projected consciousness and unprojected consciousness 8. I now suggest that Cherry's experiment provides experimental evidence of the existence of both projected consciousness (the message which is the object of attention), and unprojected consciousness (the message rejected). The phenomenological characteristics I assigned to unprojected consciousness are exactly those possessed by the rejected message in Cherry's experiment. Henceforth by unprojected consciousness is to be understood the sum total of signals from regions of input space that are rejected when selective attention is "on" a given region of input space.

The assumption made in these attention experiments is that the subjects are being given tasks involving processes over which they have voluntary control. In other words, the assumption is made that the subject can switch his attention at will, and that he keeps his attention on a given region of input space as a result of his decision to do so. Although the subject has been asked to perform these tasks, the assumption is that he is cooperating freely.

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It has been found that under certain conditions the attention of a subject can be switched to the rejected region of input space by a signal from that region without his having any control over the process. When this happens I shall say that an attention mechanism is at work over which the subject does not have voluntary control. This is the fact that I regard as of crucial importance for my thinking in this paper - what I have called in advance its turning point. For this reason I am going to describe the conditions under which it has been found to occur.

Moray has found that a signal from the rejected region of input space could cause attention to switch to it and away from the region of input space being shadowed when it is a signal of a special kind; namely, the mention of the subject's name.

if commands such as "Stop now" or "Change to this ear" were inserted into the non-shadowed message they were neither obeyed nor heard, but if the command was prefixed by the listener's own name ("John Smith change ears now") it was heard in about one-third of the trials when listeners were not expecting it. 9

Another case in which an attention mechanism causes attention to switch from a signal from the selected region of input space to a signal from a rejected region of input space has been experimentally discovered by A. Triesman. Listeners were asked to repeat a message they heard through one particular ear, emphasizing that their task was to keep to that ear rather than to the message in it.

The two messages were completely different prose passages, and half way through the presentation they changed sides, so that the message which had been on the left ear was now on the right ear, and vice versa. She found that at the moment when the messages changed sides listeners would repeat one or two words from what was now the wrong ear, and then revert to the correct ear, although unaware of the fact that they had not kept to the same ear the whole time.' 10

In respect of discoveries such as these Moray remarks,

We have, then, something of a paradox. On the one hand it appears that a listener cannot hear the content of a rejected message while shadowing a different message localised at the opposite ear. On the other hand some

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special signals can cause a change in behaviour .... It is in the attempt to resolve this paradox that the various theories have been developed. 11

The passage does not make as clear as it might the fact that the special signals which can cause a change of behaviour (a change of attention) belong to the class of signals from the rejected region of input space. In the language of consciousness, attention can be caused to switch by an element in unprojected consciousness from the occurrent object of attention to that unprojected element which in the process replaces the occurrent object of attention with itself. Furthermore this can happen without the subject knowing that his attention has switched. This means that the subject can think that he has had control over his attention switching all the time during an experiment when in fact he has not. And this in turn means that he can think of his attention switching during that time as an act of freewill on his part, when in respect of some of the claims he will in fact be mistaken.

Now Franklin himself has recognized that not all attention processes are ones over which we have voluntary control, and he attempts to exclude all cases over which we do not have control and to identify freewill with the remaining cases over which we do have control. On this basis he writes,

Now within this directing of attention, which is itself a sub-class of the changes in our attention, there is a yet smaller sub-sub-class which seems to me to correspond strictly to the notion of choice; and indeed is a genuine choice, though of a minute kind. This arises when we consciously decide between pursuing, or dwelling on, this consideration or that. 12

Now the trouble is that the sorts of case Franklin rules out are not the sorts of case suggested to us by the experiments of Moray, Cherry, and Treisman. He is ruling out such a case as returning attention to a matter as soon as it has been noticed that one's mind has wandered. This is not a case of voluntary attention according to Franklin, since realization by the subject of the fact that his attention has wandered automatically restores his attention to the activity to which he had set himself to pay attention. However, the significant point is that even in the sort of case Franlin has in mind, in which the subject "consciously decides"

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between pursuing, or dwelling on, this consideration or that - the process he calls selective directing of attention - an attention switch can be brought about by an element in unprojected consciousness, and an attention switch which he believes is one he has voluntarily made will then in fact be one made for him by the attention mechanism which enables an element of unprojected consciousness to select itself for attention. Thus the fact that a subject in general has voluntary control over certain cases of attention switching does not rule out the possibility that on a given occasion he has not got voluntary control over the switch although he thinks he has. In other words, the subject's subjective impression that he has made a voluntary switch is nothing like an infallible guide when it comes to telling whether a particular attention switch was voluntary or not.

I now wish to argue that the cases in which a person thinks he has voluntary control over his attention switching when in fact he has not may not at all be isolated cases, but systematic cases such that the subject is mistaken in believing that a whole line of thinking is one over which he has voluntary control when he does not. The argument depends upon identifying a possibility that is not touched upon in Moray's book, but which can be looked upon as a possibility quite in keeping with the findings I have been reporting. The possibility is that a signal from a rejected region of input space (an element of unprojected consciousness) can cause an attention switch to an object of attention other than itself. Thus the subject can believe that he voluntarily transferred his attention from A to B, whereas in fact his attention was transferred from A to B because of the intervention of a signal from a rejected region of input space, without that signal itself ever becoming an object of attention. Because the triggering signal remains in a rejected region of input space and hence is not noticed, the subject does not know of the intervening causative factor, and thus supposes that he himself consciously decided to switch his attention from A to B. The subject supposes in other words that the switching was his doing in a full agency sense of those words, when in respect of the switch he was acted upon rather than being the actor. In yet other words, the subject

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supposes that in switching attention from A to B he was exercising control over his attention process.

This possibility I take very seriously, and I wish to claim that it is not only a possibility but a very common fact of life. I wish therefore to describe this possibility in a way which dramatises it. I begin by drawing attention to the fact that when attention is switched from a signal in one region of input space, the signal (message) from the rejected region has to have importance for the subject in order for it to over-ride the fact that attention is locked into a different region of input space. This is why a person's name will do the trick.

Now let us give a special name captions to those signals from a rejected region of input space that cause attention to switch not to themselves but to something else. Let us also say that when attention has been switched by a caption it is possible for a sequence of attention switches to follow, all of which are the result of the intervention of the caption. The caption must be seen as giving order and coherence to the sequence of attention switches. The caption gives the theme of the sequence of attention switches. Such a sequence of attention switches united by such a theme can be brought closer to the imagination if we imagine them as following a storyline. 13 Captions cause the occurrence of storylines in our attention sequences, but since the existence of the caption is unknown, the storyline is interpreted by the subject as a sequence of attention switches over which he is exercising control, or in other words selectively directing his attention.

If we are unaware of the influence of captions on our lives, we may believe that we are fully in control of the storylines of our thinking - that we are consciously deciding whether to pursue this or dwell on that - when in fact the selection is all along being made for us by these captions. Our usual surroundings, our homes, are full of objects functioning as captions on our attention sequences. The books, the records, the letters we leave lying around, all sorts of paraphenalia, make up the captions of our attention processes.

Before we can say that an attention switch came about as a result of the exercise of control over the attention process, we

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need to eliminate the possibility that the attention switch was caused by a caption.

It also follows that we can exercise control over our attention processes by consciously surrounding ourselves with a new set of captions. Thus if we spend a lot of time living through depressmg storylines, we can consider the possibility that a particular set of captions is causing those depressing storylines. We can replace the unhappy captions with happier ones, and in this way we can alter our storylines. Another method of eliminating unpleasant captions is not to eliminate the object bearing the caption, but instead to alter our attitude to the object bearing the caption. We can give objects new captions. This we can do by training ourselves to recognize our captions and switching attention when we recognize them to a different storyline from the one to which the caption had in the past been switching attention. One way to gain control over our attention processes is to become conscious of captions and then to refuse to let them cause their usual storylines.

Of course not all storylines are the result of captions. Many of them are the result of what I should like to call exemplary incidents: telltale incidents that occur in life and in terms of which a subject identifies his life situation. However, when a storyline is brought about by an exemplary incident the subject is under no illusion that the storyline is an attention sequence that has come about because the subject has consciously decided to make the attention switches.

The difference between a caption and an exemplary incident lies in the fact that captions exist for unprojected consciousness (the rejected region of input space) while exemplary incidents exist for projected consciousness (the selected region of input space) .

The examination of the processes of attention switching has been carried to the point at which it becomes possible to consider the five characteristics I listed as necessary if an attention process is to be identified as a freewill process.

I now propose to go through these five characteristics showing that selective directing of attention does indeed possess them. I will take them in the reverse order, so that I begin with a charac-

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teristic that connects up most immediately with the discussion which has just been completed; namely the one about captions and exemplary incidents. Characteristic (E) makes allowance for the fact that a person might on a given occasion think that he is exercising freewill when he is not. Characteristic (E) is possessed by certain cases of attention switching, namely those cases in which the attention switching is caused by captions. Since the subject is not aware of the caption he thinks he is in control of the process of attention switching when he is not. Attention processes satisfy characteristic (E).

Part of the ambiguity which characteristic (E) was meant to eliminate was connected with the idea that only another person could constitute a threat to a subject's freewill, and I made the point that the environment itself could constitute such a threat.

This idea can now be understood in the following way. On the interpretation of the freewill process as an attention process we have the situation that the environment, in the form of captions, may have control over an attention process. Similarly, the environment, in the form of exemplary incidents, may have control over an attention process. Thus the claim that the freewill process is threatened by the environment is paralleled by the claim that the subject's control over his attention process is also threatened by the environment; specifically, because of the effects on it of captions and exemplary incidents. Of these two, however, it is the caption which is the greatest threat. It is the invisible mechanism. A paradigm instance of such an invisible mechanism, a caption, is subliminal advertising.

The conclusion to the discussion of characteristic (E) is that on the theory proposed, a person falsely thinks he is performing an act of freewill, when the act he is performing is or follows from an act of attention switching which he thinks is attributable to his voluntary control over the attention process, when in actual fact the attention switch was brought about by a caption.

Characteristics (B), (C), and (D) can be taken together. They are characteristics of a single process and cannot be dealt with apart from one another. Thus we postulate a process which is not under any control. We postulate a process of gaining control over a

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process. And we postulate a process in which the control over the process is in the hands of the subject whose process it is. These three postulates are satisfied in the case of a person's control over his own attention switching. First of all attention switching is a process that is subject to attention mechanisms which occur spontaneously. Attention mechanisms are built into the human organism. Secondly, the attention process is a process which can be brought under control through application of knowledge of these attention mechanisms. And thirdly, the subject himself can learn to control the attention process, through learning to apply his knowledge of the existence of attention mechanisms controlling his own attention process.

By interpreting the freewill process as an attention process over which the subject has gained voluntary control we obtain a number of related answers to the questions "Is man free?" In the case of a man whose attention process has characteristic (B) but not characteristic (C), or in other words, in the case of a man whose attention process is controlled by attention mechanisms which he does not know exist, the man lacks freedom altogether. However, because such a man is innocent of the existence of controlling attention mechanisms, in his primitive credulity he will believe that every attention switch he makes is an exercise of freewill. The assumption of such a man is that freedom is a birthright. But he is deluded by his attention mechanisms - his captions. Thinking that his every act is free, such a man is completely determined in all his acts.

A man who learns that his attention process is controlled by attention mechanisms, and that he can exercise control over his attention process by applying his knowledge of the existence of attention mechanisms to that process is a man who has entered the stage of freeing himself from the attention mechanisms operating in him. A man who applies this knowledge to his own attention process is a man exercising his freewill. Such a man has become free.

If we compare the two cases we can treat the word "free" as an either/or word. Either a man is free, as the second man is, or he is not free, as the first man is. There is no in between.

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But the second case may be the case of a man who has only just realized that he has the power (through being able to apply the knowledge of what his attention mechanisms are) to exercise control over his attention mechanisms. He may not have exercised this power very often. Such a man will have very little freedom as compared with a man who is near ultimate control over his attention process as a result of continuous application of control over his attention mechanisms. When we compare the second man with this new third man, we can see that we now have a sense of "free" according to which freedom admits of degree, and we can say that one person has a greater degree of freedom than another.

The identification of the freewill process with the process of self-control over the subject's own attention process thus gives us an interesting synthesis of the various senses of the word "free" In asserting that the second man is free and the first man is not, we are asserting an absolute difference between the two men. In asserting that the second man is a beginner down the path to freedom and the third man an adept, we are asserting only a relative difference between the two men. The two senses of "free" are related in that a man must be free in the absolute sense before he can be free in the relative sense. Thus relative freedom presupposes absolute freedom. A process that begins as self-control if carried on ends as self-liberation. One freedom turns into another. It is also worth remarking that for a person with relative freedom freedom is always growing. The more the subject practices self-control the more his freedom grows.

The conclusion to the discussion of characteristics (B), (C), and (D) is that on the proposed theory a person correctly thinks he is performing an act of freewill when the act he is performing is or follows from an act of voluntary control over an attention mechanism. The further conclusion was drawn that voluntary control is acquired through the process of gaining control over a process, and this fact generated two senses of the word "free" such that one sense of the word conceptually arises out of another sense. These two senses of "free" can be understood as having antithetical meanings to the extent that the first freedom, freedom in the absolute sense is a freedom from ... control by the

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attention process, while the second freedom, freedom in the relative sense is a freedom to ... exercise voluntary control over the attention process.

There remains the examination of characteristic (A). With this examination the paper ends, and with this examination we return to the beginning of the paper, and to the theory offered by Franklin. Let me repeat (A) It must be a process connected with the performing of overt actions: visible public behaviour. Willing is essentially a process connected with action - with the execution of deeds. In much ordinary thinking the assumption is made that between the making of the decision and the carrying out of the act embodying the decision there has to occur the act of willing, which is the act of executing a decision. Now Franklin's theory, the theory that freewill is the selective directing of attention, does not seem to satisfy this characteristic of an act of freewill. For an act of selective directing of attention will more often be a case of switching attention to a perceptual object, or to an object of mental life, than to the doing of a deed. The executive element seems to be missing from the equation. For the theory that freewill is the selective directing of attention to succeed there must exist a connection, an intrinsic connection, between the selective directing of attention and action (the doing of a deed). This tie-in between attention theory and the philosophy of action needs to be made if the case is to be made out that the identification of freewill with the selective directing of attention is to have plausibility.

In fact, that there is a very strong tie-in between selectively directing attention and action it is one of the merits of the theory to point out. The theory is strongest at precisely the point at which it seemed most weak; the point at which in fact some explanation seems called for. The explanation is as follows. By attention a region of input space becomes an information space upon which attention is focused. This information space I identify with the object of attention, and I also identify it with projected consciousness. Attention turns a region of input space into a text. By this I mean that meanings can be read off from information space. Attention cannot turn one region of input space into a text

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without turning all other regions into a non-text. Let us call the non-text "noise". The noisy regions of input space I identify with unprojected consciousness. When the text is read, there is a process of understanding what the text means, and an agreement that a certain portion of the text contains one message. These single messages we call thoughts. Thus the reading of the text is at the same time a process of attention switches between a sequence of thoughts. Now among these thoughts are thoughts to do something, such as the thought "Let's play tennis." If, therefore, the selective directing of attention is a process whereby we choose either to dwell on a thought and by so doing pursue it, or to switch attention to another thought, and by so doing reject it, then the selective directing of attention is a process of selection over actions. In selecting or rejecting among thoughts which have action possibilities attached to them, we have to that extent control over action possibilities themselves. For example suppose I voluntarily make my attention dwell on the thought of playing tennis which has come up. This dwelling consists in tennis becoming the storyline for a sequence of thoughts and images and actions having to do with tennis. This sequence has its natural outcome on the tennis court. No willing towards that end will have to have taken place, apart from the natural propensity of the thought itself to ripen into action on the thought. The subject's freewill in respect of playing or not playing tennis consists in his ability to stop dwelling on the thought, and this necessitates his ability to stop the storyline by switching his attention to something else. If the subject has this ability and yet on a particular occasion fails to use it and accordingly allows the storyline to run on of its own accord, then we can say that the subject has exercised his freedom of choice in not stopping storyline. If a subject does not stop a storyline whose consequences include actions, then the subject is a free agent in respect of those actions. He must accept authorship for them, and own up to them as his alone.

I would like to point out that on the view presented here the existence of freewill does not presuppose the ability of a man to choose the contents of his own thoughts. Even if the contents of

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his thoughts do not originate as the novel product of his own creative thinking, but are on the contrary assumed to have been planted in his mind (by a caption let us say), his freedom of the will is not thereby impaired. Even when the thoughts themselves are pre-given, even when whole storylines are pre-given, a man retains his freedom of the will because his control over the selective directing of attention allows him to choose which action possibilities of which thoughts to bring to life. If man had the capacity to create thoughts ex nihilo, then that fact alone would be enough to guarantee him freedom of the will, since freewill would then come in at the point of thought creation. Failing that possibility the freedom of man is necessarily circumscribed. We do not choose action possibilities themselves, when our thoughts are pre-given, but we still have a choice between action possibilities, and that choice comes about because the control we acquire over attention mechanisms allows us to select for attention the thought of that action possibility. By dwelling on that thought a particular storyline would have been set going, and the implementation of the action possibility of that thought would belong to the storyline and would occur at its natural place as the storyline unfolds.

There is one situation in which we can claim a more direct authorship for our thoughts than the above paragraph makes allowance for. By an act of selective directing of attention a particular storyline can be kept alive long after attention would have switched to another storyline if the attention mechanism had been left to work on its own. But this means that the thoughts in the storyline that belong to the stretch of storyline which has been sustained artificially would not have occurred had it not been for the selection of that storyline. In respect of such thoughts the subject has a right to claim authorship. He could truly assert "If it weren't for me (my directing attention to that storyline) that thought would not have occurred." If such a thought happens to be a thought with an action possibility implicit in it, and as a result of having that thought that action possibility become a reality, we can say that in respect of that action the subject was doubly free.

I conclude with the following point, which sums up much of

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what the paper is about. Suppose a person thinks that freedom consists in using a mechanism called the will, but a mechanism nevertheless that he does not believe he has, how then can he free himself? Who can point out to him the existence of this mechanism called the will? But the selective direction of attention is something that can be pointed out to a man, and when he comes to see how attention is directed - what the mechanisms are - he can plan a course of action for himself with that knowledge. He can apply that knowledge, and teach himself to become free. There is something he can do, and it is easy to show him how to do it. He can learn to recognize and alter the captions that dictate the storylines of his thinking, and by so doing change his life. A person who can do this has discovered freedom of the will.

[mentalstates.net]


Notes and references Notes and references

1. For the notion of primitive credulity see Price, H. H., Belief (London, 19 69), p. 212ff.
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2. Franklin, R. L. Freewill and Determinism (London, 1968), p. 78.
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3. Moray, N., Attention (Hutchinson Educational, 1969).
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4. Attention, p.11.
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5. Attention, p.11.
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6. Attention, p.12.
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7. Attention, p.50.
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8. Evans, C. O., The Subject of Consciousness (London, 1972).
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9. Attention, p.52.
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10. Attention, p.56.
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11. Attention, p.52-53.
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12. Freewill and Determinism, p. 73.
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13. The use of "storyline" in this context is the innovation of David Ward, Department of Philosophy, University of Otago.
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