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chad manderscheid

Entrepeneur, sentient beings

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Does the example of inspiring people like Vaclav Havel and Nelson Mandela who triumph over adversity provide evidence of free will?

The passing of President Havel made me think of how he and others like him appear to have made amazing contributions through the strength of their characters. Havel's own dictum that "truth and love will overcome hatred and deceit" to me gives hope that with courage we can choose to make a real difference. Which would seem to show that we are not just slaves to our genes and environment. Do you agree? Or is their lonely "upstream swim " against oppression just a consequence of accidental and singular conditioning? Another example, Abraham Lincoln overcame his personal lack of advantages by self education and he also battled crippling depression and widespread unpopularity and misunderstanding by the majority of the American people and yet made a difference.

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    Dec 19 2011: Steven, I did read it and do admire Mr. Gladwells work very much in general and often recommend his other books to friends. That book does address the issue of Talent or "genius" and even the common use of precocious people like Mozart as evidence of reincarnation. I did not find that it explained other facets like courage in the face of adversity and opposition. Yes Lincoln had a saint of a stepmother who gave some balance to his worthless alcoholic father and her encouragement might partially explain his drive to educate himself. It does not explain his triumph over clinical depression nor his incredible patience with his wife who was periodically insane. I will say again that real Love is not a fact nor an accident of conditioning. Real love is a choice and a capacity that we must continually choose to reinforce in ourselves even when others do things that hurt us." Love your enemies" is a transcendent accomplishment not a pleasant platitude that can be relatively easily habituated like "neither a borrower nor a lender be". If it were true that we all must mechanically repay real or perceived injuries with vengeful actions or thoughts then I would say we are doomed indeed as a species and a planet. "Blessed are the peacemakers" can have real meaning and this gives me hope. I do agree with Malcolm that environmental conditions can help us understand most of human behavior. That understanding can then help us to have patience with others. "Forgive them for they know not what they do" illustrates that dynamic precisely. The apparent attitude that environmental influences excuse underprivileged people for some crimes is not entirely wrong. However the majority of poor people are honest and many share what little they have, while many rich people spend great effort to steal more than they can ever use. I should clarify here that in my opinion free will is only an inborn potential capacity. It is like a seed which must be nurtured to bloom and then ripen into fruit.
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    Dec 19 2011: Steven does that mean you think free will is not a factor then? Sounds like it. If that were true then I would think social entropy would tend to drag us all down. M. Scott Peck made the observation after years as a counselor that the fact that most people are more healthy emotionally than their parents led him to believe that some factor not observable in the environmental must be helping people to do better than one would expect.
    I know a woman who was seriously abused in many ways by both parents, even to the point of a near death experience. While out of her body she made the conscious choice that she would never be like her parents. I was able to observe that she walked her talk with her own children. Conversely I have seen horrible kids who had wonderful parents. I agree that we are definitely affected by both genes and environmental factors but they do not determine the end result. Things (or s--t) happens, yet we can choose how we respond. The Dalai Lama has a multitude of reasons to hate the Chinese yet he refuses to do so.
  • Dec 18 2011: Chad, throughout this day of your life, you expressed your own free will in each and every choice you made. I hope you chose and choose positive. We all have free will and express it as we select from the infinite choices offered us at every moment of our existence.
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    Dec 18 2011: The times make the man.. not the other way around.
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      Dec 19 2011: Steven the formula you use sounds logical. But think, if that were true then why were there not many people out of the hundreds of thousands who shared most if not all of the factors of Lincolns "times" similar to him? The same for Mr. Havel. They are both unique even in the context of their times. Something about them won the support of many of those who came to know them. Both men refused to take the path of revenge or hatred even when Lincolns own cabinet urged him to capture and punish the leaders of the south his response was "let them go". In the final analysis I would have to say that there is no such thing as an accident of fate. Yes things happen to us that we don't like, yet I think our choices create the situation in which both good and bad fortune seem to just happen. I have found that if you look honestly and deeply enough you will see that that is so.
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        Dec 19 2011: Chad, read the book "Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell.