What is will? It is a very vague concept, held up by assumptions and superstitions. Nietzsche called it something complicated[i]. It is certainly a very German obsession: Hegel, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche … Is it not a trap? Shouldn’t we stay clear?
Superstition or not, whatever we imagine it to be it has a great bearing on our lives. One must pit one’s will against the will of the masses, or against God’s will. We use it as a term to describe how we are driven, where our impulses come from, negative or positive.
There are powerful wills and frustrated ones. In the end, the concept boils down to an ethical one. There are positive wills to do ‘good’ things and negative wills to do ‘bad’. Instead of taking us beyond good and evil, the question of will brings us back to the great dialectic: What must be done if we are to do the right thing? Once we have at least a sketch of an answer for such a question, then we can start to imagine what kind of will we need to have – for will is a lonely word that needs to be determined by its goal if it is to mean anything. We need to define it by establishing where it comes from and where it should go.
Nietzsche understood this. He called will: “a plurality of sensations, namely the sensation of the condition AWAY FROM WHICH we go” … (as well as) … “the sensation of the condition TOWARDS WHICH we go” …. (but also) … “an accompanying muscular sensation which … comes into play through force of habit.[ii]
If we accept this definition then there are two main channels flowing from and through it: a) the conscious channel of personal desire, and b) the unconscious channel that we understand as habit. This latter channel has been coded for us and it exists in the likewise coded matrix of the systems that envelop us.
COSMOLOGICAL FINE TUNING
Cosmological Fine Tuning[iii] implies that the universe has a determination to create life. This poses problems for science and gives oxygen to theologians for: how can an inanimate thing have determination (without God)?
However, the idea that “the inanimate universe created the animate because it was God’s will”, is not much more revealing than “the inanimate universe created the animate”. Or, in other words, in order to understand what God’s will is we need to understand what physical forces could allow the fine tuning of the universe to take place. Which is also saying that by understanding the fine-tuning of the universe we can understand how the universe is capable of determining its own destiny. Which implies that God is not necessary again. If science can demonstrate how the universe was able to fine tune itself in order to make life possible within itself, then the phrase “the inanimate universe created the animate” is sufficient.
DECODING REALITY AND THE SEARCH FOR COSMIC WILL
A drive does not have to be conscious, but consciousness could be the result of a drive if the idea of consciousness is inherent in the mechanics of the drive itself. If the underlying mechanics of the universe lies in the behaviour of the quantum particles that are the basis of everything, then we must ask ourselves if the mechanical nature of those particles has any relation to consciousness.
Physicists like Vlatko Vedral and James Gleick claim that the universe consists of information. According to Vedral’s thesis, the universe is a massive compilation of quantum information[iv]. Information therefore, is the key to understanding what connects the universe and also why existence came into being in the first place. Likewise, it could also be the key to understanding how the universe could fine-tune itself to allow the creation of life within itself. In other words, Vedral’s thesis may point to an explanation of what the cosmic will is in physical, scientific terms.
In the introduction to his book, “Decoding reality”, Vedral says that the universe is made up of bits of information[v]. He argues that the actual evolution of any information gathering and communicating system would be a subjective, self-analysing condition. The kind of thing that we see manifested through consciousness. For Vedral “information is physical”[vi]. Information provides the “building blocks of matter and their interactions … on which everything is constructed.”[vii]
We believe that if understanding is a logical development of information, and that in fact it is a desired outcome of information, then there is an implicit determination buried in the information-universe that would find its absolute fulfilment in the all-knowing, intuitively gravitating towards such a fulfilment as a teleological end.
Seen from this perspective, the evolution of the information sharing sequence that is the DNA strand is a logical result or reflection of the information system that was already built into the cosmos. It also explains why life would evolve into the information discovering and creating machine that is the homo sapiens.
THE UNBEARABLE FRAGILITY OF FINE TUNING
But before someone gets a notion of bringing God back into the debate, we would like to make another observation about the nature of the universe. If Cosmological Fine Tuning does display a determination to create the animate from the inanimate then the success rate of that determination is depressingly low.
If Ward and Brownlee’s thesis is correct[viii] then complex life is an uncommon thing in the universe, which is strange if the whole universe is fine-tuned to the creation of life. In Ward and Brownlee’s investigation, we get a picture of a violent cosmic environment that is adverse to the creation of complex life. So how can the universe be fine-tuned toward life creation and hostile to it at the same time?
In order to answer this question, it is necessary to think about the quality of information (and consciousness) contained in the inanimate universe. It is basically intuitive and blind, lacking in any objective consciousness that perception can give it. It will have learned things through trial and error, trial and error. It is not the all-wise, all-knowing phenomenon that the religious like to imagine their God to be. Fine-tuning is therefore partly an accidental result of trial and error that is inspired by a desire by information to improve its own quality of information through an intuitional will to “know”. Knowledge has to be the desired result of any information system and so, if the universe is based on information that is its intuitive drive. Nevertheless, it is the most fragile of ambitions and the success of its dream may very well totally depend on us, and the evolution of the sapiens species.
[i] Nietzsche, BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL, #19
[iii] See Martin Rees JUST SIX NUMBERS (THE DEEP FORCES THAT SHAPE THE UNIVERSE), Perseus, 2000
[iv] See Vlatko Vedral, DECODING REALITY, OUP, 2010
[v] Ibid, p.2
[vi] Ibid, p.3
[vii] Ibid, p.10
[viii] See Peter D. Ward, Donald Brownlee RARE EARTH: WHY COMPLEX LIFE IS UNCOMMON IN THE UNIVERSE, Copernicus, 2003