Since a class in gender studies last fall, it has dawned on me that much personal distress comes from holding a dichotomized view of whatever it is that is distressing someone. I began thinking intently about this, antecedents, consequents, in a wide range of specific areas and so on, to see how far it could be generalized. And wow, this is a worthwhile concept to start using. Clinically it can be very useful to challenge someone’s knowledge structure on this basis, as it opens up alternatives and reflections that otherwise are lost. I have used it on myself to challenge my own dichotomized perspectives and there have been wide ranging consequences and insights (as some would term self-development/realization). I intend on writing up my thoughts and reflections and invite anyone and everyone to comment with their own experiences, insights and/or theoretical concerns and perspectives.
Ecological Psychology and Locke(d) Doors
A point of entry in the free will debate concerns Locke’s example (no reference I’m afraid, I’ve lost it) of a person entering a room, closing the door behind hier [ɪə]. In situation A hie [i:] just makes a decision to stay or leave, in situation B hie is unaware of the door locking behind hier. Now, my own take on this example is that it neatly shows subjective and objective ‘knowledge’ [and its impact on considering free will existent or not]. Hie makes a decision based on free will in the first case and hie only believes hie does in the second. From a subjective perspective there is free will, from an objective there isn’t.
Ecological Psychology does not like this at all. EcoPsy would probably decide that in both cases there is free will because perception, belonging to the observer, does not include the information that the door is locked. Or? EcoPsy is positioned with embodied, embedded and often extended cognition, including dynamicism. This would entail that movement and active exploration is an important aspect of being human. Therefore, the decision to stay in the room can either be classified as free will in both cases or defined a non-decision. The reason for the latter would be that, at that point in time, the perceiver has not actively explored the environment enough to be able to make the decision to begin with. Even a half-arsed exploration of hies [i:z] environment allows perception of which options are available. As I see it, the original example assumes naivité and passivity on part of the observer, and this is unfair.
The most important point however is that the original example also defines decision-making in a strict computational manner; at one point in time, without temporal perspective, in a very strict fashion. It does not take into consideration how we explore, find out and perceive in the real world -how decisions unfold over time and do not boil down to single points in time. In my perspective, there are several more philosophical examples that are conundrums simply because of the distinct connectionist/computationalist ignorance of temporal flow.