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Alfried Langle: "There Is Free Will" - Interview
Alfried Langle: "There Is Free Will" - Interview

Video: Alfried Langle: "There Is Free Will" - Interview

Video: Alfried Langle: "There Is Free Will" - Interview
Video: John-Dylan Haynes - What does neuroscience tell us about free will 2023, March

The interview with the wise Alfried Langle reminded me of the famous kong-an "The sound of one hand clapping." On the one hand, Alfried recognizes the latest advances in neuropsychology. But on the other hand, his interpretation of the achievements, it seemed to me, is somewhat mystical

The presence of the Supermind, the Superbeing in Alfrida's picture of the world invisibly influenced our conversation. The spirit of the classics of German idealist philosophers was in the room.

Vladislav Bozhedai (VB): Alfrid, tell me, is there free will? Physiologically, this is questioned

Alfried Langle (AL): From a scientific-natural point of view, the question of free will cannot be answered, because freedom is not a scientific-natural term. First, we need to consider the methods by which the question is investigated. Natural science studies cause and effect relationships, this is called determinism.

Relatively speaking, if I lower a stone, it falls to the ground. This is always the case, at least until the stone flies upward. Freedom is something that is not clearly defined.

VB: Is freedom of a probabilistic nature?

AL: Yes, so freedom can be seen through the scientific-natural paradigm just like the moon through a microscope. That is, the choice of research tools determines what we research.

If we look at people from a scientific and natural point of view, then we will not see love, freedom, individuality

But you can see everything physical and everything deterministic. That is, we get as if a snapshot X-ray that reflects the bones of a person, but the portrait of a person is not visible through this image.

For research on the subjective, a method that considers patterns is not suitable. If freedom is a subjective experience, then we must interview people and observe ourselves.

Now, in this interview, I have the feeling that I am free. I don’t feel compelled to do anything, I can say what is important to me. This is freedom, each person knows this from his own experience.

I don't have to drink coffee if I want tea. I shouldn't look out of the window if I don't feel like it. The opposite of freedom is coercion.


Alfried Langle
Alfried Langle

Alfrid LANGLE - Doctor of Psychology (Ph. D.), Doctor of Medicine (MD), psychotherapist, physician, clinical psychologist, President of the International Society for Logotherapy and Existential Analysis (GLE-Internatoinal). A student and colleague of Viktor Frankl. The author of the method of existential analysis. Permanent lecturer at the universities of Vienna, Innsbruck, Buenos Aires, Mendoza and Santiago de Chile. He is the head of the master's program "Personology and Existential Psychotherapy" at the Moscow Higher School of Economics. Winner of a large number of professional awards and a gold medal for services to the Republic of Austria. Author of over 300 publications on the theory and practice of existential analysis.

VB: Is the lack of choice also compulsion? Or is it a consequence of coercion?

AL: This needs clarification. Agree, we now have no freedom to choose whether to go to the pool or lie on the seashore, because there is no pool or sea.

Sometimes it may seem to us that if we do not have any opportunity, then we are no longer free. But in most cases we experience compulsion in an indirect way: I have some kind of opportunity to act, but I cannot do it because someone is holding me back or I have some kind of internal obstacles. The lack of freedom can come from outside or from within.

If a person constantly feels the lack of inner freedom, we call this a mental disorder.

For example, a student prepares hard for exams, but every time he cannot bring himself to go to take it, although he is well prepared. Then he suffers from an examination neurosis.

VB: It turns out that morality is also a neurosis?

AL: Morality is not compulsion. If it is compulsion, then it is neurosis. Imagine that I have a constant fear based on my dad's words: "You should never cheat." And here I, being a married man, see a beautiful woman, and inside me my dad warns: "You must not get to know her." I am covered with fear in this situation. This means that I have a dominant morality "super-self". I am addicted and not free.

But if my conscience says that it would be better for me not to do this, because my wife will suffer upon learning about this relationship, and I love her very much and this is unfair to her, then this is freedom of essence, and I follow what I am at its core. Generally speaking, the topic of freedom is not so simple.

VB: Recent neuropsychological experiments have shown that the formation of a person is largely determined by his genotype and environment, and not by himself. Relatively speaking, there are three factors: the person himself, his genes and the environment. And human behavior is more programmed by genes and the environment than by the choice of the person himself. And the soul is already secondary. It is only a derivative of the genome and environmental influences. Do you agree with this interpretation?

AL: It's more complicated. My genes are me too. My environment also applies to me. And all this together affects my behavior.

We are all partially determined and limited, for example, by the personality structure. The mental structure assumes a certain framework in which a person will act. For example, a depressed person is more likely to apologize than a narcissistic person. However, the narcissist can also say “sorry”, but it is harder for him to do it.

We have framework conditions related to parenting, biography, environment, genes, experience. Freedom of a person is always a limitation, it is always freedom, chained in the framework of certain conditions. By definition, only God has absolute freedom. He has all the power, and conditions are not needed there

VB: And what about atheists?

AL: For atheists, there is simply no absolute freedom, and a believer is sure that there is one who owns it, and this is God. Based on the philosophical definition, absolute freedom can only be in a super-being, which is on a different level. Whether it is or not is completely irrelevant.

VB: Can we talk about the diversity of types of freedom in modern life?

AL: We have to distinguish between some forms of freedom. But natural science does not. Psychology has so far only explored the freedom of finger behavior.

From a scientific point of view, there are three forms of freedom: freedom of action, freedom of choice, and essential freedom.

  • 1. Freedom of action means that I can do something and not do something.
  • 2. Freedom of choice means that I can choose whether to go to the right or to the left, that is, make a decision based on the available possibilities. For example, I will marry this woman or another. This is freedom of choice.
  • 3. Essential freedom is the deepest, which comes from what is internally corresponding to a person.

On the journey, despite the danger, I am drawn to climb a high mountain so much that I cannot resist it. The sixth sense may suggest that there is no need to go there, but I will really feel free only by conquering the top of the mountain, because it suits me. This is the freedom of the essence.

Essential freedom is so deep that it often leads to experiences that we feel in a paradoxical way, because we cannot otherwise. Martin Luther at the Worms City Hall reflected this borderline state with the words: "On that I stand, and I cannot do otherwise." Of course, he could have acted differently, but either I am myself, and this is so, or I have to step over myself.

VB: Could this be an excuse for fanaticism? The fanatic does something because he cannot do otherwise

AL: If we are talking about a fanatic, then this is not essential freedom. The fanatic acts on the basis of definition, thematic fixation, affective narrowing, elementary hatred.

VB: Or out of love? For example, to your god

AL: Yes, Christ allowed himself to be crucified because of love, and not because of fanaticism. It was an act of being free. For example, when someone says that he cannot leave the family and leave the children, because he loves them so much, then this corresponds to the freedom of the essence. This is truly deep freedom.

VB: It turns out that this is a very thin line. How to recognize bigotry? How does it differ from inner essential freedom?

AL: If it is experienced as “I am burning for this, I live for it,” then it is essential freedom. If there is a feeling of the need to prove to people that I can climb Everest so that everyone can see how brave I am, how I am able to take risks, and so on, then this is fanaticism. Fanaticism pushes on something, and freedom attracts.

VB: I understand correctly that these states at the level of neurophysiology, at the level of serotonin and melatonin, can be the same, but at the level of interpretation they are different?

AL: Now we come to a big topic. All thoughts, feelings of a person need a body. There is no doubt about it, only angels may not need the bodily.

VB: Can artificial intelligence too?

AL: Yes, but you need a computer for that. We always need materiality, materiality. And now a very difficult question: how does it all combine - the spiritual level, subjective freedom with physiology, the neurology of the body? Neurology is deterministic. How can something free arise from deterministic? We, unfortunately, do not know this to this day.

The expression of human freedom is the will. We can say that the will of man is free. Nobody can say yes for me. It is a very valuable phenomenon that every person has freedom that cannot be taken away

VB: Don't neuromarketologists and neuromarketing take away our freedom by forcing us to buy or vote for someone?

AL: Human freedom is always built into certain conditions that determine whether I do it or not, take it or refuse it. A lot of things are mixed here. There is no absolute, pure freedom, there is only limited freedom when a decision is made.

Freedom of conscience is the only thing that is freedom

Now neurobiological programming, the power of advertising really works, but there is always a space of choice. Freedom is relative, but at the same time it always requires an answer - yes or no, based on various information, nevertheless "yes or no" is decisive for the quality of life.

Human dignity is directly related to freedom. If a person cannot experience freedom, then he loses his dignity

This may be the case if he is arrested and sent to the GULAG. This can be when he is in severe neurosis or addiction. Then he experiences a great loss of value.

My teacher Viktor Frankl wrote in his book “Say Yes to Life Against Anything,” that in the concentration camp the Nazis tried to take away their freedom all the time in order to destroy the prisoners as people. But people had a little freedom that they could not take away, and it helped them to survive. What was this freedom? They were constantly threatened, ordered, there was violence, but the little freedom consisted in the fact that in the morning, at the formation, the prisoners could say "good morning" to each other, cheer them up, watch the sunrise. Such a small personal freedom allowed me to remain human.

The space of freedom doesn't have to be huge. Some people have little freedom. But they also have the opportunity to live with dignity

The problem is that people think that freedom is not enough for them, they need more. I have two children and a job, but this is too little for me. Then the demand for more freedom is raised.

Existential psychology says that this is not about the perimeter of free space. We can absorb our psychological value of freedom when we pay close attention to the small spaces of freedom that we have left.

Frankl wrote that the prisoners had very little freedom and not a single person was happy with this, but, nevertheless, they tried not to give up and not lose their dignity. Otherwise, a person becomes depressed, suicidal.

VB: It's like in a state where a person cannot express his opinion. What happens to his psyche?

AL: People lose their dignity and feel under pressure. In Latin it is called depression.

VB: But at the same time we are moving towards a common great goal. Can't she compensate for this? Compensate for any restrictions on freedom?

AL: And what is your overall goal?

WB: Greatness. Can't striving for this big goal compensate for the lack of some freedom?

AL: Maybe, but provided that I agree with this, I also want to see it, I also want to go towards a great goal. And this is freedom again. But if we are talking about fashion or some kind of political movement, if only they set a goal, then it can be coercion. If I don't want something, the goal becomes a compulsion, then I have to do something through "I don't want". Or I can resolutely distance myself and say: "Achieve your goal yourself, I will not go with you."

Of course, we can explain to everyone that we have a goal and therefore we are free. But at the same time, you do not have the right to watch what you want on TV, because it will harm the goal. This is such a manipulation.

VB: In general, can a person be free who has a goal? The goal is already a cell

AL: Of course it can. If I want to live freely, I have to marry non-freedom. That is, I must submit to the conditions. If I want to get from point A to point B, then I have to either walk or swim, but I have to obey the conditions. That is, with each "I want" is associated with "I must".

VB: Having chosen a goal, does a person automatically become a target for this goal?

AL: Yes, it is. Then I obey, but if I have a goal, I am free only if I can abandon it at any moment.

VB: Does artificial intelligence have free will? In how many years will he replace psychotherapists?

AL: Soon he will look loose. But artificial intelligence will not produce personality. This intelligence cannot be compared to that of a person when actions are associated with responsibility. A computer cannot be held responsible, but a person can take the advice of a computer. I think that the computer will be able to replace the psychotherapist in the next five to ten years.

VB: Including remotely?

AL: In many areas, including fear therapy, depression therapy, or addiction management. In ten years, computers will also be able to do this. The therapist is needed only for human accompaniment, for motivation, for discussing issues related to meaning. Already, computers are better at therapeutic methods than many psychotherapists.

VB: But when the computer takes on an anthropomorphic image, the same as that of a person, the difference disappears?

AL: The computer cannot empathize. The computer will never have human reactions. It can only be programmed. When I sit in front of a computer, I feel that there is no soul there.

And if there is no soul, then there is not something very important


By manipulating the likelihood of fate

Is it really our will that only the choice of the probability of this or that event obeys? For example, we can choose whether to buckle up in the car or not, thereby increasing or decreasing the likelihood of being safe and sound in the event of an accident. But our decision is not a guarantee that everything will be fine with us. By buckling up, we only increase the probability, but we do not influence the final choice of fate.

If we assume that a person controls not fate, but only the probability of fate, then we can say that people are not gods, on whom fate completely depends, but only demigods. And the "more correctly" they evaluate and use these probabilities in practice, the more such people admire us and the more they are semi-divine.

Stephen Hawking argued that there is no free will, that the choice is automatic. But is there freedom in choosing this lack of freedom? People can control their focus, which entails a rewiring of the brain. By reflashing our brain, we thereby create the possibility of committing certain volitional acts.

Vladislav Bozhedai, publisher of "Our Psychology"

How free are we in our choice?

If Alfried Lange separates external and internal influences, then researchers in the field of neuropsychology at Cardiff University generally question the very existence of freedom of choice. They believe that the choice is predetermined by previous experience. Feelings, beliefs and sensations are formed by our unconscious, and the conscious "I" is only a passive observer.

As evidence, the researchers cite recent discoveries in cognitive neuroscience showing that a person's mood, beliefs, and perceptions can be altered through hypnosis. The authors of this theory believe that the content of consciousness is a kind of mix of our experience, emotions and beliefs that emerged as a result of unconscious processes. They, as it were, keep an autobiographical chronicle of a person, which is constantly updated after experiencing a new experience, but self-consciousness does not affect them.

Such concepts as "free will" and "personal responsibility" were artificially created by society and from early childhood are broadcast by it. That is why they appear in our unconscious and are perceived by us as something inherent in us.

Alfried Lange and scientists at Cardiff University agree on one thing that restriction of freedom in the form of personal responsibility is necessary for a person and society, and this is really so.

I do not agree with Alfried in the definition of fanaticism, I am closer to the approach of the Cardiff researchers in this matter. For me, fanaticism is an unconditional conviction and a lack of reflection. But I would not like to discount the influence of self-awareness, so I look forward to further research on the role of self-awareness and the unconscious on our beliefs and decisions.

More about the study:

Evgeniya Malysheva, psychologist, healthy blogger

Read also:

  • What to do if a loved one shows signs of mental illness? Interview with Alfried Langle, Doctor of Psychology
  • Alfried Langle: Save Yourself. How to build the foundation of a relationship
  • Alfried Langle. Compliance with yourself. Beauty - psychological category

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