Once upon a time I came up with the following paradox:

Statement 1. I have freedom of will.

Statement 2. If I have freedom of will, then I create my own thoughts.

For example: I'm gonna think about this, i'm gonna think about that. I'm gonna think about integrals, i'm gonna think about music...etc. So I define my own intentions.

Statement 3. To create or do something I should already have a thought of creating this.

You can't go buy milk, before an intention to do so. You can't create a painting before the thought of creating a painting.

Statement 4. If so, then to create a thought I should have a thought to create a thought.

Statement 5. If so, then to create a thought to create a thought I should have a thought to create a thought to create a thought.

* * *

Endless recursion.

That means that if statements 1, 2, 3 are right, then our mind should go throught eternal number of steps. Moreover it's reversed recursion, in that terms it should start at minus eternity and like a bubble come up to the surface.

To solve this paradox, these variants are possible:

  1. I have no freedom of will, and I'm not the creator of my thoughts.
  2. I have freedom of will, but the act of creating intentions is intuitive and metacognitive and cannot be described in terms of descrete logics. That means that all naturalistic theories like neurophysiology or any other that are built on the axiom that state of mind is uniquely determind by the thate of the brain, are in general - false.
  3. May be some variant that you come up with.

So what do you think? Do you create your own thoughts?

  • 1
  • Statement 3 is false, and conclusion 2 does not follow from its negation. Intuitive and metacognitive acts can be described by brain states just like discursive and cognitive ones, they are just different types of brain states. For that matter, both types can extend beyond brain states as well, as dualists claim. This line of reasoning has no bearing on it either way.
    – Conifold
    Jul 10 '20 at 10:38
  • Why do you need a thought to create a thought? On this line of reasoning, thoughts could have not come into existence since human beings are obviously not born "with thoughts". In other words, thoughts can be created "without thoughts". Like @Conifold, I also challenge statement 3.
    – luchonacho
    Jul 10 '20 at 10:40
  • Some of them. A lot of my thoughts are small variations on something I've read. Jul 12 '20 at 17:42

In real life you can't think within your thought. I mean, there is no sub-thought in your main thought. If you think about it and say there is one such thought, that sub-thought itself is your main thought.

You said, "I'm gonna think about this, I'm gonna think about that. I'm gonna think about integrals, I'm gonna think about music...etc. So I define my own intentions."

Actually all these thoughts about your thought that came are naturally. It was not the product of any deliberate action. And the next thought also will emerge naturally. If you tried to start thinking about one of the subjects you mentioned, you will feel your thoughts disturbed since that thought is deliberate...or for a challenge. You can pretend you are thinking about another thing.

If somebody tells you to avoid a particular thing while doing another thing, you can do so very easily. But if you are told not to think about a particular thing while doing another thing, you will certainly think about that particular thing. Thoughts are not like an object. It will not obey if you try to resist it.

What happens if you change your food habits? Wouldn't it affect your thoughts? If your answer is,'no', what happens if you take very little food or too much food or liquor? Wouldn't it affect your thoughts?

Read at least pages 194 and 195 in the following link. You will reach a conclusion that food also has great significance in your mind/thoughts. That is why many people change their food over to veg items.



In the Book of The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle it has been mentioned

Thought cannot exist without consciousness, but consciousness does not need thought.Consciousness is the "theater of perceptual awareness."

Without consciousness, we cannot think any thought. Without awareness, we cannot create meaning from our thoughts. Non-aware thinking is random, often problematically emotion-driven, and potentially confusing. Awareness Intelligence is about the intelligence of creating meaning in one’s mentalizing and about the intelligence of self-generating useful thinking through awareness.


William Walker Atkinson said " mind is static energy, thought is dynamic energy - two phases of the same thing" and Charles Haanel went on to say that "thought power created by the vibratory force formed by converting static mind into dynamic mind". Your thoughts are alive.


For Hegel, things exist before human thought.


Your thoughts come from you. You did not choose for this to be the case (since you did not create yourself), but your thoughts are, nonetheless, your own.

Let's assume you did create yourself, though: you hopped in a time machine, went to the future to pick up a copy of The Complete and Accurate Understanding of How Humans Work and some future magic nanoengineering handwavium machine, then went to the past and deliberately designed every aspect of your past self. Your decisions on how to design yourself, however, were made by you, influenced by the way you are, which is a result of the way you were created

Eliezer Yudkowsky writes (about a philosophy paper, presumably “The View from Nowhere through a Distorted Lens” which is now lost to link-rot):

I once saw one such vein described neatly in terms of "Author" control and "Author*" control, though I can't seem to find or look up the paper.

Consider the control that an Author has over the characters in their books. Say, the sort of control that I have over Brennan.

By an act of will, I can make Brennan decide to step off a cliff. I can also, by an act of will, control Brennan's inner nature; I can make him more or less heroic, empathic, kindly, wise, angry, or sorrowful. I can even make Brennan stupider, or smarter up to the limits of my own intelligence. I am entirely responsible for Brennan's past, both the good parts and the bad parts; I decided everything that would happen to him, over the course of his whole life.

So you might think that having Author-like control over ourselves—which we obviously don't—would at least be sufficient for free will.

But wait! Why did I decide that Brennan would decide to join the Bayesian Conspiracy? Well, it is in character for Brennan to do so, at that stage of his life. But if this had not been true of Brennan, I would have chosen a different character that would join the Bayesian Conspiracy, because I wanted to write about the beisutsukai. Could I have chosen not to want to write about the Bayesian Conspiracy?

To have Author* self-control is not only have control over your entire existence and past, but to have initially written your entire existence and past, without having been previously influenced by it---the way that I invented Brennan's life without having previously lived it. To choose yourself into existence this way, would be Author* control. (If I remember the paper correctly.)

Paradoxical? Yes, of course. The point of the paper was that Author* control is what would be required to be the "ultimate source of your own actions", the way some philosophers seemed to define it.

I don't see how you could manage Author* self-control even with a time machine.

This is far too high of a bar to have for free will; there's still a sense that it's a meaningful concept for those of us who aren't logically-inconsistent deities. (Even the Abrahamic God doesn't have Author* self-control, being an uncreated creator.)

You didn't choose to exist, and hence you don't choose to think, but that doesn't mean they aren't your thoughts; they still came from you. You still choose your actions (or, those you think about, anyway; you weren't choosing to breathe until just now when you started breathing manually). You don't deliberately create your thoughts and intentions, but they still arise from the-thing-that-is-you. And that's okay.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.