Three a week: Ideation

Are you responsible for your ideas? Three questions:

Question 1: Where do ideas come from?

Simple answer: our mind. However, when we look a little closer, that answer doesn’t satisfy. Do you consciously think “I am going to think about X” before you start thinking about X? When you come up with a new idea, are you consciously responsible, or has that thought been given to you by your subconscious?

Think about the specific thoughts you might be thinking in the future. There are a lot of options – you might be thinking about your dinner in an hour, the television, your car or job. Why is it that at any given moment, you are thinking that specific thought? Surely, you didn’t choose it beforehand – you only become aware of thinking a thought after you start thinking about it.

If the awareness of our thoughts lag behind their actual ideation, who is in control of them?

Question 2: What are the implications?

Scenario #1: we do not consciously control which thoughts “pop” into our head and are only aware of them after the fact. This seems to imply that our actions are not really conscious decisions, but decisions made by our subconscious which later we become aware of. Does this have implications for something like morality? If we are not in control of our ideas and our decisions, how can there be a “right” and “wrong” way to act.

Of course, perhaps there is a difference between the event of ideation and acting on that idea. While I may not be able to consciously give myself an epiphany, perhaps I can have control over whether or not I act on that epiphany, and whether or not I choose to accept it as true.

Scenario #2: we can consciously control thoughts before they come into our head. This makes all of our actions deliberately controllable, with the human “will” (whatever that is) being responsible for behaviour, rather than the subconscious.

Question 3: Does it matter if ideas are fundamentally physical?

If an “idea” is just another event which takes places due to specific stimuli in a specific environment, there is nothing remarkable about them. However, if the ideas themselves are not so easily categorized as being physical, and the control over them is not fundamentally due to physics, we are talking about something awfully radical, with enormous implications.

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