NWPF

PD Community BlogRead Blog

Parkinson's and Free Will

Monday June 06, 2016

If anything should drive you into the arms of philosophy, it would be Parkinson’s Disease. Once you are diagnosed, all sorts of philosophical problems are in your face. Plus, you have lots of new time to ponder them. Like between steps as you shuffle from the refrigerator to the sink. Questions like the classics “Why are humans (and I might add, all but the simplest life forms) born to suffer and die?” or “ What is the purpose of life?” certainly come up in bold relief. But one that PD brings into especially sharp focus is “Does anyone have free will?”

Illustration PDS 6 6 14 (1)Free Will has been a philosophical hot potato for centuries. But just lately the notion that we freely choose our actions, and thus are morally responsible for them, has been getting severely undermined by pesky neuroscientists and geneticists who are finding all sorts of factors that seem to be governing our behavior that are flat beyond our control.

They could have just asked anyone with Parkinson’s and gotten there faster. Ask a person who can’t stop shaking how much control they have over their body, no matter how much they will it otherwise. Ask a once surefooted hiker who now struggles to put one boot in front of the other how free they are. Ask someone with clinical depression why they can’t just choose to be happy. Any of these people would tell you  that they would be different if they could. They can’t. They have no choice. And without choice, there is no opportunity to act freely.

But there is bit of light shining through a crack here. The undeniable fact that Parkinson’s attenuates sufferers free will demonstrates that freedom of choice must exist for humans at least in some sense. Otherwise how could it be lost? To quote the learned professor Gregg Allman “ You can’t spend what you ain’t got, can’t lose what you never had.”

This is not a merely academic question. A recent article in The Atlantic offers compelling evidence those who believe in free will handle life differently from those who do not. One researcher found, “When asked to take a math test, with cheating made easy, the group primed to see free will as illusory proved more likely to take an illicit peek at the answers. When given an opportunity to steal—to take more money than they were due from an envelope of $1 coins—those whose belief in free will had been undermined pilfered more.” Your general approach to life is also colored by your perception of whether or not you have free will. According to the Atlantic article, “Believing that free will is an illusion has been shown to make people less creative, more likely to conform, less willing to learn from their mistakes, and less grateful toward one another. In every regard, it seems, when we embrace determinism, we indulge our dark side.”

So it matters whether you think the idea of free will is accurate or not, whether or not  your perception of that idea is itself accurate or not.

With Parkinson’s, we seem to have less free will than others, less free will than our earlier selves. But there is that little bit of light showing through the crack. If that little bit of light is enough to allow us to be more creative, more willing to learn from our mistakes, and more grateful toward one another, we have a little more traction in our struggles with Parkinson’s and the other impediments in this world.

Peter Dunlap-ShohlPeter Dunlap-Shohl
NWPF Blogger

Recent Posts

Parkinson's Pain by Proxy
Autoimmune Diseases
The Most Interesting Men in the World
What Dreams May Come…
Book Review: on Carrying the Black Bag

Archives

2017 2016
Lies That Parkinson's Disease Told Me
Managing the Holiday Blues 2016
Who Was That Masked Man?
The Rain Is Shining — A Thanksgiving Message
Book Review - H.O.P.E.: Four Keys to a Better Quality of Life for Parkinson's
David Leventhal: Dancer, Teacher, Community Leader, Humanitarian, Movement Specialist
Meet Emily!
Rhonda Foulds, Outrunning Parkinson's Disease
Book Review: The Perapatetic Pursuit of Parkinson Disease
Staff Stories - Melanie
Snake Oil, the Cure for Parkinson's.
Book Review: Nan Little
Life's a Lot Better with NWPF
Tipping Points
Book Review: Natural Therapies for Parkinson's Disease
Dare to Attend a Support Group
Ten for David
Time After Time: Kim Farmer's Story
The Glass is Half-Full
Book Review: Reverse Parkinson's Disease
Contentment
Parkinson's and Free Will
A positive attitude is everything
Book Review - Lucky Man: A Memoir
Alexithymia, the Parkinson’s Get Out of Jail Free Card
We Make Them Together: Major Decisions in Caregiving
Boxing is cool
Safety with Style: House Renovations you can hold on to
Book review: On My Own
Shaken to the Core
Isolation and Parkinson's Disease, The hiding and the hidden
Camp Brian Interview
Safety with Style: House design ideas you can hold on to
Book review: Shake Well Before Use
Notes on Acceptance
"Advice" to a person with Advancing Parkinson's Disease
Needed: New Parkinson’s Vocabulary
Caregiving: Ken's Story
A Well-Tested Testimonial, or Spin for Parkinson's
Safety with Style: House design ideas you can hold on to
Caregiving: Susan's Story
Rock Steady Boxing: Emily
Book Review: My Degeneration, A Journey Through Parkinson's
The Marble Halls of Power
Safety with Style: House design ideas you can hold on to
2015
ROCKIN’ AROUND THE GROCERY CART
Managing the Holiday Blues
Book Review: A Complete Guide for Patients and Families
The joke is on Parkinson's
I don't always like groups, but when I do...
JBC + DBS: A Mostly-Love Story (Continued)
Rock Steady Boxing: Fred Hyde
Present Moment: A Continued Conversation
Book Review: Navigating Life with Parkinson's Disease
JBC + DBS: A Mostly-Love Story
Present Moment
On the scent of Parkinson’s disease
Harold Allen (Hal) Newsom
The 2016 World Parkinson’s Congress in Portland, Oregon is Fast Approaching: Make Plans to Attend
Flowers on Dr. Starr's Tie
Leading the life of malicious whimsy
Listen: Unlocking Parkinson's Disease
Book Review: If I Can Climb Kilimanjaro, Why Can't I Brush My Teeth?
The Evolution of HOPE
QUIZ: How well do you know your Parkinson’s Disease?
Living with Hope
Notes on Hope
Tug, tug, tug
Denial on Trial
Flowers in Our Hair
Resilience: Bouncing Back from Adversity
Summer Travel
Tina Sawyer Steps Up Fundraising in Seaside
The uncooperative patient
To be in June
Pressure Sores
Caring for a Spouse Living with PD
Life Lessons
Doc Parkinson - A Eulogy
Boom Go Parkinson’s Costs
From the Depths of the Cupboards: Pumpkin Bars
Doctor's Visits
Get Moving!
Choosing a shared burden
Our Brain's "Negativity Bias" Part 2
Outside of Language
Managing Constipation in Parkinson’s Disease
Replacements
Finding Time for Caregiver Care
The Helplessness Antidote
Examples of living your best
10 exercise tips for people with Parkinson's
Bit on Basketball
Suggestions for the Shaken
Parkinson's Action Network (PAN) Report
Our Brain’s “Negativity Bias”
Living for a Cure
Three Huge Changes for People with Parkinson's
Caregiving, the Next Level
Parkinson's Pundit
Perseverance
Making Spousal Relationships Work
Parkinson’s and Luck
Strength. Courage.
Resolve to be a Better Caregiver!
Update from the Parkinson's Action Network
Strategies to Achieve our New Year’s Resolutions and Goals
Movement is Medicine
2014 2013 2012
Most popular posts of 2012
What are you grateful for this holiday season?
How can I tell whether medications are wearing off or Parkinson’s disease is progressing?
Can a person with Parkinson’s give blood?
When is the right time to start Levodopa?
Can acupuncture help PD symptoms?
Support the Caregiver in your Life
Power of the mind to move treatment further
Top 10 Foods for Parkinson’s (and counting!)
How can I prevent dizziness?
What can you tell me about laser light therapy and Parkinson’s
What is music therapy?
Should I take Coenzyme Q10 for my Parkinson’s?
How do I treat my cough at night?
Parkinson’s fitness programs need to be tailored to the individual to get results
Carrying the Olympic Torch for Parkinson’s today
Coffee reduces risk of Parkinson’s. What about other foods?
Facts about depression
How can I find a good doctor who is knowledgeable about PD and is caring as well? My doctor does not always listen.
Help for constipation
Sex, Intimacy and Parkinson’s
Does DBS affect speech?
Walking and balance can significantly impact quality of life- but is treatable.
Depression is common with Parkinson’s
Ode to Parkinson’s- Poem from Member
Music Enhances Brain Activity
How does posture change with Parkinson’s?
What is important to you?
Are hallucinations caused by Parkinson’s?
Hot Off the Press – Neupro approved by FDA
How do I find a Parkinson’s physical therapist to keep me exercising?
Does Azilect slow disease progression?
Manage nausea from medicines
Is delaying medication harmful?
Advice for newly diagnosed
Is Parkinson’s Hereditary?
Medication Timing
Is gambling a side effect of medicine?
Medication Assistance
Does stress cause Parkinson’s?
When to see a physical therapist
FDA approves DATScan
Coconut Oil
Protein’s effect on medicine
Restless Leg Syndrome