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I am a big fan of free will and have a hard time accepting different point of views from famous atheists like Dawkins and Harris. It is known that dopamine and serotonin play a huge part in the pleasure and reward mechanisms of the brain as recreational users and addicts know very well. I can see Howard Roark having a depression in his late 50's when he builds a tolerance for dopamine and building skyscrapers is not as fun as it used to be. Would Ayn Rand accept that?

asked Jan 16 '13 at 00:27

Chris%20Apotek's gravatar image

Chris Apotek
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edited Jan 16 '13 at 14:21

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I think there's an interesting question in there, which I don't know the answer to: To what extent is can free will alter depression. Considering the sometimes great progress which can be made through talk therapy and other non-chemical treatments, which have been shown in some cases to permanently rewire the brain, the answer certainly isn't that free will is powerless against all forms of depression.

I'm not sure how much of this can be answered by philosophy though, beyond saying that yes, there is indeed free will.

(Jan 17 '13 at 20:42) anthony anthony's gravatar image

It may be true that dopamine and serotonin are released into the brain naturally when one achieves one's values and thereby becomes happy. But if one ingests or injects such chemicals in place of value-seeking and achievement, the quality of the happiness that one experiences can't be the same, since lack of value achievement weakens one's life over time, and one becomes increasingly unable to continue evading that fact. The body will try to adapt by fighting back against the distraction caused by the chemicals, so that one can face reality fully and directly and learn to deal with it through one's cognitive capacity. Becoming resistant to the chemicals is just the body's natural defense reaction against harmful agents.

As for the possibility of "building skyscrapers [becoming] not as fun as it used to be," maybe one needs to introspect to find out what one is really looking for and how to achieve it. Unless one is being interfered with by others, or distracted by chemicals, or simply growing too old or in failing health to keep up with the demands of one's chosen field, a career as a successful artist has the potential to captivate one's intense interest for the span of a lifetime. Remember also that advancements in all fields continually occur when people are free to dream, invent and create. Imagine what the introduction of Rearden Metal could do for architecture and for Howard Roark's career, if it had existed during his lifetime. Technological advancements can readily captivate the fascination of technologists and artists alike, as well as many other observers and consumers.

Remember, also, that productive achievement is not man's sole source of happiness. Romantic love is a major source, also. We see that concretized vividly throughout Howard Roark's life in The Fountainhead and again in Atlas Shrugged.

answered Jan 17 '13 at 15:08

Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Ideas for Life ♦
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I am just wondering if someone suffering from depression has free will to be a Howard Roark... Free will exists but chemical imbalances in the brain make it harder for someone to exert it. For example: scientists are starting to argue if predisposition to religion is genetic somehow. I think your brain can play tricks on you, like Religion, against your will.

(Jan 17 '13 at 17:48) Chris Apotek Chris%20Apotek's gravatar image

What do mean by "free will to be a Howard Roark"? Not everyone has the intelligence to be equivalent to an Ayn Rand hero, even if they were morally perfect. And like Peter Keating, in the case of some people, even if they did once have the ability to be great, they may have blown that chance irrevocably.

(Jan 17 '13 at 20:40) anthony anthony's gravatar image

You don't need to be an Eistein. You can be a small restaurant owner or a engineer with the moral conduct of a Howard Roark. At least you can point your life in that direction. What I am saying is that Ayn Rand assume we are in control, through reason. That to be controlled by emotions is weak. Reason comes first, then emotions. Makes sense, but if you have a depression that falls apart.

(Jan 17 '13 at 21:57) Chris Apotek Chris%20Apotek's gravatar image
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Asked: Jan 16 '13 at 00:27

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Last updated: Jan 17 '13 at 21:57