I've got no problem with a scientifically and logically defensible conclusion: neither I, nor anyone else, has free will.
(Of course, I had no choice but to write that sentence.)
The whole existentialist and religious thing -- most early existentialists were Christians -- puts way too much undeserved pressure on us to choose the right thing to do.
Maybe this made some sense when little was known about the brain, biology, genetics, systems theory, ecology, and such.
But now it is clear that reality is a web of interdependencies, interelationships, cause and effect linkages. Demonstrable evidence for a non-material free-floating soul that freely decides what to do is precisely zero.
Which is fine with me.
See some of my previous blog posts on this subject here, here, here, here, and here. I'm happier feeling like a part of a grand whole, rather than an isolated bit of freely choosing something-or-other.
Believers in free will don't have a coherent explanation of how such exists. Yet they do their best to buck up their subjective sense of freedom with slippery arguments like compatibilism.
I do my best to understand compatibilist arguments. But fail. Just seems like the last gasp of die-hard philosophers who want to play some word games before being overwhelmed by scientific truth.
A few years ago Sam Harris wrote a book called "Free Will."
Compatibilist philosopher Daniel Dennett recently wrote a response to Harris' contention that we don't have any. After which Daniel Meissler demolished Dennett's attempted critique in a great piece, "Daniel Dennett is wrong about free will."
If you're interested in this subject, for reasons beyond your control, you need to read what Meissler wrote. Great stuff. Hard to believe how anyone could believe in free will after reading his piece. The comments are interesting also.
Here's a few excerpts to whet your reading appetite.
"Seriously? Do you [Dennett] really think that, in a country where only half of the population believes in evolution, any significant percentage of people are going to have an advanced belief in free will?
No. They aren’t. Most believe that people make choices independently of causes, to a significant degree, and therefore deserve reward and punishment. This is the basis of the American justice system and of much of our culture. This highly nuanced dance that Dennett is doing isn’t on the radar because they don’t even have radar.
Ask someone why a murderer deserves to die. Ask 1,000 people in a scientifically valid poll. You’ll find that most people believe the following: The murderer had a choice. That means that despite their bad upbringing, despite their drugged out mom, despite whatever hardships, they had the concrete, tangible, and available OPTION to not commit that murder.
So they are 100% guilty. Period.
That’s the resolution that most people have in this country when it comes to considering free will. Not everyone, but most.
...None of these things get us to freedom unless you’re describing it in the loosest and most useless way possible. As I said in the opening, he’s basically saying that if it feels free then it is, and that’s the best you’re going to get.
Well, I don’t have to accept the best illusion I’m going to get and call it freedom. I’d rather, for the sake of human dignity and the respect for reason, acknowledge that it’s an illusion and work within that framework. It’s more true, which I think is generally more healthy.
...These things are not in your control. They happen to you. They trim your options down to the limited set that present themselves to you from, well…you don’t know where. That was Harris’ entire point. Whatever options get presented for you to choose from are labeled as your freedom, and you’re not even thinking about all the others that weren’t presented.
What’s free about that?
Oh, right, it’s as free as it can be, and we should be happy with that.
Sure, and a shackled slave is free to run from the plantation in lots of different ways:
- In a straight line
- In a zig-zag pattern
- Towards the river
Picking from available options is illusory freedom because it ignores the fact that you were only presented a few choices, and you weren’t the one who chose them. This is true without even mentioning the uncomfortable bit that you’re also not the one picking afterwards.
...As I said at the start: Dennett’s argument reduces to this:
- We have free will because we feel like we do
- We have moral responsibility because it’s practical to behave as if we do
This is a reckless assault on truth in the name of wishful thinking."