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Good morning Fellow Heathens! I would like to hear your thoughts on free will. Sam Harris says there is no such thing and I disagreed with that and felt as though we could control our destiny. I am coming to think otherwise , maybe on a micro scale we have free will but we are products of our DNA, small decisions in will manifest themselves as big life changes. what do you guys think?

Corvus 6 Jan 13

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As I've mentioned elsewhere, we shouldn't underestimate the impact of education on the neuroplastic brain. No other creature is forced to spend a fifth of it's life learning how to be itself. This is where cognitive dissonance in adulthood stems from. If we take religion and some new work in biophysics out the equation, are we each not experiencing a unique opportunity as a thinking, articulate creature? Each with huge potential? I recall reading a book some years ago (Life of Pi? Can't remember) and the topic of zoos was being discussed. Animals in zoos don't expend much energy and get free food. If we were in Africa and put out food there, they would still start hanging around for the free food. If the zoo cages were opened and we set them free, would the animals run off or would they hang around for the easy food? What about us? If someone opened all our doors and screamed, "You're free, you can go off and be what a human was meant to be," what would we do? Humans didn't evolve to sit around watching TV, paying someone for the privilege. It was fed it to us, just like our education was fed to us. And perhaps the person holding the spoon knows more about free will than we do.


Free will is largely dependent upon the person being observed. Our decision making capacity is controlled a lot by the sum total of our experience/environment leading up to the instant of having to make a choice. As a result, our choices are directed to the extent that the individual allows.

I do not use the words 'destiny, fate, or karma' because to me they equate with 'faith, belief, and submission'. In spite of that, the only answer I can give to whether we have free will is a highly qualified yes and no. I would say that I have more free will than many, but I would be hard pressed to quantify that.


On 'free will,' maybe we are acting freely. Can a person behave completely outside his environment, or his own physical and mental development? What about brain functions that have been altered at differect times by toxins or injury that interferes with...or changes the brain's previous operating system? We would still be operating freely but under different circumstances! Does, a mentally ill person operate from 'free will?' Seems like they would be in their own mind...and aren't we all operating out of our own least the majority of the time? Am I allowing outside forces to derail my 'free will' and could I stop them even if I wanted to? I behave freely depending on different factors at different times!


Perhaps it helps to clarify just what one means by free will. If we use the term "free will" to mean choices which are uncaused or undetermined, then perhaps we do not have free will. In this sense, we are technically predetermined. But if, be "free will", one means choices or decisions we make for ourselves independently, with courage and confidence and without being swayed or intimidated by outside influences, than yes, we do have the power to choose freely. If we make our choices for ourselves, using our own reason, without being controlled or manipulated by pressure, duress, or the disapproval of others, then we do have the ability to choose freely.

In any case, maybe it's best to allow ourselves to feel that we have free will. I don't know if I could live my life normally without regarding this to be true. For all practical purposes, we do choose freely.


Good post! I read Harris' Waking Up, where he talks about this. It is not his idea, alone. I agree with Harris only in a theoretical/technicality sort of way. More importantly, in terms of our personal experience the notion is flat out wrong. In practical terms, we absolutely EXPERIENCE our choices as being free choice, regardless of whether there are factors at play in our decisions that we are not conscious of and that lead us to make the choices we do.

In the mode of quantum theory of randomness, maybe our specific choices can never be absolutely pre-determined. That would be we have a sort of choice.


We are all free within the bounds of the decisions we make, however the effects of our decisions as in the result of our choices, are not controllable by us.

The meaning and purpose of life is the evidence for this statement.

Our decisions are our own, but our post-decision responsibilities are not within our control as they reside within the meaning and purpose of life's domain.

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