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Sam Harris wrote a book demonstrating how free will doesn't truly exist. I happen to agree with him. Especially the part that outlines something known as the Dilemma of Determinism. It is an inescapable fact that free will isn't real. What does this mean to you?

MrControversy 7 Feb 10

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The most coherent statement on this topic, that I have come across, can be found in a publication titled “Getting To Yes” by Roger Fisher & William Ury.

”The question "Why?" has two quite different meanings. One looks backward for a cause and treats our behaviour as determined by prior events. The other looks forward for a purpose and treats our behaviour as subject to our free will. We need not enter into a philosophical debate between free will and determinism in order to decide how to act. Either we have free will or it is determined that we behave as if we do. In either case, we make choices. We can choose to look back or to look forward.”

I think of determinism as a wind blowing across the ocean of existence. Human consciousness is like a sail boat upon the ocean. We have no control over the wind, but we can choose which way to steer the rudder.


I also find Sam's take hard to refute.




Even before I heard Harris' take on this issue I was in agreement with him. I hate when people say they have free will because they made a choice. They proceed to take a step or raise their hand. You only see the action and NOT the process behind the action. It's almost like thinking it's knowable that God exists or not. It doesn't really matter if people believe in free will or not though. We will still go about our day as if we do have free will. I think that at best that we have limited free will, but if you are limited by outside factors by any degree then how can we be sure that it's free will at all?

That's about how I see it. We probably don't have free will but we will live our lives as though we do. So I started asking the question ' why is free will so important to us?' and as an amateur I came up with my own pet theory. It is a means to an end essentially. It is our way of getting what we want. Now if every decision we made led to an undesirable consequence, it wouldn't exactly feel like we were free. So I wondered. Maybe instead of defining free will by the internal processes of the brain which is a dead end, we ought to define free will by how many doors are open to acquiring what we want. The more doors that are open to us, the more we 'feel' free.

And so far as crime and punishment goes, I personally advocate for a correctional system that is based on rehabilitation and containment rather than revenge. Revenge makes no sense to me because ultimately we don't know which vagina we pop out of therefore any of us could have, by luck, ended up being the kind of person we would normally detest. For that reason, I myself (if I could have it my way) would base a correctional system on introducing information to a criminal that would lead them to make better decisions. And if that doesn't work, we would have to simply keep them separated from the rest of society. Nothing personal against the criminal who can't help the way he/she is. It's just a matter of public safety. Anyways, I appreciate your answer. Let me know what you think!

@MrControversy Yes. Pertaining to the "moor doors open" idea. I think that's why so many successful people always preach to less successful people. Look at me! I did it! I know the SECRET! I agree with you on the correctional aspect too.


Could you provide a title, please? I'd like to read it!

Yeah no problem! The title is 'Free Will' by Sam Harris.

@MrControversy Well, that'll be easy to remember. I'm putting that at the top of my list!

He speaks at length about the subject on YouTube.

Very, very true @dartagnan6666


The way that I came to the conclusion that Free Will does not exist was from thinking a scenario where I made a significant decision. Then imagine if I could repeat history and keep everything exactly the same right up to the moment of my decision, could I have made a different choice? The obvious answer is, no. Since I am relatively logical I base my choices on my experience. If all experience were the same, then so would be my decision.

That's a very good point. You might also be interested in a philosophical problem called the Dilemma of Determinism. It also shows why free will doesn't exist.

MrControversey, it is a question with many answers that lead to the same conclusion.

That's true @Reignmond

I have been familiar with Dilemma of Determinism for a long time. It is much older than Sam Harris.

The fact that Free Will does not exist is rather a crushing blow to the ego conclusion, and perhaps a bit scary. It has immense implications in the Realm of punishment of crimes. It also is a reason I am pretty certain that Artificial Intelligence will reach a point where we will not be able to distinguish it from consciousness..... assuming there would be a difference to begin with.

It seems we are computers and computers might eventually catch up to 'we'. Also I apologize if I came off as rude. Some guy on this site (which I'd rather not name) was missing the point on the Dilemma of Determinism completely and so it was on my mind. @Reignmond

@MrControversy, Yeah, we are probably nothing more than Chemical Computers. It is strange to think of it that way because we have an illusion we are so "in charge" of our actions. However, if you have ever had a psychological reaction to a drug or food, you experienced a blue to just how "mechanical" our thought processes are.

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