Free Will Does Not Exist!

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See the main article on this topic: Quantum consciousness.

Quantum weirdness

February vol. Social Psychological and Personality. Science January vol. Do We Have Free Will? Journal of Consciousness Studies , 6, No. Collins et al. Epub Sep Cell Reports Volume 15, Issue 9, p. Dinan et al. Categories : Bronze-level articles Philosophy Religion Apologetics and counter-apologetics Philosophy of religion Religious terms.

Study Tackles Neuroscience Claims to Have Disproved ‘Free Will’ | NC State News

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Free Will: Definitions and Levels of Explanation

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The idea of determinism, and the facts supporting it, must be kept confined within the ivory tower.

Does Free Will Exist?

But new information, of course, is a sensory input like any other; it can change our behavior, even if we are not the conscious agents of that change. In the language of cause and effect, a belief in free will may not inspire us to make the best of ourselves, but it does stimulate us to do so.

Illusionism is a minority position among academic philosophers, most of whom still hope that the good and the true can be reconciled. But it represents an ancient strand of thought among intellectual elites. Smilansky is not advocating policies of Orwellian thought control. Belief in free will comes naturally to us. Scientists and commentators merely need to exercise some self-restraint, instead of gleefully disabusing people of the illusions that undergird all they hold dear.

Yet not all scholars who argue publicly against free will are blind to the social and psychological consequences. One of the most prominent is the neuroscientist and writer Sam Harris, who, in his book, Free Will , set out to bring down the fantasy of conscious choice. Like Smilansky, he believes that there is no such thing as free will.

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Free will is an illusion, biologist says

But Harris thinks we are better off without the whole notion of it. Illusions, no matter how well intentioned, will always hold us back. For example, we currently use the threat of imprisonment as a crude tool to persuade people not to do bad things. According to Harris, we should acknowledge that even the worst criminals—murderous psychopaths, for example—are in a sense unlucky.

Recognizing this, we can dispassionately consider how to manage offenders in order to rehabilitate them, protect society, and reduce future offending. Accepting this would also free us from hatred. Holding people responsible for their actions might sound like a keystone of civilized life, but we pay a high price for it: Blaming people makes us angry and vengeful, and that clouds our judgment.


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But if we give up our notion of free will, then their behavior must be viewed like any other natural phenomenon—and this, Harris believes, would make us much more rational in our response. Although the scale of the two catastrophes was similar, the reactions were wildly different. Nobody was striving to exact revenge on tropical storms or declare a War on Weather, so responses to Katrina could simply focus on rebuilding and preventing future disasters.

Losing belief in free will undercuts the rationale for ever hating anyone. From that vantage point, the moral implications of determinism look very different, and quite a lot better. Determinism is the belief that our decisions are part of an unbreakable chain of cause and effect. When people hear there is no free will, they wrongly become fatalistic; they think their efforts will make no difference. But this is a mistake. People are not moving toward an inevitable destiny; given a different stimulus like a different idea about free will , they will behave differently and so have different lives.

Can one go further still?

Is there a way forward that preserves both the inspiring power of belief in free will and the compassionate understanding that comes with determinism? Philosophers and theologians are used to talking about free will as if it is either on or off; as if our consciousness floats, like a ghost, entirely above the causal chain, or as if we roll through life like a rock down a hill. But there might be another way of looking at human agency.

Some scholars argue that we should think about freedom of choice in terms of our very real and sophisticated abilities to map out multiple potential responses to a particular situation. In his new book, Restorative Free Will , he writes that we should focus on our ability, in any given setting, to generate a wide range of options for ourselves, and to decide among them without external constraint. In his view, free will and determinism are not the opposites they are often taken to be; they simply describe our behavior at different levels.

Waller believes his account fits with a scientific understanding of how we evolved: Foraging animals—humans, but also mice, or bears, or crows—need to be able to generate options for themselves and make decisions in a complex and changing environment. Humans, with our massive brains, are much better at thinking up and weighing options than other animals are.

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