Tuesday, 19 January 2021

The Mantra "We don't have Free Will"

I'm sick of people claiming that free will is an illusion, that it is rational and scientific to hold this.  Yet, they seem extremely reluctant to specify what this actually means.  That my consciousness doesn't actually do anything? So, I'm typing out these words, but it's not my consciousness doing it?

Frequently they might say they believe in "determinism" but without specifying exactly what is meant by this term.   I guess they mean that the four forces in nature, (gravitation, electromagnetism, weak and strong nuclear forces) represent true innate causes in the world and all change in the physical world is due exclusively to the interaction of these four forces?  Well, at least that's clear. So they really do mean my consciousness does absolutely nothing, not even in any train of thought I might entertain! Which it is very easy to refute as I do in the first three paragraphs of an essay I wrote.

But then they shift and obfuscate and claim we don't have free will as the environment influences our behaviour! Well, yes . . when I'm thirsty I'm more likely to drink water (or ribena at least). But no one in the history of the Universe has denied our bodily needs influence our behaviour! And even here, I can ignore my urge to drink.  

Or they say that we don't have free will as our behaviour is in principle predictable. Well gosh, people will stoop down and pick up a £50 note if they see one lying on the pavement outside. So they don't have free will as their behaviour was predictable!  But why does the predictability of peoples' behaviour entail we lack free will?  They never say! I address this issue in the same essay I linked to above under the heading Free Will and Determinism.

So this initial claim we don't have free will is watered down and down until it means nothing so far as I can tell. One would have to behave randomly to satisfy their apparent definition of "free will". But then, predictably enough, they say acting randomly isn't free will either.  Little wonder they reject it.

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