Today, I came across the above video from Sam Harris on the subject of free will. Personally, although I thoroughly enjoyed hearing the argument for determinism so eloquently put, I do not buy the idea that we don’t have free will.
What I do think is that when you are seeking absolute proof for something – anything at all – you are simply not going to get it and, furthermore, that basic truth says something about the nature of our reality. So, although I will briefly present a simple argument for why I believe determinists are wrong, I fully recognise that, just as there are answers to Sam’s argument, there are answers to mine too. As they say, you have to pay your money and take your choice.
Here’s Why I Believe we Do have Free Will …
As you know, I prefer simple arguments; they are not only easily understood, they are easily challenged too. Would that more academics bought into that idea – write shorter books; be concise; speak plainly – you know (inwardly at least) it makes sense.
To my argument …
If you held a bar of white chocolate in one hand and a bar of the normal stuff in your other hand and asked me to choose between them. Provided everything else was equal, I would always choose the normal chocolate. The reason is simple enough to understand – I don’t like white chocolate.
Given a straight choice, and completely conceding the fact that I don’t know why I don’t like white chocolate and furthermore, I have no understanding of what cause and effect relationships brought me to this point, I would always choose the normal bar.
Later today, when I go into town, about my business, I intend to purchase a bar of white chocolate and eat it. This is something I would normally never do. But I am going to do it anyway, for one simple reason, to demonstrate to myself that I do genuinely have a free choice about whether to do so or not. This will be a genuine act of my own free will.
See, I told you it was a simple argument.
Determinists would say that even my decision (already made) about what I am going to do later today was a product of past influences. Had I not come across the above video, then I would not have made this choice. Therefore even the decision to do something that I would normally never do is actually a product of past experience and that all of our so-called choices are illusions.
What I hope my argument shows is that the problem with what determinists say is that it cannot be tested.
Even if I – at this very minute – decide to reverse my earlier decision and intention to buy a bar of white chocolate later today, the repost would be that somewhere in writing this post, the necessary conditions arose which caused me to reverse my decision.
Intuitively, the above tells me that determinsim is bunk!