Free Will and the Water Park

TL;DR summary: Perfectly rational thinking is deterministic and therefore not free. Random thinking is certainly not free. A muddle of both can’t be free. There is nowhere else to look, so free will is an illusion. BTW, an immaterial soul does not solve the problem. But don’t worry; we can still have fun.

Water Slide

Island Water Park

At a recent Meetup of the philosophically inclined, we discussed destiny and free will. Someone asked, “How much control do we have over our destiny?” I cheerfully answered, “Zero.” In this post, I’d like to outline why zero, and why I was still cheerful about it.

The points I will make in support of “zero,” it turns out, are explicated at length in Sam Harris’ book, Free Will, which I was destined to read during a vacation in California, shortly after the Meetup. Harris throws in a heaping measure of neuroscience to boot, but I think an argument against free stands without that.

First let’s define what we mean by free will. What most people mean, I think, is that given the choice between a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a ham sandwich, they could in theory choose either but in the end, through a conscious act of will, they choose peanut butter and jelly. The important points are

  • both choices are genuinely on offer;
  • their choice could go either way;
  • through a conscious thought process, they choose one.

With that out of the way, let’s think about thinking. We make our decisions based on two types of thinking: the rational and the irrational. 

Rationality, as it pertains to free will, involves the conscious consideration of factors to arrive at a decision. (We can also train our unconscious to be rational, through force of habit, but when most people say they have free will, they are referring to anything but habits.)

The more rational our decisions, the less free they are. A great example is a top-notch computer chess program. It plays as rationally as can be conceived, but it has no free will because at each turn it could only play one move: the one it calculated to be optimal. Perfect rationality means perfect non-freedom.

Most of us, when we play chess, do not have the patience of a computer. We sometimes move impulsively. When we follow the causal chain far enough, we’ll inevitably find some randomness mixed with rationality.

“Why did you make that move so hastily?”

“Oh, I don’t know. I had no ideas and I had to move something.”

“If you had thought for 20 more seconds, maybe an idea would have occurred to you.”

“Maybe, but I just had to move.”

“Why now? Why not 20 seconds from now? Or a minute?”

“I don’t know.”

The player may have made his impulsive move at that time because of factors that are buried in his unconscious. Maybe when he was a child his mother only gave him a count of 10 to take his first bite of peas. Maybe the Knight subconsciously reminded him of the pony he always wanted but never got. Alternatively, there could be something truly random going on. Maybe a quantum fluctuation at one of his synapses gave just the boost he needed to complete his so-called decision. In any case, the non-rational aspect of his decision was not what we call free will.

So where is free will? It is not in the rational, for rationality constrains, not liberates, our decisions. Nor is in the irrational, for unconscious or random processes, while they may be free from the constraints of rationality, are not what we mean by free will. Nor is it in a mixture of both, for a muddle of non-free mixed with non-free must still be non-free.

Some thinkers, such as biologist Ken Miller (here and in Finding Darwin’s God), argue that the randomness of quantum mechanics leaves the door open for free will to emerge. But again, randomness itself cannot be freedom and Miller does not explain why the appearance of free will that I concede does emerge is actual free will, in the face of the common-sense objections I’ve outlined above.

Stephen Barr, in Modern Physics and Ancient Faith, contends that our perceptions are internal to our brain and do not require proof. “There is a certain degree to which we must trust our experiences if we are to do any rational thinking at all, including scientific thinking,” he says on page 189. In light of the extremely counter-intuitive but proven reality of quantum mechanics, I am astonished that a physicist would say such a thing.

And by the way, introducing the notion of an immaterial soul does not help. We face the same conundrum: Does the soul make its decisions rationally or randomly? Either way, it is not free and, again, a mixture of a not-free brain and a not-free soul is even more muddled not-free.

Free will cannot be found in rationality, nor randomness, nor a muddle of both. And there is nowhere else to look. It is an illusion.

In fact, says Sam Harris, the illusion of free will is itself an illusion. If you stop to think deeply about any of your supposedly free decisions, you will realize this. Keep following the causal trail of “Why?” and you will end at “I don’t know.” Even what you thought was a free choice originates in darkness.

Does this mean that we might as well roll over and wait for death? That would be a shame, because life can be fun even if it only appears to be free.

Island Water Park

Island Water Park

I was reminded of this as my wife and I drove from San Francisco to Sequoia National Park. We passed Island Water Park, with several huge slides. Take a look at the people in the swimming pool. They are wandering around freely, but they look bored, don’t they? Other people are on the slides, careening on a fixed path toward a watery end. The fact that they have no choices does not take away from their fun in the least.

19 responses to “Free Will and the Water Park

  1. You did not address compatibilism (and neither did Sam Harris in his entire book). Ignoring that I’ll start with the first point I disagree with.

    You claim, “Perfectly rational thinking is deterministic and therefore not free.” I don’t believe this is true and you did not provide sufficient evidence to show that it is true. In fact your example, chess, works different than you think it does. There is no known deterministic way to win at chess.

    There are plenty of problem spaces where there are multiple possible successful strategies with various trade offs. Given the fact that rationality provides no motives in and of itself, different actors with different values, and/or different interests, are going to put different weights on the trade offs. They can then act rationally, and make different decisions.

    On a broader scale . I think all philosophical libertarians and all philosophical determinists are wrong because they accept the same flawed reasoning, that free choice and determinism are incompatible. This is not to claim that all compatibilists are absolutely correct on all details, or have a full understanding. It’s just that they tend to make less mistakes in this area.

    I don’t fully understand your thinking in this area because it seems to me to lead to various contradictions. I’m not sure, for instance, what you think choice means. I’m not sure why you use the word as if it has meaning when you think it doesn’t. Why use the word choice at all?

    I understand how I use the word choice, and it is perfectly sensible and rational. It fits all scientific data I know about, including those Sam Harris and you have mentioned.

    In my world view there are (more and less sophisticated) goal driven (often self interested) actors that make choices. The choices originate with the actors, and are made at the time the options are presented. The notion of the actor is instrumental to the notion of choice. The big bang did not make a decision that I would have the PB&J. The initial expansion of the universe does not fit the conception of a self interested (or goal driven) decision making system.

    Even with computers the goals are second hand and the result of self interested parties, us. So even if the computer is not acting in self interest in that case, it is acting in what was perceived to be a self interest goals by its makers.

    All these things, intention, goals, self interest, are complex concepts in my world view. Concept amenable to gradations. Choices by simpler organisms are often more simplistically self interested. A moth flying into a flame is a bad choice but is none-the-less a choice made by the moths brain.

    If I catch a moth and put it in a fire then that would not be an example of the moth making a free choice which resulted in its death. Also if a volcano erupts presenting no option to the moth other than to burn that is also not a result of any choice its brain made, and also would not be considered a free choice.

    The idea of freedom is in the context of the actor, and has no implications on whether the world is or is not deterministic. Even with a completely deterministic world the moths choice to fly into the flame is freely made by itself. Some other moth might not navigate by moonlight and therefore would not fall into a spiral flight directly to the flame. It might, to its credit in an environment full of dangerous point sources of light, choose not to use such sources for navigation. Perhaps a random mutation will result in such a moth. One that can distinguish moonlight from flame, and still utilize moonlight the way other moths do.

    Now in my view, there are different categories of choices made by such self interested goal seeking actors. Some are amenable to learning and some not. In the case of the moth it makes little sense to punish it for the choice of flying into the flame because its brain has not mechanism for correcting itself. The same cannot be said for all its actions. Some of its behaviors are amenable to learning.

    With humans many of our behaviors are amenable to learning, and people tend to associate freedom of choice with closely with such behaviors. So there is yet another sense in which a choice can be free. 1) Free means that we can attribute an consequence to a choice made by the actor (as in the moth and the flame), as opposed to being the consequence of a choice by a different actor, or an unrelated outside force 2) Free means that the actor has the ability to change its behavior in the future to act differently after feedback on the consequences or past choice.

    One can see that when the word free choice, and free will are used in common language that it is compatible with this interpretation. If I chose the peanut butter over the ham sandwich of my own free will that means that some other actor did not put undo influence on me. For instance, my mom wasn’t there to threaten me with punishment for picking PB&J.

    Of course, we do not have a rich enough vocabulary to the point where we don’t reuses words for different meanings, so we also think of picking the ham sandwich to avoid punishment, or to please someone as a “free choice” but it is obvious these are more constrained choices.

    What I sense in opponents to the notion of compatibilist free will is the idea that concepts must be absolute to have validity. To a compatibilist the notion of free will does not mean a choice is absolutely unconstrained by knowledge, sensory input, history, habit, physical law, belief, etc. All those have a role to play. In fact, without those free will is impossible. You can’t even make a choice if there are not constraints in place that makes the outcome of your action predictable from the inputs.

    • Thank you for your thoughtful response, Brian!

      Sam Harris did address compatibilism, in the chapter “Changing the Subject”. He calls it “the only philosophically respectable way to endorse free will” but objects that free will as compatibilists define it (“free from any outer or inner compulsions that would prevent [one] from acting on his desires and intentions”) is not what most people mean by free will, which is “to slip the influence of impersonal background causes”.

      So far, the compatibilists and Sam Harris would agree. Both say people’s actions are just part of the chain of cause and event. Both say that what most people vaguely mean by free will (contra-causal free will) does not exist.

      However, Harris goes on to object that compatibilists “change the subject” by stating that “our unconscious neurophysiology is just as much ‘us’ as our conscious thoughts are,” so decisions are actually made by “us,” so we are free. Harris calls this “bait and switch.”

      Daniel Dennett calls compatibilist free will “the only free will worth having” and I agree. In fact, I have more than once championed Dennett’s book, Freedom Evolves, at our Meetups. The reason I didn’t mention compatibilism in my post is that I don’t think it adds much to the discussion. (That, and my post was already too long.) Dennett and Harris are, well, compatible. They agree on what’s actually happening in our brains, but one calls it the only free will worth having and the other calls it no free will at all. Whatever.

      Chess does provide a good example of what I meant by “Perfectly rational thinking is deterministic and therefore not free.” (I happen to be a very good chess player, by the way, so I’m pretty sure chess works the way I think it does.)

      The fact that there is no known deterministic way to win at chess does not mean there *is* no such way. At one time, there was no known deterministic way to win at checkers, but now the game has been “solved.” Other than allowing more moves at every turn, how does chess differ from checkers? Both games consist of moving from node to node in a directed graph.

      My point was that *if* a single deterministic way to win were known, then there would be only one rational move at each turn. At least from a mathematical standpoint. Chess has a heavy dose of psychological warfare, but let’s keep things simple.

      You introduced the idea of different actors having different values. In a chess game there is only one ultimate value, which is to win, but different people value different styles of winning: Karvpov liked to squeeze his opponents to death; Tal liked to win with fireworks.

      Let’s incorporate your point by positing more than one deterministic way to win at chess. (Mathematically, that’s possible.) If one of them looks like fireworks, then Tal’s preference is rational. If not, then (from a purely mathematical standpoint), it is somewhat irrational. The same can be said for Karpov’s boa-constrictor style.

      I hope that clears up what I meant by “Perfectly rational thinking is deterministic and therefore not free.”

      I agree with every word of the rest of your response. Even Sam Harris would agree, but raise the objection I mentioned.

      • “However, Harris goes on to object that compatibilists “change the subject” by stating that “our unconscious neurophysiology is just as much ‘us’ as our conscious thoughts are,” so decisions are actually made by “us,” so we are free. Harris calls this “bait and switch.”

        I read his entire book. That is not addressing the point, but dismissing it. Sorry but I’m being precise about this. Many people have criticised his book for not addressing the issue. The fact is, that my unconcious thoughts are as much a part of me as my concious ones. It is not bait and switch to point out a fact. Thus his response does not address the point.

        Harris is in the position of someone trying to argue that whales don’t exist because there are people out there that insist whales are fish, have gills, etc. Dennett claims that there are whales but they are mammals, and have the attributes associated generally associated with them such as living in the sea, large size, etc. Harris keeps insisting true whales can’t exist because fish that large, having only gills, just cannot do what they are purported to do.

        It’s not like compatibilism is new to the scene. There is a long history to this train of though, and it is just as valid to consider compatibilist free will, as the non-compatiblist kinds. Harris is clearly wrong in his assumption of a duelist view of free will, and his attempt to sever the “I”, the “me”, from the unconscious processes of the brain. In that regard he shares the same flawed reasoning of some of the philosophical libertarians, and determinists.

        This leads him in some very bad directions, like his belief that it is irrational to hate evil doers, and that this hatred is solely premised on a illusion of free will.

        Hatred, as an emotion,has many valuable effects on behavior from the point of view of survival. Hatred will make you tend not to want to interact with someone, and to visit retaliatory behavior upon them. Both of which are personally and socially useful traits. From the point of view of strategy it makes little sense to cooperate with someone with a track record of cheating or worse, and having a reputaion of punishing cheaters is a good thing because is signals to other cheaters you are nit a chump. That’s just two ways in which an emotion he wishes to despense with are rational.

        Addressing some of your other points. I think you have a straw man view of rationality. Since no human knows the perfect set of moves to win at chess it is perfectly rational to work with the “hand you are dealt” which includes your limited talents at chess. Whatever skill level you have is what you have to work with. If you don’t know more advanced strategy then you have to work with simpler ones, wish will still defeat a less experienced player.

        Each of us is different (even from our past selves) and thus there is not some single rational strategy to playing chess. Even though the goal, winning, is the same the differences in talents will lead to different strategies. Also who you are playing against matters. If you know your opponent has a certain style, is a novice, etc. then you can exploit that. i used to have a move that would allow me to win against total novices in a few moves. Such a play however would put you in great danger against a pro.

  2. You arrive at an absolutist position because you treat decision making as totally formulaic. Instead, there are many tiers to decision making, including autonomic, intuitive, and conscious. (And consciousness is certainly not wholly or perhaps even mostly rational.) These systems work at different time scales and respond to experience in different ways. I too read Harris’s book and thought it failed to take this into account. You can see my remarks on the book here:


    • I do maintain that a perfectly rational decision made with perfect information is much like a computation, or, as you put it, formulaic. How would it not be? (See my reply to Brian.)

      Yes, there are many tiers to decision making, but how does that change the discussion? As I see it, the same rational/random/muddle choice exists for each tier. I also fail to see how the different time scales change the argument (as much as I loved the example of the casserole dish in your review!).

      • Thank you very much for responding.
        First let me distinguish between the arguments against free will based on physical determinism and the more recent psychological ones like those of Sam Harris.
        In physical detrminism, will itself is impossible. The universe simply unfolds in a predetermined way due to its initial state acting through the unvarying laws of physics. This is the ‘Laplacian demon’ view — that a sufficiently intelligent demon can predict everything that has happened or will happen just from knowing all the micro-facts of the initial state and the laws of physics.
        Physical determinism doesn’t just apply to human actions — it applies to everything. For example if physical determinism is true, then evolution is superfluous since the same would have happened anyway. Our DNA is predetermined and in fact all the genetic machinery is just an uninteresting intermediate stage of particles fulfilling trajectories set by the initial state of the universe. This kind of determinism implies that all order in the universe, including even this blog and all the comments to it, existed in some implicit state within the kernel of the big bang.
        Sam Harris, Galen Strawson and other modern no-free-will-ers don’t seem to subscribe to this kind of determinism. They at least allow that we each have a will, that we do have agency and do control outcomes. Their point is only that our will is not free. We act as we do, decide as we decide, due to the inexorable combined effects of our nature and our nurture. These two fully determine our actions and we are no more free to act otherwise than moths are free not to fly (and then fry) into your porch light. Let me call this psychological determinism — the idea that we act as we do because of our psychology.
        This point of view is nicely summed up in an interview with Galen Strawson, here: (Of course, I don’t agree with his analysis.)
        To assess psychological determinism, we need to understand how we decide. That is why I am interested in the different tiers of decision making. These tiers do not all work in the same way. Lower tiers are reflexive. Higher tiers are more rational, but are also rationalistic. After all, the brain evolved to help the body meet its requirements — to find it food, avoid or overcome danger, find sex, etc. And so in addition to its role of influencing our behavior, it is also acts as the press secretary finding plausible and socially acceptable rationalizations for actions dictated by bodily needs/wants.
        Thus the picture is very complex, full of feedback loops and not easily analyzed. But clearly the process is not simply rational and can’t be compared to something like a straight forward algorithmic computer program. Unfortunately our science of psychology is still very primitive and undeveloped so we can’t say anything very systematic about how all this works. Practical disciplines that are effective in motivating behavior tend to be subtle and multi-faceted, engaging multiple levels of our psyches at once — consider advertising, twelve step methods for reversing addictions, motivational programs and even religions. What I draw from these is that while the reasons for much of what we do is opaque to ourselves, nevertheless we each do have some conscious control over our behavior and can, through introspection and experience, learn, plan and mold our behavior. And so, to this extent I believe we have meaningful free will.

        • This is a little beside the point, but does anyone believe in the Laplacian Demon anymore? I thought that idea was thoroughly refuted when the genuine randomness of quantum-level events was discovered. There is no way for even Laplace’s Demon to predict the unfolding of the universe because it is partly random.

          • Brian,

            Thank you for your remarks.

            I would like to amplify on a point you made in an earlier post: “The fact is, that my unconscious thoughts are as much a part of me as my conscious ones. It is not bait and switch to point out a fact.”

            I think you really hit the nail on the head with it. In my opinion Harris and others who dismiss the unconscious are misunderstanding the decision making process. The brain works by partitioning the work load between fast reflexive processes, medium speed intuitive ones and slow conscious ones. We can not simply ignore the lower level ones. To see why, let me propose an analogy.

            When the BP oil spill occurred, Tony Hayward, the CEO, was seen as having responsibility. Now of course no one thought that he had been on the platform when the bad decisions that led to the spill were made. And in fact no one expected that he would have the expertise to have made better ones had he been there. What happened on the platform that day, form the standpoint of corporate management, was subconscious — one of the thousands of decisions are that made every day without any foreknowledge in the corporate suite.

            So how could the CEO be responsible? He is considered responsible because he it is his duty to provide the equipment and set policies and procedures that will ensure safe operation. So if we judge that the failure was due to an inadequacy in any of these, we hold him responsible even though he was not involved directly at the moment of the bad decision.

            The same is true for our free will. If we find that the non-conscious processes are producing sub-optimal results we can take steps to make changes. David Ortiz trained hard to work through his slump and restore his hitting ability. Someone with an anger problem might go to an anger management class. An unsuccessful investor might give up investing on his own and seek professional guidance, etc. These are all examples of how our conscious faculties can be applied to control outcomes of non-rational processes.


          • Brian Macker

            I agree. I think Sam is making several other errors here which all relate to an overconfidence on his part in what he understands. He actually does not have enough information to make the claims he is making. This goes both for his claims about the relationship of conscious to unconscious, and to the entire notion of “illusion” as applied to free will. He is misusing these terms in overconfident, and evocative ways. He then uses these mistakes to come to some very bad deductions and decisions.

    • I have a few more minutes, so let me say more about your casserole example. To quote it for people who have not read your review:

      “…consider picking up a casserole dish only to discover that it is hot. Ordinarily, one reflexively pulls away. If we had an fMRI trace of this process it would presumably show the subconscious realization that the dish is hot occurring prior to the conscious one.

      “But if the discovery is made while one is carrying the dish across the room, it is quite possible that one may decide to hold on to the dish until it can be put down safely even in the presence of pain and risk of injury. In other words, consciousness has a veto over reflexive actions, at least to some extent.”

      Now here’s why I think that introducing these elements of time scale and conscious veto do not change Harris’ argument. With each step across the room, you have a choice of continuing to carry the dish, or dropping it immediately and making a mess. Each reconsideration would involve the same unconscious or pre-conscious factors that your scenario is trying to minimize. Each choice is made in its own moment, and each one is different. (“I’ve now gotten 5 feet across the room. How embarrassing would it be *now* if I were to drop the dish? How much pain am I in *now*?”) So how has anything changed?

      • Larry,

        You raise a good question — why does it matter if consciousness is involved in the casserole example. Note that I do not claim that the decision-making is rational. In fact as I think it is complex with both rational and irrational features.

        The point of the casserole example was to counter what I will call the Libet hypothesis and establish that consciousness can have a role in decision making. If I can establish that, then there is at least a possibility that our conscious decisions constitute free will.

        Benjamin Libet performed a series of experiments in which subjects were asked to make simple choices while their EEG’s were monitored. Experimenters could predict their choices from the EEG, apparently before the subject himself was even aware of what the choice was. This led to the hypothesis that consciousness had no role in decision but merely reported what had been decided subconsciously. This suggests, of course, that conscious choice is illusory. I hope that my casserole example shows, at least, that conscious choice can have a role.

        I think you are quite right in suggesting that, in the course of carrying that hot casserole dish, one will reappraise the situation many times. There will certainly be some kind of dialog going on within the brain between the constituencies of the ‘drop it’ school and ‘put it down safely’ school. Right now neuroscience can’t describe the dynamics of this dialog and that is precisely my larger point. We don’t know to what extent the outcome is determined by nature/nurture (Harris says 100%) and to what extent it is influenced by what might be considered free will factors.

        Now I am aware that Harris says there can’t be any free will in the present because whatever other free will-like influences there might be must have been developed by nature or nurture sometime in the past. But that’s begging the question — in effect he is then saying there is no free will now because he is certain there was no free will in the past when a particular habit was formed or way of behaving was adopted.

        In my opinion, when we intervene in a reflexive response, when we plan how we will react to a prospective situation, or when we reappraise our habits and work to alter them, we are generally exercising free will.


    • This is a very rare occurance, Kiril, but I find little to criticize in your article. There wss no major flaw worth mentioning. Amazing for such a long article.

  3. Would you please state your definition of free will? I know you gave an example definition of what you think most people think it means, but I want to know how you define it please.

    • IMO the key question is this: Do your mental processes, conscious and unconscious, have efficacy? Can they change outcomes? If the answer is yes, we have free will.

      If that’s not the case, then how or what we decide is immaterial. On the other hand, if the answer is yes, then we can talk about how we can become effective authors of our lives. Here the literature is huge ranging from philosophies for the best way to achieve fulfillment, but including also self help books, 12 step programs, weight reduction programs, leadership training, anti-phobia treatments — you name it. They all address how we can develop ourselves psychologically to learn to want the right things and then behave so that we can best fulfill those wants.


      • Expanding on this, normal brains seem to be constructed with a default model which assumes efficacy in its own actions. We believe we have free will, and even those who deny we have free will have this sense of efficacy. The default brain model is much broader than this. We assume that other humans, and animals are also independent actors with efficacy. This pre-programmed sense of independence and the ability to effect outcomes is what the common person means by “free will”, not some spin that a cleric or philosopher puts on it.

        The question is, “Is the brain tricking you with this model, and is free will an illusion?” All models are only partial representations of reality in the first place, so we can expect some gaps. On what basis can you say this free-will model is a “trick” or “illusion”?

        Finding out that brain cells fire prior to a choice certainly can count as such a basis for criticism. The brain is not purporting to model all of its own mechanisms. I don’t know about you by my brain doesn’t present me with a accounting of every think going on in my body to the level of a nerve cell (let alone down to the molecular level).. So that fact that some chemical cascade or nerve cell firing precedes a decision and my brain doesn’t tell me about it, is no trick.

        The brain’s model of humans, animals, and other things, is at an object level. We group things in natural ways. Cells naturally group into units we call organisms that tend to act in a coordinated way as single individuals, with goals, needs, etc. They behave as actors. Our brains did not need to preprogram themselves to know that it is actually the way molecules, or nerve cells or even brains work that governs our behavior. We I talk with someone I don’t naturally think of myself as talking with another brain. I’m talking with a whole person given the default model.

        It is perfectly reasonable to model in this way because under normal circumstances (in fact all circumstances to date) we do not talk with disembodied brains. So where is the “trick”? Where is the “illusion”.

        Given the brain has a default model of an actor being the whole shebang, the whole person, then how is it an illusion to believe that I (the whole me) has made a choice when in fact I made it (and not the rabbit hopping on the grass over there). The brain has in fact modeled things correctly when it makes me believe I am the source of the choice of chocolate over vanilla ice cream when I so choose. What would be an illusion is if I thought aliens, or the rabbit were making that choice.

        Now it is possible that at some future date we may be able to implant electrodes in the brain (at the level of the nerve firings) to cause people to make forced choices. I believe that if we do it in the proper way the we would actually think we were the source of those choices. We would think they were freely made. This in fact would be an illusion, but it would be an illusion forced unnaturally upon the brain by an external actor (the scientist). A trick would be being played on it. It would be mistaken, but it would not be presenting an illusion.

        We already can do cause these kinds of illusions, and the happen accidentally too. Just because under extreme circumstances a phantom limb syndrome may occur does not mean that my brain is tricking me now when I believe I have a hand and it is typing out these words.

    • I’ve tried to answer both Joshua and Kiril in the next post, Contra-Causal Free Will. What do you think?

  4. Pingback: Contra-Causal Free Will | Path of the Beagle

  5. I’d just like to quibble with your assertion that Habits are “anything but” free will. Many of our split-second reactions to events are driven by habit and reflex, and I’d agree that those aren’t “choices” in the way that most people think of choices. But the formation of habits seems to me to indeed be an area where free will and self-determination are best expressed.

    Imagine if Al throws a punch at Bob. Bob’s first habitual/reflexive action would probably be to flinch, or panic, or lose composure in some way. But if Bob was a practiced boxer, we can assume that his habits would be different- either dodging or blocking, or at least keeping his composure. Bobs will is expressed through those habits that he has built up through his training.

    While the expression of habits can be unconscious, the formation and development of those habits is often the result of focused, conscious, will.

  6. Pingback: The Virtue of Hopelessness | Path of the Beagle

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