Sam Harris and Free Will

Topics: Mind, Free will, Causality Pages: 4 (1086 words) Published: July 22, 2012
Sam Harris on Free Will

Convince that free will is an illusion
Worse than an illusion- a totally incoherent idea
Impossible to describe a universe in which it could be true

Two Assumptions:
Each of us was free to behave differently than we did in the past
Example: I could have chosen chocolate ice-cream but I chose vanilla We are the conscious source of our thoughts and actions
The experience of wanting to do something is in fact the proximate cause of action
Example: I feel that I want to move and then I move

Both assumptions are false

We live in a world of cause and effect
No way of thinking of cause and effect that allows the affirmation of free wills assumptions Either our wills are determined by a long chain of prior causes
And we are not responsible for them
Or they are the product of chance
And we are not responsible for them
Or they are some combination of determinism and chance
No combination allows us free will

Example: Murderer
As sickening as I might find the persons behavior, I have to admit if I were to trade places with him, atom for atom, I would be him. There is no extra part of me that could resist the impulse to victimize innocent people.

Nobody picks the life influences which shape the development of their nervous system You are no more responsible for the micro structure of your brain than you are for your height The role of luck appears decisive

Imagine the murderer was found to have a tumor in the place of the brain that would explain his impulses We would view him as a victim of biology
A brain tumor is a special case of physical events giving rise to thoughts and actions

Deeper than cause and effect
We have a subjective experience of free will which cannot be mapped onto physical reality The subjective experience is also intangible
Thoughts simply appear in consciousness --- what are you going to think next?Thoughts just emerge in consciousness- we are not their authors
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