Monday, March 27, 2023

So you think you can Free Will?

Dido - "Life for Rent

I talk a fair amount about consciousness, mindfulness, and free will in Losing My Religions. In his book Free Will, in this talk, and in the Waking Up app (example), Sam Harris examines the issue in great detail. Given that our alleged free will is central to our sense of self (for most of us) I think it is worth spending time at least listening to that talk.

But for now, just try these exercises:

If you have free will, count backward from 60 as I inject you with the anesthetic propofol. Or stay sober on a high dose of psilocybin. Or free will yourself to stay awake the next 72 hours. 

More importantly, simply choose to be happy and content and kind every waking moment. 

If we had free will, why would we ever choose to be angry, vengeful, jealous, hateful, or Republican?

As I quote Arthur Schopenhauer at the head of my BrainsI BRAINS! chapter of Losing My Religions: 

Man can do what he wants but he cannot will what he wills.

I bring this up because I saw another smart and highly-educated individual saying he knew he had free will because he could feel it. (And hand-waving about quantum mechanics.) 

To be sure, I'm not saying that you need to realize we do not have free will to be happy. But for all the reasons I explain in Losing My Religions, I do think internalizing the basic fact that everyone is simply following their programming makes it much easier to be happy (at least happier). I also believe recognizing our true nature is a necessary step to "enlightenment." 

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