Free Will

After reading Adam Grant’s “Think Again,” I decided it was time to read about a topic that disagrees with my beliefs. 

There are always two sides to every viewpoint, right?

Sam Harris took me on a mind trip in “Free Will.” His central premise is that free will is an illusion. This is based on the ideas that either:

  1. Previous causes determine our wills, Or
  2. Our wills are the product of chance 

He says that in either of the above instances, we are not responsible for them. He further states that it is false to believe that we are the conscious source of most of our thoughts and actions in the present moment. 

For example, choosing to do one thing over the other does not originate in consciousness; it appears in our consciousness. Where does it appear from? Moments before we make a decision, the brain has already determined what we will do. We are only becoming conscious of this decision, not in the process of making it. Essentially, we cannot decide what we will think or do next until the thought or intention arises from somewhere else.

This is the mystery. Where is the “somewhere else?” The universe?

He does not focus on answering this question but continues to assert that we do not know what we intend to do until the intention arises. Therefore, we are not the authors of our thoughts and actions. If this is true, then free will is an illusion. 

If we do have free will, we would know all of the factors that determine our thoughts and actions. Additionally, we would have control over such factors. 

Instead, the choices that we make come from prior causes that we did not bring into being. 

This leads to the idea that we are no more responsible for the next thing we think and do than we are for being born into this world. 

Sam Harris provides some really compelling examples to demonstrate his theory that free will is an illusion. I have been considering this theory since I read the book. So, if nothing else, he has accomplished helping me to at least reconsider my beliefs.

The idea of “Free Will” is a pretty provocative topic; I would love to hear others’ thoughts on the subject. Please drop a comment below! And thank you so much for exercising your free will and reading my blog today!

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