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I’d be interested in generating some conversation in the comments here. Let’s imagine the truth of the myth of libertarian free will, for the sake of argument (though I have outlined this many times in a lot of my writing).

What do you think the advantages and disadvantages are of showing this idea (that we could choose otherwise in any given situation, and that we can “outdo”, in some way, causality) as false?

I was speaking to a friend on email and he sent me this response.

I asked:

So, question. If you could sum up the benefit of throwing off the shackles of free will, as a concept, in society, what would they be as a set of bullet points?

He responded: 

I’ll take a stab at it.

While our perception that we can do as we will is correct, it is also correct that why we do what we will is caused by our biological selves interacting through time with a blizzard of experiences, neither of which was under the control of our will.

Understanding that has the following benefits as they now occur to me, it:

·        explains all human conduct

·        poses an immense challenge to — and provides the best means to — overcoming the overwhelming power of emotional responses with reason

·        deflates our wholly unwarranted love for ourselves

·        demolishes our grounds for hating, disliking or feeling superior to other persons as opposed to their behavior and deeds

·        does not excuse all from being held responsible for what they do because society must and will protect itself

  • requires us to realize that real change can only happen by changing our biology and/or our experiences from praise to prison, however possible or impossible that may be

·        makes us realize that ‘there but for sheer luck go I’ when contemplating the worst of us and also exactly the same as when contemplating the best of us

·        IF truly understood — and employed to discipline our commanding negative emotions — it could serve as the strongest conceivable basis for universal brotherhood, understanding and peace

What do you think?

free willl

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Jonathan MS Pearce

A TIPPLING PHILOSOPHER Jonathan MS Pearce is a philosopher, author, columnist, and public speaker with an interest in writing about almost anything, from skepticism to science, politics, and morality,...