What is free-will? Do we have it? Of course many people admit to losing free-will in various aspects of their life. This comes down to the nature vs. nurture debate. What if we could solve the question of free will with an understanding of some of the basic sciences, and an open mind.
First, a couple of simple questions must be answered:
- Do you believe in magic? By magic I simply mean forces that occur outside of nature and it’s laws. Things that supersede the natural. Not believing in magic is not claiming to have solved the answers to the universe, but is simply saying that you believe all things inside of the universe fall under certain rules or laws that have an explanation. With this understanding, we are able to posit that all things (matter) act according to the laws of nature. Next we will see how this understanding can be applied to our free will.
- Where do thoughts and decisions come from? Simple. The brain, consciousness, our id, ego, and super-ego. Any of those answers will suffice.
- Is our brain made up of matter? Yes. Our brain and its components however complex they may be, adhere to the same laws of nature that a baseball thrown into the air does (e.g. gravity, trajectory, inertia, etc.). So, if our brain is made up of matter and all matter follows laws (even if they are unknown) then where is there room left for free-will? There isn’t any. This is the point in debate where people generally are scratching their heads. The response I get is one of the following:
- *taps on table* “See, I chose to do that!”
- “Sure, maybe ideas are presented to me at a sub-concious level, but ultimately I make the choice as to which idea/decision I follow.”
I’ve come to the conclusion that these arguments are faulty. First, if you are the “tap on the table” kind of person, you must ask yourself why you tapped on the table to prove your point. Why didn’t you instead stomp your foot? Or snap your fingers? All actions have a cause/motivating factor. You were presented with an argument (external stimulus), your brain interpreted the argument to the best of it’s abilities (intelligence also being a factor you can’t determine, but I’ll hit that topic a bit later), and using you’re best logic you came to the conclusion that the appropriate course of action was to tap on the table.. WHERE did this decision come from? All of these neurophysiological changes are happening so quickly that the “decision” simply arises into consciousness. Next lets tackle the argument that in the face of a question your are simply presented with options, and in the end you ultimately get to choose. The first step in proving the faultiness of this argument is to define what “you” is. You say that “you” ultimately pick, but what makes up “you?” Assuming you do not believe in the supernatural (even if you did you would not obtain the free-will we are speaking of) then what makes up “you” is simply matter. Neurons firing, sub-atomic particles flying around, constant stimulus from the outside world, etc. All of what makes up “you” (being the decision maker) cannot escape the laws of nature. The only way that “you” could actually make a decision without being influenced 100% by the laws of nature is to exist outside of nature.
I am just diving in to the topic of free-will and do not claim to be an expert in any sense. BUT if you would like to study further into the subject of “no free will” (also known as Determinism) I advise that you watch this video of author and neuroscientist Sam Harris.