Friday, 27 April 2018

There is no free will


Free will is an illusion. The illusion itself is the foundation of our society, and the foundation which allows us to carry on as individuals. Society is founded upon the presupposition that we have free will, and even goes out of its way to defend that; acknowledging, for example, situations in which our actions are not under our control, be it influenced chemically through some form of intoxication, or a more general mental disorder, giving rise to leniency when laws are broken under these situations. Maybe a punishment is less severe. Maybe insanity is pleaded, leading to incarceration in a mental institution.
This underlying presumption of free will is the bedrock of what you could call the overall aim of civilisation: to thrive. To thrive, we need laws and societal constructs to guide our actions. To control us. Evolving over time, these have, and still are, morphed into more and more ideal conditions under which to thrive (in general, and heinous acts notwithstanding). Without this presupposition, there could be no responsibility, and no repercussions for actions. Where situations like this have evolved in the past, anarchy has eventually resolved itself back into order. We can take this macro example and apply it to ourselves. Being a Materialist, I therefore lean towards Determinism. Determinism is problematic because it would mean that we are ultimately not responsible for our own actions, yet it is a necessary component of society that we are, and so this innate illusion, self-imposed, of free will, has evolved in us too. Everything has causal reason, from the physical elements of our bodily functions; the need to breathe and eat and sleep: to the traits we develop that govern our actions. Our likes and dislikes, and so forth. There is a biological impetus that pushes us forward; it’s more obviously seen and felt with physical manifestations of hunger and sex drive, but it can also be something small we pick up on the way, such as a liking for a particular song, perhaps something we associate with a positive feeling in childhood, leading to a liking for a particular genre of music, which we listen to because we enjoy it. Is this free will? What music we like? Strictly speaking, no. But we treat it as if it were, because that is how you go on living. Just like society, in a self-imposed delusion. Even now, if this is true and here I am, completely aware of this, has it affected what I’m writing? Will it affect what I do next? Will I implode? No. So does it really matter if we think we have free will or not?

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