“Free Will Is An Illusion.”

“Free Will Is An Illusion.”

Sit quietly. Take in a deep breath. Pause. Exhale while counting to eight. And meditate on these five words.

“Free will is an illusion.”

Do you have the power to radically accept that free will is an illusion? The majority of us believe they have free will. 

I have returned to FREE WILL, Sam Harris’ impressive little book.

The first time around, almost two years ago, while reading Harris’ book it caused me to sit up and pay attention. I questioned everything in my world. What’s the point of working so hard at personal growth when you know your nature and how without free will would it ever bring about deeply needed change? It becomes desperately futile.

This second time around, its effect as profound as the first time; however, noticing the results of the recent changes I’ve created in my life has shown me the effort required to grow is the difference. Shedding your old skin, die-hard habits and beliefs, are each a feat in their own right. Radical acceptance has turned into a dear friend. I’ve learned the value of letting go, accepting the way others need to lead their lives; if they are struggling that’s their journey. I’m not here to fix anyone, guide and help those that ask, of course. The only person I can “fix” is myself. And that starts with understanding all I need to reach my “life worth living goals”.

The most vital lesson to me is how some things require more effort than others. And is it worth it? Also, I may not succeed the first or second time and then something clicks and EUREKA! As though the stars and the planets have aligned…

As Daniel C. Dennett reflects on Free Will “…If you are one of the many who have been brainwashed into believing that you have—or rather, are—an (immortal, immaterial) soul who makes all your decisions independently of the causes impinging on your material body and especially your brain, then this is the book for you. Or, if you have dismissed dualism but think that what you are is a conscious (but material) ego, a witness that inhabits a nook in your brain and chooses, independently of external causation, all your voluntary acts, again, this book is for you. It is a fine “antidote,” as Paul Bloom says, to this incoherent and socially malignant illusion…”

Harris writes… “We do not have the freedom we think we have… Either our wills are determined by prior causes and we are not responsible for them. Or they are the product of chance and we are not responsible for them.”

“The intention to do one thing and not another does not originate in consciousness. Rather it appears in consciousness. As does any thought or impulse that might impose it.”

“The problem for compatibilism runs deeper, however––for where is the freedom in wanting what one wants without any internal conflict whatsoever? Where is the freedom in being perfectly satisfied?”

“Consider what it would actually take to have free will. You would need to be aware of all the factors that determine your thoughts and actions, and you would need to be in complete control of these factors.”

“We know that determinism in every sense relevant to human behavior is true. Unconscious neural events determine our thoughts and actions, and are themselves determined by prior causes of which we are subjectively unaware.”

“You can change your life and yourself through effort and discipline. But you have whatever capacity you have for effort and discipline is what you have at this moment. And not a scintilla more. Or less.”

“Not only are we not as free as we think we are, we do not feel as free as we think we do… Thoughts and intentions simply arise in our mind. What else could they do?”

“A puppet is free as long as he loves his strings.”

“Losing a belief in free will has not made me fatalistic—in fact, it has increased my feelings of freedom. My hopes, fears, and neuroses seem less personal and indelible. There is no telling how much I might change in the future. Just as one wouldn’t draw a lasting conclusion about oneself on the basis of a brief experience of indigestion, one needn’t do so on the basis of how one has thought or behaved for vast stretches of time in the past. A creative change of inputs to the system—learning new skills, forming new relationships, adopting new habits of attention—may radically transform one’s life.”

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