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You do not choose what you choose

Many readers continue to find my position on free will bewildering. Most of the criticism I’ve received consists of some combination of the following claims:

  1. Your account assumes that mental events are, at bottom, physical events. But if the mind is distinct from the brain (to any degree), this would allow for freedom of will.

  2. You admit that mental events—like choices, efforts, intentions, reasoning, etc—cause certain of our actions. But such mental states presuppose free will for their very existence. Your position is self-contradictory: Either we are free to think and behave as we will, or there is no such thing as choice, effort, intention, reasoning, etc.

  3. Even if my thoughts and actions are the product of unconscious causes, they are still my thoughts and actions. Anything that my brain does or chooses, whether consciously or not, is something that I have done or chosen. The fact that I cannot always be subjectively aware of the causes of my actions does not negate free will.

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TAGGED: PHILOSOPHY, SAM HARRIS


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