“Free will is an illusion,” Sam Harris.
Contrary to what you might think, the alleged statement has no religious or metaphysical anchor—it comes from philosophy and psychology.
Sam Harris is the author of a controversial book called Free will. He published this book in 2012, and ever since then, the book has been sending out buzzes. He has had notable contenders.
Most of them tried to use science to prove otherwise, but he also had other contenders, based on no proof at all, who found it ludicrous that our brain makes all of the decisions for us, and we have no influence over it.
Nonetheless, it is just fair to hear what Sam Harris is talking about before throwing our stones.
To make this post as simple as possible, I will try to avoid the jargon of this concept and use simple lexicons. That said, a common study has proved that we become conscious of a decision >> 10 seconds after it is made.
Hence, let’s say neurologists put you through a brain scan, and you were placed in a situation where you have to make a decision; the scientists would know that you have decided before you.
This is very disturbing because this standpoint tilts the argument greatly towards Harris’ side. It proves two things. One, we are separate from our brains. Two, our brain is really the main guy.
Yes, yes, yes, it is strange. I imagine you are cringing or creasing your eyebrows now, but before you hit the red cancel button, hear Sam Harris out. I think he intends no harm.
The implication of this ideology is weighty. Sam Harris quotes, “If the scientific community were to declare free will an illusion, it would precipitate a culture war far more belligerent than the one that has been waged on the subject of evolution.
Without free will, sinners and criminals would be nothing more than poorly calibrated clockwork, and any conception of justice that emphasised punishing them (rather than deterring, rehabilitating, or merely containing them) would appear utterly incongruous.”
Sam tried to say that integrating an illusionary free will thought would send our world to literal shambles. The world will shudder, and no school of thought would be spared except this school of thought, of course, but it has to happen.
Criminals aren’t really criminals because no one can fault them. Basically, they only saw the action take place and did it, but they did it at the command of their brains. You might want to say, “self-control or we share similar brains and we don’t kill….”
Sam Harris thinks otherwise.
He believes that this person capable of murder have their brain wired differently. He trudged on to say those who can’t kill are lucky and not self-controlled. This means some of our decisions are inherently dependent on the kind of brain we have rather than who we are.
Nonetheless, Sam Harris didn’t ignore the influence of the physical environment around us. The things we read, see, genetics, parenting shape the kind of brain we have. That said, criminals might be unlucky people found in unlucky places. And there might be more profound things to explore than we think.
“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.”—From his book.
Indeed, Sam Harris didn’t even try to sugarcoat his theory or make it easy to swallow. He gave us the raw, bitter meal. How early childhood parenting and books we read unconsciously change our brain and, in turn, changes the way we act—but the one acting in the actual sense is our brain.
Our brain is a physical system. The changes in its material structure and functional state dictate how we think and act.
Stop and try to imagine what takes place in coming up with all of the decisions you make. Stop to think of what it would mean to be in complete control. Just because you choose to do what you want, say eat bread instead of rice, doesn’t mean you have free will. It simply means you want it.
So choosing this or that is not determined by you. Instead, it is what it is. You have no absolute power over your wants. If you decide to clear out your house of sugar to reduce your sugar intake, it still doesn’t change the fact that you want it. It has been hardwired in your brain.
“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.”
No doubt, it is a lot to take in. Sam Harris came for the kill if you ask me. However rigid it might seem, Sam believes it is not as hard as we think. We can learn to live with it, and the quicker we grasp that, the better.
Nonetheless, this topic is far beyond this scrawny article. More articles would come, with more people like and not like Sam Harris butting their opinions at us, and we, the close to clueless masses, left to wonder who might be right. Till next time, here is a thing to consider: