Free Will is an Illusion

Image by jplenio from Pixabay

Simply put: there is no such thing as free will. Everything we have done and everything we will do has and always will be out of our control. Our behavior is determined by our cognition and our cognition is determined by a combination of nature and nurture and we have a say in neither.

On natures end: Either through holy matrimony, a hazy Saturday night or somewhere in between, it can be safe to assume that your parents were not given the opportunity to individually select which sperm cell would attach to the ovary. It can also be safe to assume that you were never consulted to be born. Which means you had absolutely no say in the biological aspect of your development.

On nurtures end: Alongside not having any say of being born in the first place, you also had no say in the environment you grew up in. At least for the formative years of your life your parents had the sole discretion on where you lived and had somewhat control on what you did. Therefore any subsequent decision you make in your life, if not already tainted by your biology, will be largely affected by your previous environment.

Why this matters

Internalizing the notion that free will is an illusion creates empathy and an increased willing to learn about other people’s perspectives. No longer can you hold the assumption that other’s who oppose your worldview are wrong rather — if you were them, you would think and do the exact same thing.

If you adopt this framework the vast majority of your petty squabbles would dissipate. For the bigger differences, the understanding you gain from this framework will enable you to look at things from their point of view. In doing this both parties would be able to strive for more mutually beneficial compromises.

Why this doesn’t matter

One common complaint of people who reject the notion that free will is an illusion state that “If we choose nothing, what’s the point of living?” Although this is a legitimate worry, reality doesn’t care. You can hold out and live in disbelief but that doesn’t stop nature from doing it thang.

But, the reason why knowing that free will is an illusion doesn’t matter is that; as far as modern science has brought us today there is no way to predict the outcome of your life. Even with the advancements of the research on the human genome and DNA sequencing, we are still fairly inaccurate with determining people’s outcomes. If you now add environmental factors while throwing in the concept of the mind and how that relates to both nature and nurture, it doesn’t look to likely that a preemptive prediction on ones life is coming anytime soon or if it’s even possible to do so.

I think this analogy will serve will in recapitulating my point;

Life is a ball. When you’re born you begin rolling down the hill of your destiny. Some would say that you have the ability to kick this ball, always having the possibility to alter your life but they would be wrong. Life is a ball and we are life which in turn makes us the ball. We are the ones rolling down the hill. And since we are the ball we have no possible foresight in seeing how the rest of the journey is expected to go. The only thing we have is what is immediately in our vicinity and the path we previously have taken, but even the past becomes a distant memory getting further and further away as time passes. When you’re going down the hill of your destiny, you will inevitably hit bumps, there will inevitably be divots and impediments that will alter your path down this hill, all which you don’t choose to go over, but went over anyway. This hill may not be straightforward either, it could twist, it could turn. Either way, you continue down this hill, until you can’t, until you won’t. When will that be? Who knows.




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