One thing is for certain Sam Harris definitely isn’t a believer in free will. Instead he believes in a more deterministic view of reality and humanity. The conditions we are born into both psychological, economically, culturally and family-ily decide who we are and what we do.
While none of this is new to me, the part that I found the most interesting what how this idea permeates into the world of thoughts. I always thought my thoughts were uniquely my own, my little battleground of craziness that only I was privy to. I was the author of whatever was going on in my brain but Sam presents an argument that says that isn’t the case.
Here are one main point of the book:
Our sense of own freedom results from our not paying close enough attention to what it is like to be us. Our decisions and thoughts randomly appear in consciousness and we are not the authors of them
Free Will By Mr. Harris
Below you will find a collection of random notes categorized in various sections.
True Basis of Thought
- Thousands and intentions image from background causes which we are mostly unaware of and to which we mostly have no conscious control over. The key here is conscious as most of them arrive unconsciously.
- 🌟Our unconscious neuropsychology is as much a part of us as our conscious thoughts are. To ignore the former is to have an incomplete view of the world
- One of the best things that came out of the existentialist movement was that we are able to interpret and reinterpret the meaning of our lives. We can actively shape the narrative as we wish and as it suits us.
- Either our wills are the product of prior causes and we are not responsible OR they are the product of chance and we are not responsible for them. Stuck between a rock and a hard place
- 🌟IMPORTANT – The intention to do something does not originate in consciousness, it isn’t slowly formed. Rather it just POPS into existence. Suddenly… “I want to XYZ”.
- Thought Experiment – If free will were real you’d need to be conscious aware of the tens of thousands of factors that determine your thoughts and actions and you would need to have complete control of these. This would be a storm of factors and influences stretching forever… Free
- Will is instead beside understood as a highly advanced heuristic machine that makes decisions for us
- The idea of free will merges as a felt experience. Your decisions which are mostly casual become the basis for free will
- The real question – are you free to do that which doesn’t occur to you? Can you pick the movie that didn’t appear in your mind? I think not
- The Movie Test – think of 3 movies and see which ones come to mind. Did you have a chance to actively select between the thousands of movies you know about or do they randomly just start to pop into your head. If the latter, then where is the free will?
- 🌟 What we generally consider Free Will is the feeling of what it’s like to identify with certain mental states as they arise in consciousness
- Post Hoc Reasons – We may have reasons why things happened after they did but they are nothing more than descriptions of events you did not control. It’s our attempt to rationalize and understand the world
- When making decisions we over look the intangible and unseen factors (unconscious neural networks activating various things, thoughts that pop into existence and genetic stuff) and instead focus on choices as that’s the easiest way to categorize behaviour.
- 🌟 Benjamin Libet famously showed EGG can detect activity in motor cortex 300ms before a person decides they want to move.Findings like this are difficult to reconcile with the sense that we are the conscious authors of our own actions. How can it be possible?
- We just don’t know what the hell we want to do until the intention rises itself. It just sort of pops into our heads and then we adopt it Harris states that losing his sense of what his free will is all about has actually improved his ethics and understanding of the world mostly by diminishing his sense of entitlement to the fruits of his own good luck. Much of what you attribute to free will is just a result of good fortune and luck.
- 🌟 Losing that sense of free will has made his hopes, fears, weird neuroses and other anxieties seem a lot less personal. They just randomly appear in consciousness.