• Valentina Poletti

Of course free will is an illusion

Recently an article was published(*), about a research study that supported the idea that free will may be an illusion. To me it is surprising that we need scientific evidence do demonstrate something that seems so logical. If you don't see what I mean, please follow my argument. Is free will an illusion? To show logically that it is, I will proceed with a contradiction. Let's start by assuming that it is not. Therefore, according to the definition of free will, it means that we, humans, must be able to somehow make choices. This begs the question as to what we mean by "we", and in the individual case "I" in the proposition "I can make choices". What or who is making the choices, in other words. "I" here refers to some kind of self, something ascribed to the individual, some sort of self-definition or perhaps consciousness. Let's suppose that such a thing indeed is making the choices, whatever it is. This thing then must somehow be affecting or manipulating our brains, thus our thoughts, movements and behaviors in order to make decisions. But how would it go around doing that? There are two possibilities.

One possibility, is that it is a component of the brain, that affects our neural system, and thus our thoughts, movements, behaviors. In this case this particular component, as any other part of our brain or our body, obeys physical, chemical and biological scientific laws, and thus its dynamics are determined by such laws. Weather they are perfectly determined or to some degree random is a matter of discussion, which depends on your view of quantum versus classical physics. However it is determined by physical laws nonetheless. Thus physical laws are actually determining the choices, which in turn affect the rest of our brain and body, and therefore free will is an illusion.

The second possibility is that the entity making the choices is some kind of spiritual, or non physical thing. However, if it is non-physical, how could it interact with our physical brain in order to modify its neural processes such as thoughts, movements, behavior? Since everything physical obeys physical laws, it must be the case that if something affects physical things, it must be physical itself, otherwise it would violate physical laws. Thus we are back in the first explanation, and again free will is an illusion. (*) http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/free-will-could-all-be-an-illusion-scientists-suggest-after-study-that-shows-choice-could-just-be-a7008181.html

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