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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Free Will Does Not Exist. So What?

By Paul Bloom
The Chronicle of Higher Education
Originally posted March 18, 2012

Here is an excerpt:

This is what many call free will, and most scientists and philosophers agree that it is an illusion. Our actions are in fact literally predestined, determined by the laws of physics, the state of the universe, long before we were born, and, perhaps, by random events at the quantum level. We chose none of this, and so free will does not exist.

I agree with the consensus, but it's not the big news that many of my colleagues seem to think it is. For one thing, it isn't news at all. Determinism has been part of Philosophy 101 for quite a while now, and arguments against free will were around centuries before we knew anything about genes or neurons. It's long been a concern in theology; Moses Maimonides, in the 1100s, phrased the problem in terms of divine omniscience: If God already knows what you will do, how could you be free to choose?

More important, it's not clear what difference it makes.

The entire article is here.
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