May 132015

10-benefits-of-no-free-willIn this article I want to focus, in the general sense, on 10 of the many benefits of not believing in free will as defined here, if one understands the reasons behind why it doesn’t exist and what such implies. You’ll notice that many of the below benefits interconnect with each other.

So here we go…

10 Benefits of NOT Believing in Free Will

* * * * * * * * * *

1)  Good Critical Thinking Skills Are More Likely

The belief in free will is logically incoherent, meaning logically impossible for the two ways events can “possibly” come about (causally/acausally). Holding to a logically incoherent belief often means that one’s critical thinking skills are poorly calibrated. And if such is poorly calibrated, this leads to not only poor thinking about the topic of free will, but also many other topics as well. If one understands the rational reasons why free will doesn’t exist, that often says something positive about their ability to think critically and not from a biased perspective. Critical thinking skills are not only helpful in our day to day lives, but also in our capacity to better the world.

2) Not Believing in Untrue Things is Helpful

Holding to a false belief such as free will means that one will base other thoughts off of that false belief. For the most part basing things off of what actually is the case tends to be more reliable and helpful in the real world. If I were to truly believe that giving people a tablespoon of battery acid (to drink ) will cure them of the common cold, that misinformation is harmful to how I’d act around  a situation in which I had battery acid and someone had a cold. The closer to reality our information actually is, the more useful it’ll be for such reality. Beliefs, after all, have consequences!

3) Other Important Topics Become Corrected

If we don’t believe in free will, that understanding ties into some extremely important topics such as ethics, policy, economics, justice, religion, how we think about ourselves and others, and many other topics that affect us and the world we live in. If we hold to an incorrect belief that free will exists, numerous topics have an incorrect understanding as a base level structure. This causes more problems than not in the form of bad thinking, poor laws and policy, and so on. To fix these problems, we need to start by not having faulty premises (such as “free will exists”), and make adjustments to these other topics around our new understandings.

4) A Better Perspective on Causality

Understanding that the decisions people make are directed by long, interweaving lines of causality means that one understands how things influence such decisions. This understanding means that rather than blame a person for making the decision they do, we are more likely to look for environmental or genetic conditions that lead to such thinking and doing. When we do this, we look for realistic causal solutions to prevent problematic future decisions, rather than wagging fingers and simply thinking “tsk tsk, they should have done otherwise” as we throw our hand up in the air.

5) Feeling More Interconnected

Once we recognize that our conscious thoughts and experiences are part of interwoven causal lines that lead to all of the external events and people we have interacted with, we understand that we are indeed connected in very important ways. This means that those variables we are connected to influence us, and we influence them. From this we recognize in which ways we are influenced and can influence, and how working together with others is more of a way of extending ourselves to the connections we have. The understanding that our causality isn’t contained but rather extends outward often drives a stronger sense of being interconnected with others and the universe we are part of.

6) Blame Removal1-1-blame_on_shoulders-300DPI

Once we recognize that someone couldn’t have done otherwise, we tend to remove the notion of blame in any strong sense ofthe word. At best words such as “blame” and “responsibility” after the fact become superficial words used only for the sake of utility in order to correct for future action. No person is truly blameworthy if they couldn’t have, of their own accord, done otherwise.

This means we can remove a whole lot of unnecessary blame that we place on our own shoulders, and instead become more forward thinkers in the sense of realizing we couldn’t have done, of our own accord, otherwise at that point, but we don’t have to necessarily repeat past mistakes if we causally learn from them. We can remove the blame from people that do things we don’t like in the world, and rather look for causal solutions while understanding they didn’t have the causal variables to be different. This lead to…

7) More Compassion

When we understand that people are the way they are through such causal mechanisms, such tends to lead to a more compassionate response. Even when we need to incarcerate or create negative deterrence to prevent crime, we’ll tend to be compassionate about the criminals circumstances (which also prevents us from overuse of negative deterrence).

These things can always be traced back to the persons environment and their genetics (a combination of both), both of which they had no real say in.

8) Inequality and Unfairness are No Longer Justified Through “Deserve”

One consequence of understanding that we don’t have free will is the recognition that one is not more or less deserving than another. This makes any justifications of inequality and unfairness rationally unjustified, as entitlement and deserve go hand and hand.

The concept of one being more or less deserving of something than another justifies that one’s well-being be placed above another. Without free will, that idea of being more or less deserving needs to be dropped, as the state someone is in at any given point isn’t something that could have, of their own accord, been different. Once such “deserve” is dropped, so does the ability to justify inequality and unfairness based on that notion.

For more info on this read here:

9) Less Egoism

With the lack of free will comes the removal that we are these contained “selves”. Rather, we are a product of many forces that produce us and continually bombard us. We recognize that we aren’t the means that produce “ourselves”, and that we shouldn’t take credit for such. We can’t look down on another who, if we were them atom for atom, in the same time, space, and environment,  we’d do exactly as they have (and if they were us – they’d do exactly as we have).  This leads to a loss of egoism and egotism.

Egoism and egotism leads to many problems in the world, including the above idea that one is more or less deserving than another. Such leads to arrogance, selfishness, greed, and a sense of entitlement to whatever one wants.

10) Anger Becomes Irrational

When we realize a person couldn’t have, of their own accord, done otherwise, the anger we have for them becomes irrational. At best it becomes removed, at worst anger still lingers but one recognizes it as not being very rational, and somewhere in the middle it turns to frustration (rather than anger) of the fact that such was a causal output. Emotions like anger and hatred take a hit on being rationally justified, where as emotions like love are “unscathed”.

After all, how much sense does it make to be angry at a person if they couldn’t have, of their own accord, done something different? Being able to blame the person is the main thing that justifies being able to be angry at them.

Of course if one does become angry, one didn’t have the free will not to be. But if they understand that free will is an illusion, a causal recognition that such anger doesn’t make a whole lot of sense often takes place.

* * * * * * * * * *

Notice in the beginning of this article I said these 10 items were benefits “if one understands the reasons behind why free will doesn’t exist and what such implies”. If, on the other hand, one doesn’t understand the reasons why and what it implies, but still think free will doesn’t exist, many of these benefits become wasted. This is because many of these not only rely on the understanding that we lack free will, but also on having the appropriate understandings that surrounds such (the why and what that “why” implies).

If, on the other hand, someone incorrectly thinks we lack free will due to fatalistic notions or due to everything being “random” and out of our control in that type of way, these are truly poor ideas surrounding the understanding that we don’t have free will. And if someone believed in free will yet has a temporarily imposed disbelief due to some quick information, without actually being educated on the topic, these poor notions tend to come to the forefront. Keep in mind that negative behaviors that come about through misunderstandings of why we don’t have free will (and wrong ideas about what it means to not have it) are not arguments against educating people that we don’t have free will. Rather, they are arguments regarding how we need to go about doing so.

If we do so haphazardly, we’ll get poor results based on misunderstandings and misinformation. This is no different with anything new. Handing someone a live chainsaw who has never used or even seen one before might not give the best result unless you explain to them how to use it first. Indeed, a finger may even wind up on the ground. It seems educating them on where their hand might go is something you don’t want to leave out of the details.

If we inform people they don’t have free will by giving people a more complete story (the details), they won’t tend to fall into the misinformation trap as easily. They won’t hold on to the wrong end of the no free will chainsaw, so-to-speak.

Read here about the wrong ways to tell people they don’t have free will:

This is why I write articles and have written a book on our lack of free will, so people don’t fall into the traps on wrong-heading thinking about the topic. And with the correct understanding of why we don’t have free will and what such does and doesn’t mean, all of the benefits above come to light and more. And if you think about how those benefits apply to the world around us in just about every way, you’d see that the world would be a very different place if the majority of people had this understanding about free will’s non-existence.

In other words, the idea that things wouldn’t be any different if people understood that we don’t have free will is another display of wrong-headed thinking. Rather, the understanding would change our world for the better in the most radical of ways imaginable!

* As a further note, such benefits may not be experienced immediately. Sometimes it takes a while for a lifetime that has built a “free will psychology” to convert over to the new way of thinking. Many people will fall back into old habits, though eventually this new way will take hold and one’s psychology will adjust.

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'Trick Slattery

'Trick Slattery is the author of Breaking the Free Will Illusion for the Betterment of Humankind. He's an author, philosopher, artist, content creator, and entrepreneur. He has loved and immersed himself in philosophy since he was teenager. It is his first and strongest passion. Throughout the years he has built a philosophy based on analytic logic and critical thinking. Some of the topics he is most interested in are of a controversial variety, but his passion for the topics and their importance drives him to want to express these ideas to others. His other passions include pen and ink line art and digital artwork.

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  15 Responses to “10 Benefits of Not Believing in Free Will”

Comments (15)
  1. It’s too bad that you don’t take time to study truly Orthodox Christianity. I’m not talking Russian or Greek Orthodox, but Reformed Theology.
    Each one of the 10 reasons listed are totally compatible with what you have written, although the source of all origin is God.
    Since I cannot go into too much detail, I can say that in conjunction with what you’ve written, Reformed Theology levels the playing field, which means that no one is better or more ahead of anyone else. Taking “blame” as an example, what I feel guilty about may or may not be true, but forgiveness is found it the Creator who took that guilt upon Himself, leaving me to live a life of gratitude to him. Unlike other religions where one must “do” something, one finds it was already done for myself 2000 years ago just out of His mercy.

    • Interesting that these are compatible with a certain religious understanding. That being said I prefer to keep things on a secular level for the discussion for various reasons (e.g. I’m not a believer in a creator). That being said, no matter if someone believes in a creator or not, this lack of free will understanding still follows…and many of the thoughts that go along with it. There is a distinction between fatalism and determinism, however, that is important. Later good sir. :-)

      • I am not speaking of fatalilsm, but objective truth that was lost a long time ago. I am perfectly at ease with your not believing in a creator, because unless the Creator does a supernatural work in one’s life, there is no chance in believing. Hence, we have total agreement in the fact that “free will” is a total illusion at best. I did not consciencely make a choice to lose most of my friends and stop all I was enjoying when I saw myself in a different light. It was an outside force (As you may relate to) that pulled me into a newness of life, which paradoxally agrees with most of what you espouse. I respect your right to keep this secular in discussion, but you will never begin to know how much you have in common with a form of Christianity that is trying to hold off the “dumbing down of the Church along with society in general. When I was dragged into the Kingdom I was looking for another football game to watch, when I heard what is necessary for repentance, and that was the Gospel. The correct gospel. Gospel is used from everything from music to movies, but unless one knows the true gospel your path is already predetermined.
        May I respectfully add, that the Apostle Paul, a hater of Christians himself once said “But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks (Gentiles) foolishness; But unto them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For you see in your calling, brethren how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called: But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God as chosen the ewak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.” (1 Corinthians chaper one: vvs. 23-27)
        I will stop since this is your wish and I heartily respect you for your fight against much of what I too fight against in the American Church. Most “Christians” in this Country believe that their faith is determined by their “decision for Christ” and not what the Bible says. The Bible says we are born dead spiritually and unless God has determined (before the world was created) that you are to be saved from eternal death, then no “decision” on your part can change that. There is no such thing as “decisional redemption”. Yes we decide to follow Christ, but not out of anything that we have done, but strictly by His mercy. This is so no one can boast that they are more righteous than anyone else. Hence you have probably heard in your past from some well meaning Christian that unless you believe like me you will perish forever, but that’s not the “Good News of Christ.”
        And so I defer to you my friend. If you are ever curious or ever want to be backed from what is objective and not subjective truth, let me know. Good day!

        • Thanks Steven. I’m glad that even if we can be so far away from each other on the topic of religion or theism, that we can share the understanding that there is no free will. What makes the ability to share this something great is that we can both have compassion and understandings for the causal variables that have lead to our positions. You don’t blame me for my skepticism of god and religious thought, and I don’t blame you for your belief in such. What this means is that we each have arrived at where we are, what we think, and how we feel, because we each had different upbringings, experiences, and paths that have created diverging differences in thought, yet we still arrived at similar conclusions on this topic even if our methodologies and epistemological standards are probably opposing. And though I don’t believe in the supernatural, or miracles, or non-physical ideas, or even Jesus in any religious sense (I believe there may have been a man named Jesus)… it is a sort of amazing feat for two people so different, to share the lack of belief in free will, and due to that one fact alone, be so understanding of the others position even when they are in such great opposition for these other beliefs. This is one of the reason’s the understanding that there is no free will is so important. It removed so much disdain and contempt people have for those that do not believe the same way, and replaces it with understanding, compassion, a willingness to look for common ground, and a willingness to look for the causes. That, indeed, is a great feat in itself.

          Have a great day,

          • ‘Trick,

            It seems like Mr. Pitkin holds the view that there is no freewill because there is a God that is in control of everything that happens. Whereas, non-freewillists make the claim because of the impossibility of free will, being that it is logically incoherent. Which means, even if there is a god(s), it too has no freewill, which I guess is where Mr. Pitkin’s non-freewill belief would diverge from non-freewillism position.

          • Although two of the poles of Christianity namely Calvinism and Arminianism hold that either God or man is in control, the third pole of the triangle holds that neither is in control. Love cannot act otherwise and although it is almighty, it is still a limited resource.

      • I am interested in your delineation between ‘fatalism’ and ‘determinism’.

  2. Though I waste my breath (or keystrokes), I assert that there is NO WAY OF KNOWING (apart from a priori belief) whether anyone “could have acted differently” then s/he did. Your belief in strict determinism (as an alternative to absolute acausality) is your (determined?) choice: so be it.
    The prospect of being blamed (and punished) for one’s actions surely plays a significant role in maintaining social stability and peace.
    Your insistence on a philosophically naive (read ignorant or stupid) version of “free will” is a transparently deliberate “red herring” (or straw man).
    You do not, and cannot, know to what degree human choices are, in themselves, causal. Unpredictability is equivalent to freedom of choice.

    • Hi Paul,

      Words such as “though I waste my breath (or keystrokes)” are unnecessary. I welcome your thoughts on the topic as long as any discussion holds a modicum of respect in light of disagreement. If you truly think you are wasting your breath, perhaps you could use a little of that free will to restrain yourself from such? 😉

      That being said, on to your criticisms:

      “I assert that there is NO WAY OF KNOWING (apart from a priori belief) whether anyone “could have acted differently” then s/he did.”

      Am I to assume you think all knowledge must be a posteriori? That, for example, we can’t know (beyond any reasonable doubt) that colorless pink square circles do not exist (as we cannot view every part of the universe for such a thing)?

      “Your belief in strict determinism (as an alternative to absolute acausality) is your (determined?) choice: so be it.”

      Determinism is the idea that every event has a cause. I do not assert such, I’m agnostic on determinism / indeterminism. Indeterminism is the idea that some events do not have a cause. I’m a hard incompatibilist, not a hard determinist – meaning free will is incompatible with both possibilities.

      “The prospect of being blamed (and punished) for one’s actions surely plays a significant role in maintaining social stability and peace.”

      We do not require blameworthiness to have deterrence or incarceration. For example:

      Quarantine Analogy and Free Will Skepticism

      “Your insistence on a philosophically naive (read ignorant or stupid) version of “free will” is a transparently deliberate “red herring” (or straw man).”

      My insistence is backed up and not a red herring/straw man. It’s actually the other way around. Compatibilist (re)definitions of free will are the red herring, and many of my posts explain why. Here are just a few:

      Redefining “Free Will” is Like Redefining “Geocentric” – Except Worse

      Free Will Intuitions: Fred and Barney Case Study – InfoGraphic

      Common Intuitions about Free Will (and how it needs to be defined)

      Dennett’s “Free Will” vs a Free Will Not Worth Wanting

      “You do not, and cannot, know to what degree human choices are, in themselves, causal.”

      If there is an acausal element in human choice, a human would have no “choice” in those events coming about and affecting them the way they do (those events could never be willed events). Again, I’m a hard incompatibilist, not a hard determinist. I address both causal and acausal events fully. You are straw man-ing my own position as I never said that all events are “causal”.

      Why I’m a Hard Incompatibilist, Not a Hard Determinist.

      “Unpredictability is equivalent to freedom of choice.”

      The fact that you think “unpredictability is equivalent to freedom of choice” means that I’m not only using the correct semantic of free will, but you believe in the very “naive” notion of free will I’m referring. Whether something is “predictable” or not is irrelevant to the question, and irrelevant to the topics of concern:

      Unpredictable Future ≠ Freely Willed Future

      But seriously, it’s all good and I hope your day is going well.

      Later good sir.

  3. Hi. Thanks for this awesome stuff! I totally agree.

    Could I perhaps ask whether you believe in life after death? Or is this another topic?

    • Hi Carl, thanks for the visit. Glad you agree. :-)

      Life after death is another topic. I often avoid topics of religion or afterlife on this site (unless making a point about the free will topic) as they make no difference for why there is no free will (free will is logically incompatible regardless of these things)…and I don’t want those who lean toward these things to be turned away from the “no free will” reasoning.

      That being said, I personally do not believe in an afterlife for various reasons. I don’t think there is proper evidence to support that idea, and a lot of evidence that supports the thesis that consciousness is a product of specific brain states which, once gone, do not continue to exist in some other medium (whether supernatural or a separate quantum state, etc).

      Consciousness – An Output of Brain States

      Though I’m a naturalist / physicalist in this way, and don’t believe in an afterlife – I do want to stress that an afterlife or something supernatural could not provide the free will of concern for this blog.

      Later good sir. :-)

      • I agree that dualism won’t result in free will. I’m also a naturalist, but I think there’s enough phenomena that point to nature providing for the afterlife in some form so we can experience more of it. It would be pretty spiteful otherwise, leaving us with a limited time syndrome. Sorry for the diversion, but I think it’s important.

        • I’m also a naturalist, but I think there’s enough phenomena that point to nature providing for the afterlife in some form so we can experience more of it.

          Unfortunately, I see no real evidence for this and what seems like evidence against it. For example, if we damage our brain, we also damage our “consciousness” or “who we are”. Indeed we can even have a loss of memory or become an entirely different person. In split-brain patients they often acquire two different personalities with different beliefs, for example, there was a case of a split-brain patient in which one “side” was an atheist and the other a theist. We also can turn off consciousness via anesthesia or other brain interactions. It seems our consciousness is tied to very specific brain configurations that, once gone, would almost certainly cease to exist.

          I think this does leave us with a “limited time syndrome”….so hope we can make the best use of that time while we are here. Perhaps, in the near future, some trans-consciousness effort will come about that will extend lives greatly. 😉

          • I agree that consciousness is also linked our current realm (density level to be more scientific), but there is a realm in which the “physical” lasts much longer. In the Bermuda triangle during the Second World War a whole squadron of fighter planes disappeared although radio contact was still maintained for a while after they disappeared. In the Philadelphia experiment a ship disappeared during radiation and when reappearing, some marines were gone and some had body parts fused to the ship.

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