In 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
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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.
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.
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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.