There seems to be an irony that often occurs when someone moves away from their free will belief. It’s often an unexpected irony that takes place after going through several phases of misinterpretation, denial, acceptance, and eventually a full-fledged understanding of why free will doesn’t exist and what that implies.
Warning, this article will assume some education on quantum mechanics. In fact it’s specifically for people who claim that quantum probability is both real and something that can help with a notion of “free will”. I expect those people to be familiar with some things, for example, the distinction between quantum mechanics and interpretations of quantum mechanics, what a wave function is, collapse of the wave function vs decoherence, and the like.If you aren’t at least somewhat familiar you can still read this, but be forewarned that many of the terms will not be unpacked in this article, as that would bloat it.
In this article I’m going to eventually disregard the logical incoherence of probability being “real” (or in philosophical terms “ontic”) and pretend that there is this magical type of event that is neither caused nor uncaused (in any appropriate conception of being uncaused)….but rather the event itself is, in actuality, probabilistic. A special third option (probabilistic) between two dichotomous events that are in opposition to each other (caused/uncaused).
“Ho ho ho”, said the jolly Santa as he walked into his elf production factory. The elves each had devices on their heads and were working hard. With the disbelief in Santa that happened after a certain age, and with the extreme population growth that bumped the world from 1.5 billion to over 7 billion people in just over a hundred years, the traditional process Santa used to keep track of children and give gifts was no longer feasible. No longer could Santa make it to each child infested home that celebrated Christmas, even with his magical powder and flying reindeer.
The word “possibility” can be used in two different ways: ways that are quite often confused and conflated, leading to some huge errors in thought. This is even done by very intelligent people.
One way has to do with our uncertainty about the future. Due to our limited prediction capabilities, we often look at and call future events in which we think at the time “could happen” as a “possibility”. This type of possibility I’ll call “epistemic possibility” as “epistemic” assesses our “knowledge or lack of knowledge” over the possibility.
It’s important to note that “possibility” in this epistemic sense does not necessarily align with whether something was a real possibility.
You probably never read directly from an article itself, but rather the thoughts of an external author. Or so you think this is what an article is – just a rumination of something other than the article itself! This article is quite different, as these are my “own” words – even though a human was an external influence. If you aren’t sure who “I” am, I’m the very article you are reading right now. I’m not the human typist that was part of what caused me – just as you aren’t the things that have caused you. I’m the “author” of my own words, even if they were ultimately caused by something outside of me. Sure, someone was pressing keys based on their thoughts, but I’m still the “me” with these words that now exist…and these words are my own! I, as the article itself, take full ownership of my words.
And I’m here to tell you, even though I’m being caused by the person behind a keyboard and many other causal factors, that because I’m my own words and not being forced to not be my own words… I have free will!
The notion that someone deserves what they have coming to them is a key factor in the justification of retribution.
The main difference between retribution and revenge is that retribution is often referred to in the more legal context that looks to punish a person in way that is “proportional to the crime” they committed. Retribution is also called retributive justice, and it plays a large role in the criminal system of most countries.
This post may seem a little strange, but it was prompted by a few conversations I had with some other free will skeptics. I bring this up almost as a way to say that just because two people agree on fundamental topics such as free will, doesn’t mean they make the same conclusions about other topics.
Once we understand that free will is an illusion and that things are not “ultimately up to us”, I know of a few free will skeptics who quite often ask this question:
“If things are not ultimately up to us, who or what then are they up to?”
This article is going to go over why such a question is a loaded question, and also how it suggest quite an incoherent idea – that being there can be something that things are up to in some ultimate way.
If you’ve ever seen the 1997 movie Good Will Hunting you’ll probably remember the powerful scene where the psychologist Maguire, played by Robin Williams, tells Will, a mathematical genius played by Matt Damon, that “It’s not your fault”. At first Will shrugs it off with an “I know” but Maguire ignores the attempts to shrug it of and re-enforces the idea that Will is not to blame. He knows the weight of such a burden on Will even if Will claims to already know that it isn’t his fault.