That’s right, I’m creating a much needed holiday. Today, August 31st, is officially “Semantic Shift Day“!
It’s the day where we change the definitions of words around for everything that doesn’t exist so that we can officially, only for one day a year, say it does exist!
People often associate the idea of brain implants / microchips with some dystopia where some evil overlord controls the masses by implanting chips in their brain to take over the world with an army of people who are controlled by this mastermind. They fear any hardware that might control, to any degree, the thoughts and feelings of a person. They may even use the term “free will” here,suggesting that such an implant would take away someone’s “free will”.
At first this fear seems reasonable (with the exception of the use of the term “free will” here). No-one wants to be controlled by some psychopath to do hideous things “against their will”. And indeed, if it comes to pass that brain implants can take over a person’s “control” entirely, we need to have some real safeguards in place.
The problem, however, is when we take a technology that can be extremely helpful, and slippery slope it down to some worst case scenarios, and based on those scenarios we reject the idea altogether. This, I think, is a mistake that could be most unfortunate.
* NOTE:The ‘No Free Will Mind Training’ (NFWMT) articles do NOT make the case against free will, nor is that their intention. This training is only for those who already understand free will does not exist and who want their psychology, feelings, thoughts, and actions to align with this understanding due to the various benefits. The use of the term “free will” for these training articles are always using this definition: FREE WILL, not a compatibilist definition (used to evade). If you don’t know why such free will doesn’t exists or what it means that it does not, please pick up a copy of Breaking the Free Will Illusion for the Betterment of Humankind and/or read some of the other articles on this website first, as this training is jumping the gun.
Here is a current list of No Free Will Mind Training articles (I’ve just started):
Also, be sure to bookmark here: breakingthefreewillillusion.com/category/nfw-mind-training/
This NFWMT article will be about some very basic techniques you can use to remember and bring to the forefront of consciousness the understanding that there is no free will. Please make sure to read the introduction if you haven’t already. This post will focus on how to use physical reminders as well as the use of writing to re-enforce the “no free will” understanding and ability to remember at key times.
Straw-man fallacies are interesting because they are almost always intentional, though sometimes they can be unintentional. I tend to think, when a compatibilist (a person who thinks free will is compatible with determinism) uses a straw-man fallacy, that most of the time they don’t do them intentionally – or at least I give the compatibilist the benefit of the doubt. Rather, I think it often comes from a profound misunderstanding or assumption of the free will skeptics position.
So you have concluded that there is no free will (in the sense defined here), but you still seem to behave the same as you did when you believed in such free will. In fact, you find yourself reverting to behaviors that don’t make a whole lot of sense when viewed from the understanding ’bout the lack of free will.
If a dangerous contagious disease that we don’t yet have a cure for starts to find its way into the population, we have to quarantine people who have it. But why do we do this? The answer is simple, it prevents the ability for the disease to spread. But what if a person with the contagious disease doesn’t want to be quarantined? Would quarantining them be something we shouldn’t then do? Should we just let them spread the disease they have as much as they want? Of course not.
There is no evidence for free will (as defined here), just as there is no evidence for leprechauns. Indeed, there is just as much burden of proof required for the claim that such free will exists as there is for the claim that leprechauns exist. We could technically just default to this burden and say that the onus is on the free will believer to prove the existence of free will, just as the onus would be on the person who claims leprechauns, fairies, or unicorns exists, Elvis faked his death, teapots are orbiting planets in distant galaxies, or any other claim that requires more evidence than “I say so”.
Some compatibilists think that so long as we can make decisions to “do what we want” that such decisions are sufficient to label as “free will”. They don’t, however, understand the implications of such thinking. Take a look at this excerpt from my book Breaking the Free Will Illusion for the Betterment of Humankind:
Some compatibilists have a different idea of what’s meant by the word “freedom.” They may say that if a person’s thoughts dictate the event (are the antecedent causes of the event), it’s free, but if the person’s thought does not control the event, it’s not free.
For example, they may say that if a person is stuck in a rainstorm and there’s no shelter available, they are not free to decide to stay dry. But if someone is under shelter during a rainstorm, they are free to step out from the shelter and get wet (or not) because they can make the conscious decision to do so.