Oct 152014


Time and time again people express to me their feeling that if determinism is true and the “future is inevitable” due to this, that everything is “pointless”.  That for some reason us being able to freely will a change in the future implies some sort of meaningfulness that an entirely causal universe doesn’t have.

This, however, is what is called a “non-sequitur” in philosophical terms. That means the conclusion (e.g. “everything is pointless”) doesn’t follow from the premises (e.g. the universe is deterministic, the future state is a causally inevitable, etc.).

Just because the universe is deterministic, doesn’t mean that what we do is futile. In this earlier infographic I stressed the differences between fatalism and determinism. Both fatalism and determinism are incompatible with free will, but only one has a reasoned foundation. And only one is “futile” (meaning what we think, say, or do is pointless). In the infographic I made this comparison at the end:


This distinction is extremely important. And it doesn’t just apply to “calling the doctor” but rather to the point of everything we think, say, and do…and how such actions causally lead to future outcomes. Rather than being “pointless”, our actions are very “pointed”. They are just causally pointed, which of course makes sense considering the absurdity of “uncaused pointedness”.

I’d also like to list a few common non-sequiturs (conclusions that don’t follow from determinism): Continue reading »

Oct 092014

Nope - We still believe in free will!

Recently a post came out titled “Belief in Free Will Not Threatened by Neuroscience”, first appearing on the British Psychological Society’s Research Digest blog, and then in Wired Magazine, written by Christian Jarrett.  Needless to say this article really does quite a job obfuscating and confusing the real “neuroscientific” case made by Sam Harris and others.

In it, and I quote directly from Wired Magazine online:

A key finding from neuroscience research over the last few decades is that non-conscious preparatory brain activity appears to precede the subjective feeling of making a decision. Some neuroscientists, like Sam Harris, have argued that this shows our sense of free will is an illusion, and that lay people would realize this too if they were given a vivid demonstration of the implications of the science (see below). Books have even started to appear with titles like My Brain Made Me Do It: The Rise of Neuroscience and the Threat to Moral Responsibility by Eliezer J. Sternberg.

However, in a new paper, Eddy Nahmias, Jason Shepard and Shane Reuter counter such claims. They believe that Harris and others (who they dub “willusionists”) make several unfounded assumptions about the basis of most people’s sense of free will. (bold my emphasis)

What on Earth? Sorry, Harris’s primary neuroscientific argument concludes that  “free will is an illusion” – not that our “sense of free will is an illusion”. Yes, he goes on to say that even the illusion of free will is an illusion. But Harris uses an entirely introspective argument for this, such being that, in his words, “our sense of our own freedom results from our not paying close attention to what it is like to be us” which he elaborates on.

And I simply don’t know where he is getting that Harris or anyone else ever made this claim: “and lay people would realize this too if they were given a vivid demonstration of the implications of the science”. My challenge here is to have the person who has written this article directly quote Harris saying or suggesting such a thing. It is possible that I’ve missed it, so a quote would be nice. Also, even if they did realize it, that doesn’t imply they would drop the belief in free will based on that realization. Something Jarrett seems to be suggesting is being said as well.

In other words, Jarrett is conflating entirely different things: Continue reading »

Oct 012014

I’ve been seeing the confusion between two different “no free will” positions crop up a lot recently – Determinism and Fatalism. Needless to say these aren’t the same thing. I created this InfoGraphic as a helpful tool to help crystallize the crux of the differences between these two lines of thought.  If you find it helpful please share, spread around, or add it to your own site with a link back. Thanks – ‘Trick Slattery

DETERMINISM-VS-FATALISM-infographic If you liked this InfoGraphic and found it useful, please download and share it on your website (please link back to the original), on social media, email, etc. There is also a Dutch version here: Determinisme vs. Fatalisme InfoGraphic (DUTCH) Continue reading »

Sep 052014

Some people ask why free will doesn’t exist. They often don’t even know the very basics to these questions (or where to look to find answers). Point them to this InfoGraphic so they can get a quick visual snapshot (and then hopefully they will look into the matter more). Feel free to download and share this InfoGraphic (please do not alter it) on any website , social media, and so on. And please educate people in this important topic!

Why there is NO FREE WILL - InfoGraphic

Above is the official “basics” to why free will doesn’t exist. Of course the basics don’t entail all of the details, but such is a “snapshot” for why free will doesn’t exist to give newbies to the topic a “jumpstart”. It gives a quick overview of the definition of free will that is of importance, and why such ability is impossible. It explains that such is logically incompatible for both determinism and indeterminism, and the parts of the ability that are problematic. It also gives a brief summary of those huge topics that the belief in free will embeds itself into.

I give anyone permission to download, use, and share this InfoGraphic in it’s unaltered state. I’d appreciate a link back to this page or website if at all possible.

If you haven’t ordered your copy of Breaking the Free Will Illusion for the Betterment of Humankind, do so today! It’s in Kindle and paperback versions. And if you like what’s in it (which I think you will), I’d be grateful for a review on Amazon.com.



Aug 202014

Free Will Illusion Fairy

Naturalism is the belief that nothing exists outside of the natural world.  Many people denote that if naturalism is true (which I believe is the case) that the laws that govern the universe are what make everything happen. That everything which happens in the universe is a physical play out through time. And that means everything single thing, including our conscious thought and decision-making. That these happenings aren’t some magical exceptions to the physics of the universe. In such a natural universe, things such as “free will” just don’t make sense. If our decisions are tied to the physical processes of the universe, then we only have a say in them in so far as the physical processes output what we will say about them. In other words, what we think, feel, say, and do are all an output of how the universe is playing out (both large scale and small scale processes).

And even if we accept that some events don’t have a cause (e.g. certain interpretations of quantum mechanics), those un-caused events are just part of the physical process that we still have no control over.

Though I agree with such analysis for various reasons, I think the incoherence of free will has a much wider reach. In other words, we don’t have to accept a naturalistic worldview to understand that free will doesn’t make any sense what-so-ever.

We just need to understand that an event (something “happening”) must either have a cause (be an output of something that already exists), or not have a cause (just happen – not the output of anything in existence). These are the only two possibilities for events. Not just “naturalistic” events, but any event. A so-called “supernatural” event simply can’t escape this dichotomy. Continue reading »

Jul 112014


A confusion that often arises in the free will debate is on the usage of the word “responsibility”. It seems there are multiple ways in which this word can be used.

For example, we might say: “since free will is an illusion,  the person that does action X isn’t responsible for such an action”.

But what exactly are we saying here? The problem with such a generalized statement is with the ambiguity of the word “responsibility”. It simply has different meanings, and only one applies to the sense of that sentence.

Someone could say that the person does X therefore the person is what is responsible for X. This is similar to saying the hurricane is responsible for tearing apart that house’s roof.  It’s just a way of pinpointing the “thing” that caused the roof to be torn apart. We could also say that the hurricane is “to blame” for the roof being destroyed. But there are multiple ways in which the word “blame” is used as well.

This definition is very different from what the responsibility word surrounding the free will debate is about. Continue reading »

Jun 102014

What do you mean I don’t deserve what I’ve worked hard for!

I mean you don’t deserve it any more than anyone else.

I worked hard for it. Of course I deserve it.

One doesn’t follow from the other.

Of course it does. Someone who didn’t work for it wouldn’t  deserve it. I did work for it!

They couldn’t have, of their own accord, worked for it, and you couldn’t have not worked for it.

Why couldn’t they have? And why couldn’t I have not?

Because causal events have led them and you to the only possibility. And if there did happen to be another possibility due to non-causal events, those would be entirely out of  theirs and your control anyway. There is no free will.

Fine, let’s assume that’s the case. So?

So basically you are saying that you deserve X quality of life because you worked hard for it, while another person doesn’t deserve X quality of life, because they did not work hard for it (they deserve Y, not X). X being a better quality of life than Y.

You better believe it. I put my hard work, sweat, and time into obtaining X quality of life. If they had as well, they’d deserve X quality of life as well.

But again, they couldn’t have and you couldn’t have not.

Fine, then they couldn’t have X and I couldn’t not have X as well.

That doesn’t mean you deserve X over them. It just means that you have X and they don’t.

What, do you think – I should give them half of X even though they didn’t work for it?

I didn’t say that.

It’s implied in saying I don’t deserve X over them.

No, it’s implied that you don’t deserve X over them, not that you should give them half of X.

Wouldn’t it be unfair for me not to give them half of X if they deserved it just as much as I do? Continue reading »