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.
The irony is a feeling of freedom from a change to a lack of belief in free will. If you believe in free will, you might have a difficult time with accepting that one who thinks they are entirely constrained by their biological and environmental variables in such a way that free will is impossible can feel “more free” that their prior state. This skepticism is understandable. But I’ve had the experience and I know of a whole lot of other free will skeptics that have informed me of the same.
I think it has much to do with loosening various constraints that free will belief imposes on a person’s psychology. Free will belief often shackles one in the constraints of guilt, blame of self and others, and not being able to let go of the past. Free will skepticism frees us to forgive our-self and others in ways we had difficulty doing under free will belief. In fact the word “forgive isn’t even correct. We simply have compassion over our own and other people’s unfortunate variables.
Free will belief places shackles on how we see the world, and once those shackles are removed, the feeling of freedom is a breath of fresh air. It’s like we have been working in a mine shaft with a heavy ball attached to our leg, and someone frees us to finally see the light of day for the first time.
And each day as we learn more about what it means not to have free will, the more we shed a little of that psychological weight that prior free will belief has implanted. It is this enlightening experience that comes from the removal of something holding us down that makes us feel more free than when we thought we possessed free will.
But, of course, I have not polled every free will skeptic on this. This is anecdotal based on my own experience and a number of others I’ve been in contact with. So I will ask those who once believed in free will but no longer do – do you feel more or less free than when you believed in free will? Is there a sense of freedom that you didn’t have when stuck in a free will mentality?
Disclaimer: This short post should be considered more of an anecdotal opinion piece that represents my own and a few others experience. People will have their own experiences based on their specific psychology, so I in no way claim that everyone who loses a belief in free will will experience similarly – only that this irony seems to happen often. This is important as many posts on this blog show a more logical case, while a few such as this are more anecdotal, and I think it’s important as a philosopher to distinguish between these two types of posts.