Jan 182016

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.

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'Trick Slattery

'Trick Slattery is the author of Breaking the Free Will Illusion for the Betterment of Humankind. He's an author, philosopher, artist, content creator, and entrepreneur. He has loved and immersed himself in philosophy since he was teenager. It is his first and strongest passion. Throughout the years he has built a philosophy based on analytic logic and critical thinking. Some of the topics he is most interested in are of a controversial variety, but his passion for the topics and their importance drives him to want to express these ideas to others. His other passions include pen and ink line art and digital artwork.

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  5 Responses to “Freedom from Free Will”

Comments (5)
  1. I’ve had the same experience of feeling more free without free will belief. Freedom from blame is a freedom “worth wanting”.

  2. Hi ‘Trick. I learnt circa four years ago that free will doesn’t exist; although I’d been suspicious that it probably didn’t exist for decades prior to that. From my early childhood onwards, I was indoctrinated with New Age stuff [I’m too polite to say the correct word on your website], e.g, if you don’t learn to forgive then you will suffer long-term illness. When I later developed an incurable illness, I was endlessly reminded that it was caused by my failure to accept their New Age doctrines, which were founded upon the just-world hypothesis: always blame and shame the victim.

    You wrote: “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?” I shall leave you and the readers to imagine the incredible sense of relief and freedom that I felt. It enabled me to openly and honestly discuss my health issues with medical experts, who have since provided me with a wonderful set of evidence-based coping strategies. The core principle that underpins them is: Always ask for evidence!

    So, I’m compelled to ask the believers in free will: What and where is the peer-reviewed independently-replicated empirical evidence to support the notion that free will actually exists? And no less important is my next question: What are the competing hypotheses that attempt to explain how the human brain neurologically manifests free will? Thankfully, I’ve finally learnt the value of applying Hitchens’s razor to opinions and conjecture: What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.

    In the absence of robust empirical evidence to support the commonly held strong belief in free will, we can use 21st Century logic-based epistemology to debate the topic. In my opinion, ‘Trick is an expert in this very important method of adding to the vast library of verifiable scientific knowledge.

    Perhaps I’m wrong, but my interpretation of the empirical evidence collected thus far, on the subject of free will, is not simply lacking sufficient strength to form a scientific consensus; it provides strong evidence against the commonly held belief in free will. However, those who do not understand how the brain manifests the totally convincing agent/actor whom we all refer to as “me, myself, I” are very unlikely to be able to understand the empirical evidence that refutes the concept of free will. No disrespect intended to anyone, nobody would or should ever expect the vast majority of people to properly understand the intricate millisecond-scale timing diagrams of neurological-based organisms.

    Thank you very much for inspiring me to write about some of my thoughts and experiences relating to this important topic,

    • Thank you for this Pete! Unlike most people, you understand that there is a burden of proof, whether that be scientific or logical proof, on the person who claims free will exists. And not only is that burden entirely unmet, but it has mounds of evidence against it.

      And just an FYI, I had a very long phase of new age belief as a child so I know exactly what you are referring to.

      As always I appreciate the content you bring to the topic and hope others read your comment.


  3. Much freer to accept myself, i.e., my predilictions, foibles, personalilty, interests, etc. that with heritability make up in some complex cocktail that shapes my actions and decisions.

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