Jun 142015

we-don-have-to-act-like-free-will-existsI’ve heard time and time again from people who claim that “even if there is no free will, we still need to act like it exists”. This is a way to bypass the mounds of behavioral adjustments and changes in beliefs that truly do need to take place with the understanding that free will doesn’t exist.

Things just aren’t as simple as asserting we need to act like it exists. There is a whole lot of nuance to the understanding that we don’t have free will. To behave like it exists is to behave in a way that is not in accord with reality, and such has great consequences.

Imagine if I said to you “even if eating at McDonald’s every day is unhealthy, we still need to act like it’s not”. You’d immediately ask why we need to act like it’s not, and you’d probably be concerned over the health consequences of the person and whomever they are feeding. The fact of the matter is, the consequences that “acting like we have free will” has is far more insidious than acting like McDonald’s is healthy food.

I think what people really mean when they say “even if there is no free will, we still need to act like it exists” is that we still need to assess between options, and we still need to choose between those options. Though this most certainly is the case, we don’t need to do so by fooling ourselves that each of those options are actually viable options, or fool ourselves into thinking we could have, of our own accord, chosen otherwise.

I make choices all the time but am under no illusion that such are free choices. I don’t require the fallacious thinking that if I choose a glass of apple juice, that I could have chosen grape juice instead. Even if I deliberated for two minutes between the different beverages, I don’t need to believe that I could have, of my own accord, deliberated differently or chosen differently. Such is just an unnecessary extension that comes from the feeling that all options were viable.

It may be the case that evolutionarily such a feeling and perhaps even intuitive belief was a survival benefit. If so, this is no longer  the case as our rational thinking truly can replace a whole lot of intuitive feelings without any danger of dying. More than this, for us to progress we truly need to trump excess irrational “feelings” with factual understandings about ourselves and the world around us.

Though the intuitive feeling of free will may have provided a helpful survival mechanism when we were on a less rational evolutionary plane, it did so at an expense, and today that expense still exists. Currently almost the entirety of humanity is driven by psychological forces that place blame, deserve, and large portions of inequality into the world. If everyone recognized that free will was a fiction and understood the reasons why and what it meant, a whole lot would change. There would be a whole lot more compassion for the unlucky variables that people had, and there would be a lot less placing ourselves on pedestals above others. In fact, the whole notion of being “more or less” deserving than another person would immediately take a huge hit.

I whole lot of anger in the world stems from this idea that people are to blame – that they could have and should have done otherwise. A whole lot of inequality in the world stems from this idea that people deserve their lower status in life because they could have done something to improve it, or they deserve their better life status because they were the one’s that brought it about rather than the causal variables they were fortunate enough to have.

Read here for just 10 out of many of the benefits of not believing in free will:

The belief in free will encompasses our everyday thoughts, feelings, and actions, and it does so while causing great harms in the world.

So when someone says “even if there is no free will, we still need to act like it exists” I can honestly say I have no clue what they are talking about. If there is no free will (which there isn’t) and if we know about such (which if you don’t grab a copy of Breaking the Free Will Illusion), we most certainly need to adjust the way we act in light of this information. The belief in free will isn’t benign, and neither is “acting like we still have it”.

Rather, the belief in free will is deeply rooted in a number of topics such as ethics, economics, justice, religion, and various other social and political topics. The belief in free will also plays in integral role in our own psychology, playing into how we feel, think, and act. Indeed, with the understanding that we don’t have free will, and with the understanding of what such means, eventually comes a psychological shift. How we think about ourselves and others truly needs to adjust with this new-found understanding.

The fact of the matter is, if everyone had the understanding, and if everyone knew the rational reasons for it, and were educated on what such means, the world would be a very different place, one in which I’d argue would be ultimately better. So should people still “act like free will exists even if it doesn’t”? Hell no, quite the opposite actually.

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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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  13 Responses to “We Don’t Have to Act Like Free Will Exists”

Comments (13)
  1. I totally agree with what you are saying; the truth will eventually come out. How can I help with this?

    • The more you are versed in the topic, the more you can explain the view to others. Getting the word out, though an uphill battle, is a worthy challenge. Thanks for stopping by David.

      • Thanks, I’ve noticed when I talk about this subject to people they seem to be rather resistant to this non-idea.

  2. I don’t have any clue how to act as if I have a free will. That would be like pretending I have no reason for what I am doing.

  3. why should i bother reading ur article if there’s no free will ? why u are writing on this blog if there’s no free will ? you can’t change anything…

  4. Hello,

    I would like to know what you think of this: How can I adapt to the fact that I live surrounded by humans who haven’t realized that free will is an illusion? I mean, should I spread the word (and face probable confrontation, denial etc.)? It seems to me that most people are just not fit to this understanding… how can I get as much as possible from the fact that I am aware? I have a problem with people not understanding and how to cope with it, I think :)



    • Hi, thanks for the visit Yves-Georges Gagnon Nault. I’m an advocate of (carefully) educating people on the topic, but this is an uphill battle and in the meantime, we simply have to understand that people are indoctrinated with free will beliefs and attitudes from day one, and that change may need to be more of a slow, generational process. The information era has just begun. 😉

      • Right! Thanks for your answer Trick.

        However I am still confused as to determining what strategy to adopt to face society… I don’t feel like educating people (at least not now) because I am not ready yet, but I don’t feel like taking advantage of society with this knowledge… or is there even a way to do that?

        • When I say strategy, I mean what attitude can I adopt to get the most of it without “hurting” myself to others and be at peace with the whole thing?

          • Some of the main attituded to try to adopt are: Less blame (self and other) and more understanding and compassion over causal variables. Less feeling of (anyone or yourself) being more or less deserving than another leading to greater concern over equality. Less egoism and more interconnectedness. Any retributive feelings for things done should be replaced with just a future looking consequence concern.

        • I’d suggest the best place to start is thoroughly understanding what it means (and just as important – what it does not mean) if you and others have no free will…and also go over some of the benefits:
          10 Benefits of Not Believing in Free Will

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