Denying Free Will … The Ideological Consequences

3 Mar

Denying Free Will:  The Ideological Consequences of Embracing Ethical Determinism and Authoritarian Controls in Society

Sam Harris touches on the free will question again in a new book:  Free Will.  I’m not nearly as concerned about this philosophically as other people are or for its intellectual ramifications.

Nevertheless, humanists and secularists of all stripes should be heeding the issue on grounds of its social and political implications relating to the idea of human freedom.  If it’s taken for granted that we don’t have “free will” in a kind of an amen to authoritarian values and oligarchical power structures in society, thereby blessing attempts to strip people of their political and social liberties, then that can’t be endorsed.

We in the secular humanist community should, then, be quite cautious about nay-saying free will or at least our power to freely engage in it or express it as a function of who we are . As free-thinkers, and advocates for secular-style freethought, we cannot enshrine the drive to authoritarian power in society.  Our commitment to Freethinking demands we distance ourselves from this kind of an argument even as we debate the merits of free action and freely made choices in the context of human experience.

That said I’m not too worried about Harris’ points here.  It’s not going to ‘break the bank’ to discover Free Will in a metaphysical or spiritual sense is off the mark.  That I think can be reconciled with the ethics of freedom and the theory of freedom-as-discourse.  But what can’t be is a sanctioning of the philosophy of ethical determinism or control.  If we’re denying Free Will to justify some kind of totalitarianism, even if it’s apparently based on science, then the gig’s up.  In that instance, free will denialism is as troublesome and self-defeating as critics would claim.

Denying free will on ideological grounds or for ideological reasons (and with an oligarchical motive in mind for people in society), at least, is a farce.  Better in that case to embrace our power to freely act and speak out in the world.  For only in doing that can we fend off the excesses of the authoritarian impulse.  The dogma of Authority is unreasonable.  But in openly speaking Reason to it, we free ourselves from its hold on us and the hold it has on our minds.


To read up on what Harris has already written about the subject I encourage people to visit his site and reference the articles “Free Will (And Why You Still Don’t Have It)” and “Morality Without “Free Will” from May of 2011.


Harris’ ‘free will’ obsession — Posted in General at 12:47 pm by nemo

Harris is in the middle of a mistake, one that will do a lot of harm.This is an indication of the way the science education kidnaps smart students and turns them into science drones.  Harris could have explored the larger field of philosophy and religion here.  Meanwhile the neuroscience kludge is bogus, and it is important to learn how to stand up to this hothouse science whizzes trained to be stupid and parrot scietnism dogmas.

Free Will By SAM HARRIS – FREE PRESS  –  Added: Thursday, 01 March 2012 at 1:55 PM


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