The Illusory illusion of free will
Posted: 12 October 2010 07:49 AM   [ Ignore ]  
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Hi All,

What did Harris mean when he wrote in The Moral Landscape, “the illusion of free will is itself an illusion”?

Best,
Leela

[ Edited: 12 October 2010 02:18 PM by Leela]
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Posted: 11 November 2010 12:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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I read some of your blog (good stuff !!) so I don’t think I need to quote the contents of the chapter where that sentence appears.

Perhaps, like me, maybe you were not aware of the religious doctrine of free will and when scientists found they could detect pre-cursers of conscious thoughts, they dubbed this finding “the illusion of free will”.  Therefore Harris is reversing the gibb statement with “the illusion of free will is itself an illusion”.

Harris seems to believe there is ‘feel will’, minus, probably, any religious baggage that might come with that term.  We are the product of our minds, despite the ability to detect pre-cursers of conscious thoughts.  You are legally and morally responsible for your thoughts and actions.

regards,

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Posted: 09 June 2011 02:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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I too was puzzled by this.

If the illusion of free will is itself an illusion, then that is also an illusion, illusion , ..lusion ...usion .......n

Where do the illusions stop?

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Posted: 09 June 2011 11:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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cacheton - 09 June 2011 06:00 AM

I too was puzzled by this.

If the illusion of free will is itself an illusion, then that is also an illusion, illusion , ..lusion ...usion .......n

Where do the illusions stop?

I know the debate about free will has been going on for centuries among people of all backgrounds, but I can’t help but think this is a result of Sam Harris’ (non-religious, I know) Buddhist beliefs.  In Buddhism everything is an illusion including the idea of a self that is separate from everything, or a self at all. There is just emptiness.  Sam seems blind to his own preconceived notions.


If we don’t really make choices then why complain about religious believers?  They have no choice in what they believe or do. 

If there is no free will and everything we think and choose is a product of chemical reactions in our brain, how can an idea or belief change a person?

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Posted: 10 June 2011 03:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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cacheton - 09 June 2011 06:00 AM

I too was puzzled by this.

If the illusion of free will is itself an illusion, then that is also an illusion, illusion , ..lusion ...usion .......n

Where do the illusions stop?


I think you meant to say when perhaps? If so, then the illusion stops when consciousness no longer arise.


This is the short, partial and incomplete answer from a materialist point of view as consciousness ceases to exist upon the cessation of the material, biological body.

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Posted: 10 June 2011 04:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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TuesdayWelder - 09 June 2011 03:48 PM
cacheton - 09 June 2011 06:00 AM

I too was puzzled by this.

If the illusion of free will is itself an illusion, then that is also an illusion, illusion , ..lusion ...usion .......n

Where do the illusions stop?

I know the debate about free will has been going on for centuries among people of all backgrounds, but I can’t help but think this is a result of Sam Harris’ (non-religious, I know) Buddhist beliefs.  In Buddhism everything is an illusion including the idea of a self that is separate from everything, or a self at all. There is just emptiness.  Sam seems blind to his own preconceived notions.


If we don’t really make choices then why complain about religious believers?  They have no choice in what they believe or do. 

If there is no free will and everything we think and choose is a product of chemical reactions in our brain, how can an idea or belief change a person?


There is really no permanent will since there is no permanent self or anything permanent. Free seems to be added for the sake of baseless and assertive religious arguments of an all knowing unknown agent. Will is volition and means choices or mental actions prior to any body, speech or other mental actions present in the current existing sentient being.


According to Buddhism, our current actions are based on the following:


1. The Fruit: The possible maturity of results from past actions (Vipaka) based on favorable current conditions and its inherent influence to current actions.
2.  The Seed: Current volitional actions produced from contacting with sense objects from sense bases (or organs).


So to put things briefly, our actions are dictated based on not only past events, but additionally, also compounding with our current events. So a will or volition is only one of several mental faculties (a tool if you will) associating with other mental faculties and some processes of exchanging data to aid in the production of personal experience or personal consciousness.

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Posted: 01 September 2011 02:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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TuesdayWelder - 09 June 2011 03:48 PM
cacheton - 09 June 2011 06:00 AM

I too was puzzled by this.


If we don’t really make choices then why complain about religious believers?  They have no choice in what they believe or do. 

If there is no free will and everything we think and choose is a product of chemical reactions in our brain, how can an idea or belief change a person?


Look, we are determined in every way, but that doesn’t mean that we should just sit back and go with the flow.
There is still an ’ I ‘, although it be an illusory one, that decides and can influence other people.


We don’t decide what we decide. But that has nothing to do with wether we are able to influence other people’s thoughts. Our brains are determined in a certain way so that when they acquire new information they will react on a certain predetermined way. But, of course, first that new information has to be poured in. That’s obvious I think.

 

Hope I made things clearer for you

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“Consider yourself. I want you to imagine a scene from your childhood. Pick something evocative… Something you can remember clearly, something you can see, feel, maybe even smell, as if you were really there. After all, you really were there at the time, weren’t you? How else would you remember it? But here is the bombshell: you WEREN’T there. Not a single atom that is in your body today was there when that event took place. Every bit of you has been replaced many times over… Steve Grand

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Posted: 14 April 2012 10:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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theAmature - 11 November 2010 12:43 PM

Harris seems to believe there is ‘feel will’

Are you kidding? Of course not!

If you are fooled by the illusion of a magician inside the Matrix, that doesn’t revert the illusion and make it real; it means that by even considering whether or not the magician made an illusion, you are even more hopefully lost.

What Harris is trying to say is that “free will” is doubly false; not only are we living in a universe where we don’t have free will, but that free will is impossible, in this universe or in any.

Free will is undefinable, free will is impossible, and thus the “illusion of free will” is also undefinable. If you think there is such thing as the “illusion of free will”, then you are deluding yourself.

It follows then, that the “illusion of free will” is itself an illusion. wink

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Posted: 22 August 2012 05:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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Free Will/Won’t ——-  a different angle
Before language we lived in groups and members cooperated. When we learned more efficient cooperation it was due to improvements in communication of what the different organisms   intended to do. It was done by by signs,  sounds and, later,  words.  The intensions/decisions were formed in the (sub)conscious workings of that organism.
With time,  we got better and better in communications and we even created a word for the ‘announcement’:  ‘I’ !  But that did not mean that we added a function to our organism:  an ‘I’  that suddenly could deliberate and decide about things! 
Through 1000s of years we then used ‘I’  to give agency to decisions that were communicated and then we started to believe that what was communicated was really made by   ‘I’,  as we had little idea about how a decision came to. 
We are still in that situation;  most people have no idea about how an organism makes decisions….they just assume that ‘I’  did it.
And …. As ‘I’  did it…‘I’  have Free Will.
Voila!
But…..
My organism is still doing decisions in the same way as it has done for 1000s of years! Only   better due to access to more information.
A big confusion was created when this witnessing and announcing function of my organism’s deliberations and decisions was also supposed to have the powers to do them; i.e.  when the announcement got the confusing ID:  ‘I’ ?  Or rather:  Who is there to have Free Will?  There is no one! 
Without anybody   to own the Free Will/Won’t mechanism; it can not exist.
But my organism will continue to make decisions and announce them and many people will continue to believe that a Free Will decision has been announced.

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