Understanding the Argument Against Free Will

A collection of the arguments, podcasts, and videos that will make you question everything.

Erik Jones

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If you asked me a few years ago what my opinion was on free will, I would have found it an odd question. What is there to talk about? Of course we have free will. Case closed.

I decide when I lift my arm. I decide what vacation to go on or when to tell the waiter, “that’s good”, on the alarming amount of Parmesan cheese for my pasta. I decide when to click on an article about free will. Our agency in decisions is as obvious as the fact that our head is connected to our body. What other option is there?

But as I started digesting the case against free will, everything started feeling uneasy. What if my entire life is predetermined, and it is only a complicated illusion that I am willing my own actions?

This question around free will is the ultimate thought experiment. As we’ll get into, there is no easy, definitive answer, but there is a compelling case for why it is potentially one of greatest gaps between how we think the world (and universe) works and how it really does.

To be clear, the question at hand isn’t if our choices are more limited than we imagine. I think that’s clearly the case. Assuming we do have free will, our actions are certainly dramatically constrained by our genetics, our environment, the various internet algorithms hellbent on shaping our behavior, etc.

True free will is a binary option. You either have it or you don’t. A life that has free will but is fairly predictable in its broad strokes is of a completely different category than a life with no free will.

Philosophers and religious leaders have been arguing various aspects of free will since the dawn of arguing, so SPOILER ALERT, nothing will be settled in this article. Instead, the point is to understand arguments against free will, and why even with modern science in the mix, it’s a true conundrum.

Let’s start with one of the main concepts in the free will debate.

Determinism

Determinism is the idea that everything has a prior state and that all effects have causes. The billiard cue…

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Erik Jones

Writing about podcasts and creativity. Check out https://www.hurtyourbrain.com/ to never miss an article and to get podcast recommendations that make you think.