Sam Harris – Free Will


The Delusion of Free Will Good evening, everyone.
I’m Ann Mossop from the Sydney Opera House.
And it’s my great pleasure to welcome you here
to the opening night of the Festival of Dangerous Ideas in 2012.
The Festival of Dangerous Ideas is presented by the Sydney Opera House
in partnership with the St James Ethics Centre,
and my co-curator, Simon Longstaff, from the St James Ethics Centre
is here to welcome you also. -(APPLAUSE)
-Thank you. Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.
And on behalf of all of us here this evening
and those attending the festival, I’d like to begin by acknowledging
the Gadigal people of the Eora nation on whose traditional lands we meet
to pay our respects to their elders, and also to all other elders
who are here with us at this time. I’d also like to welcome to her first
Festival of Dangerous Ideas Louise Herron, the incoming CEO
of the Sydney Opera House. At the St James Ethics Centre,
we really value the partnership we have with the Opera House
which makes an event of this kind possible.
And it’s a great privilege to be able to work with
people like Louise and Jonathan and the rest of the team
in presenting this event. But also here in the audience
somewhere, and I can’t see him, attending his first
Festival of Dangerous Ideas while not being the CEO
of the Opera House is Richard Evans,
who, along with me, founded the Festival of Dangerous Ideas
about five years ago, and I hope he’s going to enjoy this
weekend as much as the rest of us. -(APPLAUSE)
-Yes, please welcome Richard. There are a number of great civic
occasions taking place this weekend, one with the grand final of the AFL
in Melbourne, the grand final of the rugby league
here in Sydney. And I’d count this as the third great
civic event with all of us here. -So thanks for coming along.
-(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) Finally, one of the great pleasures
of working on this festival is being able to work as a colleague
with Ann Mossop, the co-curator, and the festival producer,
Danielle Harvey. They are really tremendous intellects
and great inspirations for making what I think you’re gonna enjoy
as a wonderful weekend of activity. So it’s with particular pleasure
that I hand back to you, Ann, to introduce the first
of our speakers tonight. Thank you.
Thank you very much, Simon. Before we get started,
some small issues of housekeeping. Please can you make sure that
your mobile phones are turned off? And while we encourage
discreet tweeting – to hash tag #FODI –
or indiscreet tweeting, if that is more dangerous…
(LAUGHTER) And we will be hearing, of course,
from Sam Harris this evening, and there will be time at the end
for some questions from the audience. You’ll notice
that there are microphones throughout the auditorium,
including for our lovely colleagues behind me.
So I will come back to the stage to moderate
that question-and-answer session, and I’m sure that there will be some
fast and furious exchanges there. Sam Harris is the bestselling author
of books like ‘The End of Faith’, ‘Letter to a Christian Nation’,
‘The Moral Landscape’, ‘Lying’ and ‘Free Will’.
‘The End of Faith’ was the winner of the 2005 PEN Award for Nonfiction.
He’s the co-founder and chairman of Project Reason,
a non-profit foundation devoted to spreading scientific
knowledge and secular values. He received a degree in philosophy
from the Stanford University and a PhD in neuroscience from UCLA.
We’re particularly pleased that he was able to come
to the Festival of Dangerous Ideas because although we’re not generally
collectors as such, this is the fourth
of the Four Horsemen of the New Atheist Apocalypse
to grace our stage. (APPLAUSE)
And those of you who are truly Festival of Dangerous Ideas diehards
may have been here to see Christopher Hitchens,
the late Christopher Hitchens, open the first festival in 2009.
But of course since then we’ve had not one but two visits
from Richard Dawkins and a wonderful appearance
from Daniel Dennett late last year. So, more importantly than that,
however, what Sam Harris brings us tonight
is a unique blend of science and philosophy
to the fearless dissection of big and dangerous ideas,
and his work on free will is absolutely no exception.
Looking at what neuroscience has revealed
about the workings of our brains, he’s penned a pithy
and cogent argument about what this means
for how and why we do what we do and how this in fact exposes
free will as an illusion. In the first paragraph of the book
he says, “If the scientific community were
to declare free will an illusion, “it would precipitate a culture war
far more belligerent “than the one that has been waged
on the subject of evolution.” So when that breaks out,
you were here somewhere very close to the beginning.
(GENTLE LAUGHTER) Sam is writing about an area
where the complexities of cognitive science, neuroscience and philosophy
come together, and he really excels at bringing
a compelling clarity to his argument that free will is in fact a delusion,
so even those of us who are fortunate or unfortunate enough
not to be philosophers and neuroscientists
will be able to participate fully in what I’m sure will be
a wonderful discussion. Sam Harris.
(APPLAUSE) Well, it really is an honour
to be here at such a beautiful venue,
and to be following the other Horsemen.
It really is great to be here. Now, I’m going to speak tonight
about the delusion of free will. And, to my surprise, this is
an incredibly sensitive subject – it’s perhaps
the most sensitive subject I have had the honour to touch.
It’s sensitive to religious people, of course,
because without free will, Judaism, Christianity, Islam
don’t make any sense, if you can imagine such a thing.
(LAUGHTER) But the existence of free will
is actually a very sensitive topic for atheists as well,
because it seems to touch everything human beings care about.
It seems to touch everything, in fact,
that makes us distinctly human – morality and law
and politics and religion and intimate relationships,
feelings of personal accomplishment, feelings of guilt and responsibility.
It seems that most of what we care about in human life
depends upon our being able to view other people like ourselves
as being the actual conscious source of their thoughts and actions.
So, in this talk I hope to do two things.
I hope to convince you that free will is an illusion
and I hope to convince you also that this matters,
and those are quite distinct. And I want to begin, I hope,
on not too defensive a note by telling you the two ways,
the two most common ways of misunderstanding my argument,
and this is sort of like beginning a marriage proposal by saying,
“Here are the two most common reasons women haven’t wanted to marry me…”
(LAUGHTER) “..and why they were wrong.”
(LAUGHTER) Now, the first way
of missing the point is to think that we simply don’t
understand enough – science is incomplete,
some of our scientific assumptions may be false,
there may be truths to discover about the nature of the universe
that would put free will, the popular notion of free will,
on some new footing. So it’s simply too soon to say
scientifically that free will is an illusion.
This is not true. I am arguing that free will
as a concept is so incoherent that it can’t be mapped onto
any conceivable reality. The second detour you might be
tempted to take, as many have, is to say, “Well, of course
the popular notion of free will “doesn’t make any sense.
“It doesn’t fit the facts.” “But…none of that matters.
“That’s an academic argument. “We still feel free.
This changes nothing.” It’s sort of like saying that, uh…
..atoms are mostly empty space. This is not empty space we can use –
nothing about our life changes. You know, “Everything
is mostly empty space, “but I still can’t fit into
an old pair of pants.” Many people agree that free will
doesn’t make any sense and that it’s some kind of illusion,
but they think that nothing important changes,
and that also, on my view, is untrue. Imagine you’re taking a nap
in the botanical garden next door. I don’t know if that’s legal or not,
but just imagine you do it. And you are awakened
by an unfamiliar sound and you open your eyes
and you see a large crocodile about to seize your face in its jaws.
Stranger things have probably happened.
It should be easy enough to see that you have a problem.
-(LAUGHTER) -OK?
And now swap the crocodile for a man holding an axe.
The problem changes in some interesting ways,
but the sudden emergence of free will in the brain of your attacker
is not one of them. But imagine the difference
between these two experiences. Let’s say you survive your ordeal
and you have a… it’s a terrifying experience
and let’s say you’re injured – let’s say you lose a hand.
Now imagine confronting your human attacker on the witness stand
during his trial. OK, if you’re like most people,
you are gonna feel feelings of hatred that could be so intense
as to constitute a further trauma. OK, you might spend
years of your life fantasising about
this person’s death. How much time are you gonna spend
hating the crocodile? You might even go to the zoo,
take your friends and family to the zoo for fun,
just to look at him. You’d say, “That is the beast
that almost killed me.” Although you might be pointing
with this hand. (LAUGHTER)
Which state of mind would you rather have?
Now, I think this idea of free will largely accounts for the difference.
The crocodile was just being a crocodile.
What else was a crocodile going to do,
coming upon you napping in the park?
But this idea that the human had free will
and could have done otherwise and should have done otherwise…
..has very different consequences. Now, most people imagine
that a belief in free will is necessary for morality,
morality has to be grounded in this idea,
and it’s necessary, therefore, for getting most of what we want
out of life. I think that’s clearly untrue.
The difference between happiness and suffering
exists with or without free will. I no more want to be eaten
by a crocodile than I want to be killed
by a man with an axe. These are both very good things
to avoid. And we can avoid them
and we can talk about almost everything else we want in life
without suffering any obvious illusions
about the origins of human behaviour. Now, the popular conception
of free will seems to rest on two assumptions.
The first is that each of us was free to think and act differently
than we did in the past. You chose A,
but you could have chosen B. You became a policeman but
you could have become a firefighter. You ordered chocolate
but you could have ordered vanilla. It certainly seems to most of us
that this is the world we’re living in.
Now, the second assumption is that you are the conscious source
of your thoughts and actions. You feel that you want to move,
and then you move. Your conscious desires
and intentions and thoughts that precede your actions
seem to be their true origin. The conscious part of you
that is experiencing your inner life is actually the author
of your inner life and your subsequent behaviour.
Now, unfortunately, we know that both of these assumptions are false.
The first problem is that we live in a world of cause and effect.
Everything that could possibly constitute your will
is either the product of a long chain of prior causes
and you’re not responsible for them, or it’s the product of randomness,
and you’re not responsible for that, obviously,
or it’s some combination of the two. And however you turn this dial
between the iron law of determinism and mere randomness,
free will makes no more sense. What does it mean to say that
a person acted of his own free will? It must mean that he could have
consciously done otherwise… ..not based on random influences
over which he had no control, but because he, as the conscious
author of his thoughts and actions, could have thought and acted
in other ways. Now, the problem is
that no-one has ever described a way in which mental and physical
events could arise that make sense of this claim.
Consider your generic murderer. OK, his choice
to commit his last murder was preceded by a long series
of prior causes, a certain pattern of electrochemical
activity in his brain, which was the product
of prior causes, some combination of bad genes
and the developmental effects of an unhappy childhood,
whatever influences were impinging upon him
the day he committed his crime. The moment we catch sight
of this stream of causes that precede any conscious experience
and reach back into childhood and beyond,
or beyond the person’s skin into the world…
..the sense of his culpability disappears.
The place where we would place our blame disappears.
To say that he could have done otherwise
is really to say he would have been
in a different universe had he been in a different universe,
or that he would have been a different person
had he been a different person. And as disturbing as I might find
such a person’s behaviour, I have to admit that if I were
to trade places with him, atom for atom,
I would be him and I would behave exactly as he did,
and for the same reasons. There’s no extra part of me
that could resist the impulse to victimise innocent people.
Even if you believe that every human being harbours an immortal soul,
this problem of responsibility remains.
I cannot take credit for the fact that I don’t have
the soul of a psychopath. If I had truly been
in this person’s shoes, if I had an identical brain
or an identical soul in an identical state,
I would have behaved exactly as he did.
So the role of luck in our lives appears decisive.
One has to be very unlucky to have the mind and brain or soul
of a psychopath. But the moral significance of luck
is very difficult to admit. It seems to
completely destabilise us. We seem not to know
how to think about evil in this context.
And yet, in specific cases, we have already changed
our view of evil. Whenever we see the cause
of someone’s behaviour, when we see for instance
that a murderer had a brain tumour, and the brain tumour was
in just such a place in the brain so as to explain
his violent impulses, that person suddenly becomes
a victim of biology. Our moral intuitions shift utterly.
Now, I’m arguing that a brain tumour is just a special case
of physical events giving rise to thoughts and actions.
If we fully understood the neurophysiology
of any murderer’s brain, it would be as exculpatory
as finding a tumour in it. If we could see how the wrong genes
were being relentlessly transcribed, if we could see
how his early life experience had sculpted
the microstructure of his brain in just such a way as to give rise
to violent impulses, the whole conception
of placing blame on him would erode. Now, of course, this is a problem
that scientists and philosophers are aware of,
and many think they have put forward a notion of free will
that can…that can withstand the facts,
and I’ll deal with some of that. There appears to be a poltergeist
in this computer. But I want to argue for a moment
that the problem of free will is actually deeper
than the problem of cause and effect. I mean, most people think we have
this experience of free will and simply we can’t map it on
to physical reality. I think this is an illusion.
Free will doesn’t even correspond to a subjective fact about ourselves.
And if you pay close attention to your experience,
you can see this. Your thoughts simply appear
in consciousness, very much like my words.
What are you going to think next? What am I gonna say next?
I could start just wondering about why we don’t eat owls.
-Why don’t we eat owls? -(LAUGHTER)
They seem perfectly good. Where did that come from?
Well, as far as you’re concerned, it came out of nowhere,
but the same thing happens in the privacy of your own mind.
It’s happening right now. You’ve all made an effort
to be here tonight, presumably because you wanted to hear
what I had to say about free will, and you’re trying to listen to me,
but you have a voice in your head that just says things.
(LAUGHTER) -Haven’t you noticed?
-(LAUGHTER CONTINUES) I’m standing up here
trying to reason with you… ..and you’ll think, “He looks
a little like Ben Stiller.” (LOUD LAUGHTER)
I was hoping I didn’t look THAT much like Ben Stiller.
(LAUGHTER) Thoughts just emerge
in consciousness. OK, we are not authoring them.
We can’t think them… We can’t choose them before we think them.
That would require that we think them before we think them.
If you can’t control your next thought,
and you don’t know what it’s gonna be until it appears,
where is your freedom of will? Now, at this moment
some of you are thinking, “What the hell is he talking about?”
Here is what I’m talking about. You didn’t choose that thought
either. If you’re confused
by what I’m saying, you didn’t create that state.
Conversely, if you understand what I’m saying
and you find it interesting, you didn’t create that either.
Everything is just happening. And that includes your thoughts
and intentions and desires and your most deliberate efforts.
We will come back to that point. Now, of course, in a sense
your brain, our brains, do think our thoughts
before we think them, and they think many things
that we never hear about. We’re conscious
of only a tiny fraction of what goes on in our minds,
and we continually notice changes in our experience,
in thoughts and intentions and moods and resulting behaviour,
but we are utterly unaware of the neurophysiological changes
that produce those changes. Consider the sensation of touching
your finger to your nose. OK, feel free to try this.
It seems simultaneous – it seems like the nose
touches the finger at the same time
the finger touches the nose. And while it may be simultaneous
in the world, we know at the level of the brain
the timing has to be different – it simply takes longer
for the input from the fingertip to reach sensory cortex
than it does from the nose, and this is true no matter how short
your arms or long your nose. (LAUGHTER)
So the experience of the present moment,
even of the simplest sensation, is built upon layers
of unconscious processing that we’re not aware of.
So even apparently simple conscious events
are not entirely what they seem. The present moment is, in some sense,
already a memory that is being buffered.
Now, needless to say, this unconscious machinery
produces not only our perceptions, but our thoughts, intentions,
actions, decisions. And this is where the notion
of free will and moral responsibility begin to get squeezed.
Now, many people have demonstrated in a lab –
in many labs, actually – that a person’s conscious decision
comes after processes that can be detected
and there is a time lag between the moment you think
you’ve decided to do something and the moment at which
your brain decided. And this has been proven –
Benjamin Libet did this with EEG, and this has been done with fMRI
and, actually, direct recordings from the cortices of patients
about to undergo surgery. We know that…
..that even the simplest, most apparently voluntary decision,
like the decision to move your left hand
versus your right hand, or the decision to push
the left button or the right button, when you put people in this paradigm
and you have them watch a clock, a special clock that allows them
to discriminate just in very fine increments of time,
and you ask them simply to make the choice
to move whenever they want to – they can move their left hand
or their right hand – just notice what time it was
on the clock when you finally were aware
of which course you were gonna take, we know that some moments,
half a second, sometimes as much as five seconds
before a person is consciously aware of what they’re going to do –
we can see in the brain what they were committed to doing.
So the experience of deciding during this period where
you still feel that you are free to do anything you want
has already been determined by the state of your brain.
So, needless to say, this time lag is very difficult to reconcile
with free will because in principle
it would allow someone to predict what you’re going to do
while you still think you’re making up your mind.
But the truth is that even if there were no time lag,
even if the conscious intention were truly simultaneous
with the neurophysiological underpinnings,
there would still be no room for free will,
because you still wouldn’t know why it is you do what you do
in that moment. And again, you can notice
this fact about yourself directly. Let’s run a little experiment.
Think of a film, any film, it doesn’t matter –
a good one, a bad one. And notice what your conscious
process of selection is like. Notice first that this is as free a
decision as you’re ever going to get. You have all the films in the world
to choose from, and I’ve simply said, “Pick one.”
Does everybody have a film? I’m sorry to say you’ve all picked
the wrong film. (LAUGHTER)
Don’t ask me how I know that, but I do.
Do it again, pick another film, and just be sensitive
to what the experience is like. Do you see any evidence
for free will there? Let’s look for it.
First, if it’s not here, it’s not anywhere,
so we’d better be able to find it here.
First, let’s rule out all of those films whose names you don’t know
and what you haven’t seen and which you couldn’t have
possibly thought of if your life depended on it.
There’s no freedom in that, obviously.
But then there are all these other films
which you’re perfectly aware of but which simply didn’t
come to consciousness. You absolutely know
that ‘The Wizard of Oz’ is a film, but you just didn’t think of
‘The Wizard of Oz’. Now, think about this.
Were you free to choose that which did not occur to you
to choose? For whatever reason,
your ‘Wizard of Oz’ circuits were not primed in such a way
as to deliver it as a possibility. Of course, if you did think of
‘The Wizard of Oz’, you should consider yourself
a genius. (LAUGHTER)
OK, so you probably thought of several films.
And let’s say you thought of ‘Lawrence of Arabia’
and ‘Avatar’ and ‘Mad Max’. So you’ve kind of converged
on those three and then you go, “Well, I’m
Australian, I’ll go with ‘Mad Max’.” And then you thought, “No, no,
“Mel Gibson is more than a little creepy at this point in his life.”
(LAUGHTER) “So I’m gonna go with ‘Avatar’.”
OK? And you settle on ‘Avatar’. Well, you still don’t know
why you chose ‘Avatar’ over ‘Lawrence of Arabia’.
And this is the sort of decision that motivates the idea of free will.
You go back and forth between two options
and you’re not suffering any obvious constraints from the external world
or any coercion. You appear to be doing all of it –
it’s just you and your thoughts. But when you look closely,
it is a mystery why you chose one over the other.
And you might have a story to tell about it –
you might say, “Well, I saw an animated movie last week
“and ‘Avatar’ is animated, so I remembered that
“and so I just went with ‘Avatar’.” OK, well, the first thing to say
is that we know that those sorts of explanations are almost always wrong.
When you bring people into the lab and manipulate their decisions,
they always have a story about why they did what they did,
and it never bears any relationship to what actually influenced them.
So you can bring people into the lab and give them a hot beverage
as opposed to a cold one to hold in their hands
and get them to cooperate more or to like one person more than another,
and they have no idea that the temperature of the cup in their hands
is influencing them at all. Psychology is just bursting
with evidence of that kind. But even if you’re right
in this case, even if the memory
of the animated film was the thing that steered you to
‘Avatar’ over ‘Lawrence of Arabia’, you still can’t explain
why it had that effect. Why didn’t it have
the opposite effect? Why didn’t you think,
“Well, I just saw an animated film “so I’ll go with something else,
I’ll go with ‘Lawrence of Arabia’.” The thing to notice about this
is that you, the conscious witness of your inner life,
isn’t making these decisions. All you can do is witness
these decisions. You no more picked a film
in the subjective sense than you would have
if I picked it for you. I could have been saying ‘Star Wars’,
‘Hannah and Her Sisters’. These names were just appearing
in consciousness. There was this first moment
where I said, “Pick a film,” and nothing had happened,
and then all of a sudden the names of films started coming to you,
and you didn’t know which they would be until they appeared.
So I’m arguing to you that our experience in life
is actually totally compatible with the truth of determinism.
We don’t have this robust sense of free will
the moment we actually pay attention to how thoughts and intentions arise.
And again, it’s important to notice that this is true whether or not
we have immortal souls, and the case I’m building
against free will does not presuppose
philosophical materialism, the idea that reality
is just entirely physical. No doubt most of reality
is entirely physical and most of mind is produced
by physical changes in our brains. We know that the brain
is a physical system that’s entirely beholden
to the laws of nature. But even if we have souls
that are somehow loosely integrated with the brain,
the unconscious operation of a soul grants you no more free will
than the unconscious neurophysiology of your brain does.
If you don’t know what your soul is going to do next,
you are not in control of your soul. And this is rather starkly obvious
when you think of all of the people who do things
they wish they hadn’t done. Think of the millions of Christians
whose souls just happen to be gay. But it’s true even when you do
exactly what you wish you had done in hindsight.
The soul that allows you to stay on your diet
is just as mysterious as the soul that tempts you
to eat cherry pie for breakfast. So I think it’s safe to say
that no-one has ever argued for the existence of free will
because it holds such promise as an abstract idea.
The endurance of this problem in science and philosophy
is the result of this feeling that most of us have
that we freely author our thoughts and actions.
And, at the moment, the only philosophically respectable way
to defend free will is to adopt a view
in academic philosophy that’s called compatibilism
and to argue that free will is compatible
with the truth of determinism. Now, my friend Dan Dennett,
the philosopher, is a compatibilist, and he essentially makes the claim
that we just have to think about free will differently.
If a murderer commits his crime based on his desire to kill
and not based on some other thing that’s hijacking him,
but his actions are actually an expression
of his real desires and intentions, well, then, that’s all the free will
you need. But from both a moral
and scientific point of view, this seems to miss the point.
But where is the freedom in doing what one wants
when one’s desires are the product of prior events
that one is completely unaware of and had no hand in creating?
So, from my point of view, compatibilism is a little like saying
a puppet is free as long as it loves its strings.
Now, compatibilists push back here. They say that even if our desires
and thoughts and behaviour are the product
of unconscious causes, that doesn’t matter,
because you are the totality of what goes on inside your brain and body.
So your unconscious mental life is just as much you
and your unconscious neurophysiology is just as much you
as your conscious inner life is. OK, but this, to my eyes,
seems like a bait and switch. This trades a psychological fact,
this experience we have, of consciously authoring
our thoughts and actions for a general conception of ourselves
as persons. It’s a little like saying,
“You are made of stardust,” OK, which you are,
but you don’t feel like stardust. And the knowledge
that you’re stardust is not driving your moral intuitions
and influencing our system of criminal justice.
The fact is that most people identify
with a certain channel of information in their conscious minds.
They feel that they are in control, they are the source
and this is an illusion… ..that the you
that you take yourself to be in this present moment
isn’t in control of anything. So compatibilists
try to save free will by saying you’re more than this,
you are the totality of what goes on inside your brain and body.
But you’re making decisions right now with organs other than your brain.
But you don’t feel responsible for these decisions.
Are you making red blood cells right now?
Your body is doing this, hopefully. But if it were to stop,
you wouldn’t be responsible for this. You would be the victim
of this change. So to say that you are responsible
or are identical to everything that goes on
inside your brain and body is to make a claim about you
that bears absolutely no relationship to the experience of conscious
authorship and subjectivity that has made free will a problem
for philosophy in the first place. So what does all this mean?
Well, first let me tell you what it doesn’t mean.
To talk about determinism as a fact is not to argue for fatalism.
The confusion on this point gives rise to questions like,
“Well, if everything is determined, why should I do anything?
“Why not just sit back and see what happens?
“Why not just throw the oars out of the boat
“and just drift through life?” This misses the point.
This is not… To sit back and see what happens
is itself a choice which has its own consequences.
It’s also very hard to do. Just try to stay in bed all day
waiting for something to happen. You’ll soon feel a very strong urge
to get up and do something, and the only way to stay in bed
at that point will be to resist this urge.
Doing nothing actually becomes much harder than doing something
after a very short time. So the fact that our choices
and decisions and efforts depend upon prior causes
doesn’t mean that they’re not important.
If I hadn’t decided to write a book about free will,
it wouldn’t have written itself. You can’t write a book by accident.
So effort and discipline and intention,
all of this matters. Goals…
These are all causal states of the brain
and they lead to behaviours and behaviours lead to
outcomes in the world. So on one level, not much changes.
The choices we make in life are as important
as fanciers of free will imagine. And then, therefore,
fatalism is untrue. The idea that the future is gonna be
what it’s gonna be regardless of what you think and do,
that is untrue – that’s clearly untrue.
But the next thing you think and do is gonna come out
of a wilderness of prior causes which you, the conscious witness
of your inner life, cannot see and did not bring into being.
You have not built your mind. And in the moments
where you seem to build it, when you make an effort
to learn something, when you try to perfect a skill,
the only tools at your disposal are those that you’ve inherited
from moments past. No-one picks their parents
or the society into which they were born.
No-one picks the moment in history where they arrive.
No-one determines how their nervous system gets shaped
from the moment of conception onward. So you are no more responsible
for the structure of your brain, as well as its functional states,
as you are for your height. But I’m not saying
that you can just blame your parents for every bad thing
that happens to you and make no effort
to change yourself. This is a way of misunderstanding
the argument. It is possible to change.
In fact, viewing yourself as a system open to myriad influences
actually makes change seem more possible.
You are by no means condemned to be the person you were yesterday.
In fact, you can’t be that person. The self is not a stable entity.
It is a process. But it is a fundamentally mysterious
process. None of us know how we arrived
at this moment in our lives. There is actually a mystery
here in the present moment that doesn’t get eradicated
even though you have a story to tell about why you think
you did something. We are, at each moment,
simply discovering what our life is. Now, this may sound scary
to some of you, but it actually can be quite freeing
to view the world this way. So our choices matter
and there are paths towards making wiser ones.
There’s no telling how much a good conversation could change you
or how much it might matter to you to surround yourself
with smart people or to get an education.
But you don’t choose to choose what you choose in life.
There’s a regress that always ends in darkness.
You have to take a first step or a last one
for reasons that are bound to remain inscrutable.
And to declare your freedom in this context
is really just a way of saying, “I don’t know why I did that,
but I didn’t mind doing it “and I’d be willing to do it again.”
Now, I don’t mean to belabour the point,
but people have a really hard time understanding this.
Just think of the context in which you are gonna make
your next decision. Whatever it is,
a decision of any size – whether to get married or not,
to go to graduate school or not, to eat at the Chinese restaurant
or the Italian one. Your brain is making choices
based upon beliefs and intentions and states
that have been hammered into it over a lifetime.
Your physical development is something you had no hand in.
You didn’t pick your parents, you didn’t pick your genes,
you didn’t pick any of the influences that shaped your neurophysiology.
You didn’t pick your soul, if you have one.
And yet, this totality of influences and states
will be the thing that produces your next decision.
Yes, you are free to do whatever you want,
but where do your desires come from? OK, so let’s get back to this issue
that I raised at the beginning of this talk.
It seems that this kind of talk begins to undermine
a sense of moral order, and, in fact, this is the position
of the Supreme Court of the United States.
It has said that free will is just a non-starter
in terms of our criminal justice system.
It is…”a universal and persistent assumption” –
that’s a quote – of our criminal justice system.
And determinism is incompatible with the underlying precepts
of our approach to justice. So the idea is actually doing work
in our world. The problem is if we view people
as neuronal weather patterns, it seems to undermine a basis
for placing blame. Now, I think this is actually
a false assumption. I think we can have
a very strong sense of morality and an effective
criminal justice system without lying to ourselves
about the causes of human behaviour. So, what do we condemn most in people
morally and legally? It’s the conscious intention
to do harm. Now, why is the conscious intention
to harm people so blameworthy? Well, consciousness is the context
in which all of our… ..all the qualities of our minds
seem activated. The consciousness is where our
beliefs and desires and prejudices rub up against one another.
What you do on the basis of conscious premeditation
tends to say the most about you and about what you’re likely to do
in the future. If you decide to kill your neighbour
after weeks of deliberation and library research
and debate with your friends… (LAUGHTER)
..well, then, killing your neighbour really says a lot about you.
That really is the sort of person you are.
The point is not that you are the sole independent cause
of your behaviour. The point is, for whatever reason,
you have the mind of a murderer. You’re not ultimately responsible
for the fact that you have that mind, no more so than a crocodile
is responsible for the fact that it is a crocodile.
But a crocodile really is a crocodile and it really will eat you.
If you see one out on the boardwalk tonight,
it’s worth taking seriously. You don’t have to attribute free will
to it to take it seriously. Now, certain criminals are obviously
more dangerous than crocodiles, and we have to lock them up
to keep everyone else safe. Now, the moral justification for this
is entirely straightforward. Everyone is better off that way.
But… And that still makes sense without free will.
What doesn’t make sense is the motive of retribution,
the motive of punishing someone because they deserve it.
That begins to not make sense. We don’t punish crocodiles
because they deserve it. In fact, that hasn’t always
been true. It says in Exodus
that if an ox gores a person and kills him or her,
the ox has to be stoned to death and its meat can’t be eaten.
And, in fact, for hundreds of years in medieval Europe,
Christians held trials for animals that harmed people.
These animals were actually defended by lawyers.
(CHUCKLING) There were actually cases of…
There was a case I just read about of a lawyer who was representing
a large collection of rats that had destroyed a crop,
and his argument to the magistrate was the rats couldn’t appear in court
because there were so many cats about that were gonna do them mischief,
so his client was absent. (CHUCKLING)
OK, this went on for hundreds of years.
We’ve lynched… The latest lynching of an animal
in the United States was in 1916,
where an elephant ran amok out of a travelling circus,
trampled someone in the street, and the good people of Tennessee
decided to lynch it. To get justice, they hung an elephant
from a railroad crane, and they were quite satisfied
with themselves. (LAUGHTER)
So you can see that… I mean, those facts
are macabre and comical now. You can see how we’re prone
to illusions on this front. Now, I’m not ruling out
the possibility that certain punishments
may be necessary to regulate people’s behaviour.
It may be that certain crimes require punishment
in order to be deterred, but that is
a purely pragmatic discussion about human psychology and
the causal efficacy of punishment. It has nothing to do with
retribution. Dispensing with the illusion
of free will allows us to focus
on things that actually matter, like mitigating harm,
deterring crime, assessing risk.
So I’m not arguing that everyone’s not guilty by reason of insanity.
The bad people need to be locked up if that’s all we can do
to keep ourselves safe. And all the distinctions
we care about – the difference between voluntary
and involuntary action, or the moral responsibilities
of an adult versus those of a child – all of those can be conserved
without this notion of free will. In the United States,
we have 13-year-olds serving life sentences for crimes.
I don’t know if this happens in Australia,
but this happens in the US, and it’s not based on
any kind of sane assessment that these children cannot
be rehabilitated. It is based on the sense
that they deserve this punishment, they are the true cause,
the sole cause, of their behaviour, which was so heinous
that they deserve this as a matter of retribution.
That doesn’t make sense when you relax this notion of free will.
The thing you have to admit in the final analysis
is that even the most terrifying people
are, at bottom, unlucky to be who they are,
and that has moral significance. And, once again, even if you think
everyone harbours an eternal soul, the game doesn’t change.
Anyone who’s been born with the soul of a psychopath
is profoundly unlucky. You take one of the most odious
people I can think of, Saddam Hussein’s eldest son,
Uday Hussein. He really is somebody who is…
It’s almost impossible to feel compassion for this man
when you think of him as he was as a man.
I mean, this was somebody who, when he would see a wedding
in progress in Baghdad, would descend
with his thuggish bodyguards and rape the bride.
Sometimes he would rape and kill the bride.
He did this more than once. So, given that we couldn’t capture
him during the course of that war – whatever you think about
the ethics of the war – it was good that we killed him.
Unless you are a total pacifist, you have to admit
that this is what guns are for, to shoot people like Uday Hussein.
(LAUGHTER) But simply walk back
the timeline of his life. Think of him as a 4-year-old boy.
OK, he might have been… His psychopathy might have been
evident even at the age of four. He might have been a scary boy,
but he was also a very unlucky boy. He had Saddam Hussein as a father.
(LAUGHTER) How unlucky can you get?
OK, he was the 4-year-old boy who was going to become
the psychopath Uday Hussein, through no fault of his own,
ultimately. If at any point in his life course
we could have intervened to help him, at four, at five, at six,
at seven, at eight, that would have been
the right thing to do and compassion would have been
the right motive. So the irony is
if you want to be like Jesus and love your enemies,
or at least not hate them, one way into that is to view
human behaviour through the lens of a wider
scientific picture of causation. Now, I’m not saying it would be easy
to adopt this perspective if you or someone close to you
was the victim of a violent crime. This is how we need to see the world
in our more dispassionate moments. But our dispassionate moments
are the source of our thinking about public policy
and scientific truth. To see how fully our moral intuitions
should shift, imagine if we had a cure for evil.
Imagine that we understand exactly what psychopathy
and all its variants are and we can make the necessary changes
in the brain painlessly and safely and easily.
We can just drop the cure into the milk like vitamin D.
So at that point, evil is a nutritional deficiency.
Now imagine the logic, the moral logic,
of withholding the cure for evil from someone
as a punishment for their evil acts. Would it make any sense at all
to say, “No, this person was so evil,
he was so bad, “he caused so much harm,
“that he shouldn’t be given the cure.”
Does that make any sense at all? Imagine withholding surgery
from someone who has a brain tumour as a punishment
when you are sure that the brain tumour was the cause
of their violent behaviour. To my eye,
that makes no sense at all, and that reveals
that this urge for retribution is actually born of not seeing
the causes of human behaviour. When you see the causes,
if we could trace the causes in a fine-grained way,
this notion of vengeance and this notion that people deserve
what they get in this way as punishment
would disappear. And this leads me finally
to the subject of religion, because of course
the notion of God’s justice is entirely a matter of retribution –
people deserve what they get because, based on
their own free will, they are misbehaving.
This is the religious answer to the problem of evil.
When you say, “Well, how did an omnipotent and benevolent god
“allow the Nazis to kill millions of people?”
The answer is, “Well, human beings are endowed with free will
“and therefore God couldn’t control that part.”
Now, obviously that’s not an answer to all of the other mayhem
that’s born of other causes, so tsunamis and epidemic disease.
An omnipotent god seems responsible for those things.
But the religious answer to the problem of human evil
is free will. Free will is what makes sense
of the idea of sin, this idea
that people can consciously, as the sole cause of their behaviour
and belief, turn away from God.
I must be the sole sufficient cause of my unbelief.
This can’t be true. This is…
Not only can this not be true, because beliefs are born
of all of these prior causes – I can’t actually be the cause
of my unbelief – it seems impossible to describe
a universe in which it could be true. And however you tune the variables
of determinism and randomness, free will doesn’t
put in an appearance. There’s no mix of randomness and
determinism that gets you free will. Ironically, one of the fears
that religious people have is that this way of viewing the world
dehumanises us, but, rather, I think it humanises us.
What could be more dehumanising than to say that most people
throughout human history are in some crucial way responsible
for the fact that they were born at the wrong time
to the wrong parents, given the wrong beliefs,
given the wrong religion, the wrong intellectual influences,
and as a result of that, they deserve to be punished
for eternity… ..and the god that designed
this diabolical apparatus is somehow still good.
So, to conclude, I just want to bring this back
to the direct experience of consciousness in the present moment.
It’s generally argued that free will presents us
with a compelling mystery, we have this robust experience
of freedom, and yet we can’t figure out
how to map it onto physical reality. I’m arguing that’s not the case.
I think this is a symptom of our confusion.
The illusion of free will, on my account,
is itself an illusion. There is no illusion of free will.
Thoughts and intentions simply arise. What else could they do?
Now, some of you might think this sounds depressing,
but it’s actually incredibly freeing to see life this way.
It does take something away from life –
what it takes away from life is an egocentric view of life.
Now, we’re not truly separate. We are linked to one another,
we are linked to the world, we are linked to our past
and to history. And what we do actually matters.
Because of that linkage, because of the permeability,
because of the fact that we can’t be the true locus of responsibility,
that’s what makes it all matter. So you can’t take credit
for your talents, but it really matters
if you use them. You can’t really be blamed for
your weaknesses and your failings, but it matters if you correct them.
Pride and shame don’t make a lot of sense in the final analysis,
but they were no fun anyway. These are isolating emotions.
But what does make sense are things like compassion and love.
Caring about wellbeing makes sense. Trying to maximise your wellbeing
and the wellbeing of others makes sense.
There is still a difference between suffering and happiness,
and love consists in wanting those we love to be happy.
All of that still makes sense without free will.
And, of course, nothing that I’ve said
makes social and political freedom any less valuable.
Having a gun to your head is still a problem worth rectifying
wherever intentions come from. So the freedom to do what one wants
is still precious. But the idea that we as conscious
beings are deeply responsible for what we want…
..I think needs to be revised. It just can’t be mapped onto reality,
neither objective nor subjective. And if we’re gonna be guided
by reality rather than by the fantasy lives
of our ancestors, I think our view of ourselves
needs to change. Thank you very much.
Thank you. thank you Now, for those of you
who are still thinking clearly after that onslaught,
it’s time for some questions and discussion for Sam.
There are microphones throughout the auditorium.
There’s one here and here, and one upstairs,
and also, of course, number five and six
for everybody behind us. If you do want to ask a question,
can I ask you to make it brief? We’ve got about 15 minutes,
and obviously we’d like to… ..there are many other things
that Sam has worked on that I’m sure
people will want to talk about, so if I can ask you to make it
reasonably brief. Before we start, I just want to ask
Sam one question – what is the consensus, do you think,
in the scientific community about your argument?
I mean, you’ve mentioned that there are schools of thought,
people like Daniel Dennett, who have a different view.
How close do you think we are to some kind of universal declaration
of the illusory nature of free will? Well, it’s just…
the state of affairs is really that most people
just don’t want to think about it. Most people just think
that there’s no… Most people are powerfully…their
intuitions are powerfully shaped by the illusion, the sense
that they have the freedom to consciously author their thoughts
and actions. So people feel that there is
a compelling, subjective mystery and they don’t…
..no-one has been able to give an argument
about how it would map onto physical reality.
But people feel that the experience is so compelling
that there’s just no reason to worry about it –
this is the state from which we need to live.
Then there are people like Dan who have a different…
..from my view, essentially change the subject.
The disagreement between Dan and myself
is essentially this. We’re living in a world where
most people believe in Atlantis and they believe
in the underwater kingdom and they read Plato closely,
trying to figure out where it was. And I want to say
Atlantis doesn’t exist, it didn’t exist,
people are confused about Atlantis. Dan wants to say
that Atlantis is really Sicily, and he’ll give a whole argument
about why Sicily answers to many of the claims
that people are making about Atlantis.
And I want to say, “No, they’re still talking about being underwater.
“Sicily doesn’t do that.” And he says, “But Sicily is a great
place and there’s reasons to visit “and let’s talk about Sicily.”
And when he and I argue about this, he begins to respond to me as though
I’m saying Sicily doesn’t exist. And so there’s a fair amount
of talking past one another in these kinds of debates.
Of course Sicily exists, but the people who are talking about
an underwater kingdom are, at the very least, confused,
and that’s the situation we’re in with free will.
I can see us scheduling a Sicily/Atlantis conversation
at some stage in the future. We’ll take questions
from the floor now. We’ll go over here –
questioner from number four. Does delusion of free will mean
there is no such thing as self-conscious
and only accident or blame? SAM: I’m sorry,
I missed that last piece. Does delusion of free will mean
there is no such thing as a conscious decision
and there’s only accident or blame? -Accidental blame?
-Accident or blame. So no such thing
as a conscious decision, is there only accident or blame?
Well, so… I’ll answer what I think
you were getting at there. The…
It’s not that consciousness is meaningless,
because… Within philosophy,
the argument that consciousness is always just behind the times
and serves no purpose, it’s called epiphenomenalism.
Consciousness just doesn’t do anything,
it’s just a movie that’s playing. It’s like you could
turn the monitor off your computer and the lights go out,
but your computer is still doing all the things it was doing anyway.
So that the monitor is kind of an epiphenomenon
relative to what the computer’s actually doing.
My argument against free will doesn’t really imply epiphenomenalism
about consciousness because it could be
that certain things have to be promoted to consciousness
in order to have the effects that they have.
It’s just that their promotion isn’t something that we ever,
as conscious witnesses, ever engineer.
So, for instance, I can unconsciously shift in my seat
and do…from time to time to ease various pains
and I can be unaware of any of this, but I can’t unconsciously decide,
“Well, actually this pain in my hip warrants a trip to an orthopaedist.”
So a certain something may have to rise into consciousness
and therefore begin a cascade of other effects that…
You know, the consciousness could be the difference
that makes the difference, and I think it is in many cases,
but it’s still a mystery why that particular thought pattern
arose in that moment. And in the present moment,
it’s always true to say you don’t know what’s coming next
as a matter of consciousness. And…
And the larger context is you didn’t make yourself –
you didn’t pick your parents, you didn’t pick your genome.
Anything that actually explains the totality of what you are
is something you can’t truly own, and so the role of luck
and its moral significance I think is something
we have to talk about. Coming next from number three.
MAN: Hi. Thanks for that, that was great.
My question’s hypothetical, but I think it’s rather plausible.
What should we – and I say ‘we’ as a global community,
maybe rational members of the global community –
do in the event of a faith-based nuclear attack?
(GENTLE LAUGHTER) And perhaps take the position
of a hypothetical president of the United States.
How would you address that? -And maybe…
-(LAUGHTER) And maybe also speculate
how President Obama or President Romney, God forbid.
(LAUGHTER) How they may…
You’ve speculated a little bit. What should we do in the aftermath
of a faith-based nuclear attack? Right, a nuclear 9/11, I guess.
It seems to me that the faith part is not particularly relevant
once the bombs have actually fallen. (LAUGHTER)
Let’s say one. I think what you may be getting at
is just that faith is obviously something I went into in some detail
in my first book, ‘The End of Faith’. The problem with otherworldly faith,
the problem with the idea that you get everything that you
could conceivably want after you die is that it takes
the entirely rational and important motivating component of death
out of the equation. So then you can walk around the world
meeting people who are, in some basic sense, eager to die,
and they’re not bluffing. There are many secular people
and religious liberals and religious moderates
who think that everybody’s bluffing, and it doesn’t matter how many people
make a suicide video and then blow themselves up.
They still think that, in some sense, you can’t trust
people’s representation of their beliefs,
you can’t take that at face value. There’s always some deeper thing –
they’ve been manipulated, they’ve been brainwashed,
it’s politics, it’s economics. It’s never the faith.
And notice, when you see that game being done,
when you see someone looking for a deeper explanation behind religion,
notice the asymmetry here, notice that no-one ever does it
in reverse. No-one ever meets
somebody with a grievance and hears them say,
“I just had no hope, “I couldn’t afford school.
“I was desperate because we’ve been living under occupation for decades.
“I saw no reason to live, “so then I entered the jihad
“because it seemed the only game in town.”
No-one ever hears that. First of all,
you fundamentally never hear that, but let’s say you did hear that.
No-one is tempted to go beneath that and say,
“Well, what’s the real religious motive?”
OK, they’re always looking for an economic or political motive
behind the religion. No-one ever looks for
the religious motive behind the economics or politics.
I’m not saying there is one, but if you play this game
only in one direction, you’ll always be discounting
people’s religious beliefs. So, yeah, I think that faith…
The certainty of paradise is intrinsically dangerous.
One, because it’s very likely false. There’s no good reason to believe it.
So you’re actually failing to maximise
the only circumstance of wellbeing that you can be certain of.
But two, it allows people to do things that would be
unthinkable otherwise. And that’s…
Yeah, so I do worry about that. Up here.
WOMAN: Hi. You talk about treatment instead of punishment.
How do you explain that the coercive treatment
isn’t a violation of the personal autonomy and the personal values
of the offender, and doesn’t that violation
end up constituting a kind of punishment anyway?
Also, why not talk about treatment and punishment at the same time?
Well, it’s just… It’s a question of…
That question is arising in a context in which we don’t understand
the details, and therefore our treatments
for anything at the level of the mind are incredibly coarse,
and if you’re talking about pharmacology,
they have a spectrum of undesirable side effects
and nothing really works all that well.
So you have to imagine the case where we really have a deep understanding
and we really have remedies that work and they don’t come with all of these
other terrible side effects, so you’re not having to weigh
symptoms of the disease versus the symptoms of the cure.
You just… It’s much more analogous
to the antibiotic… Oh, that’s probably not
a good analogy, ’cause there are side effects.
You know, the tumour was removed and no-one is left wondering
whether that was a good idea, because the problem
was discrete enough, the remedy was clear enough
and the outcome was good. In that case,
you’re just talking like… I’m not gonna worry very much
about someone’s right to be a psychopath.
You know, if we have a cure for psychopathy which is…
..you just get it in the milk now… But then we have parents
who don’t like the idea of this cure even though we don’t have
side effects and now they’re raising
psychopathic children who we all have to deal with,
that becomes… ..again, in the grey areas,
it becomes something to debate, because you’re talking about cures
that don’t necessarily work, incomplete understanding,
side effects, and that’s the world in which we’re
gonna be living for a very long time, perhaps forever.
But where things become clear and actionable,
I think our intuitions just naturally change.
It used to seem completely insane to, I would imagine, to even fix
somebody’s teeth. You know, it’s like orthodonture
is this crazy artifice that we have foisted upon ourselves
at some point, and yet now if your kid has
very crooked teeth, it is the compassionate and
not entirely intrusive thing to do to fix them,
and the kid will thank you when they’re old enough
to see the benefit. And so we don’t waste a lot of time
thinking about the ethics of things like that now,
and yet when they’re novel, I think the novelty’s startling.
Sam, I accept your premise about the nonexistence of free will.
I want to explore your assertion that it matters.
You’ve illustrated the point that it matters
largely in reference to the criminal justice system.
For most of us most of the time, our lives don’t intersect
with the criminal justice system. So can you illustrate this assertion
by explaining how you’ve conducted your life differently
since you landed on these ideas about free will?
(LAUGHTER, APPLAUSE) Well, I’ve managed to stay out
of the criminal justice system. (LAUGHTER)
Yeah, so the criminal justice component of it
doesn’t…isn’t something that I deal with on a day-to-day basis,
but the ethical component is and the emotional component is.
And I can tell you it has… it does…
I don’t always see the world this way.
I mean, I sort of have to remind myself that I see the world this way,
and there are many modes in which we all function.
But when I do see the world this way, it completely undercuts
the basis for hatred. There is no rationale
for hating a person. I mean, the equation between the
crocodile and the man with the axe does actually become valid for me
emotionally. Now, again, it sets a very high bar
if I was the person who was attacked, but even in those cases,
when I get into some… ..not physically attacked,
but when I get into some situation with somebody
where I’m liable to take their hostility personally
and find them as the source, something that inspires anger
or hatred or some really negative emotion,
that…viewing with a kind of wider lens
how we both got into that situation, just the bottom drops out
and the logic of indulging that mood falls away.
And that seems to me to be an intrinsically good thing.
Now, people begin to worry, “Well, what about all the good moods?
“Can you still love people… “..while viewing them as part of
this vast fabric of causality?” And I find that…there is
no sacrifice to the good stuff. First of all, things have to be
sort of situationally appropriate. I’m not constantly
looking at my daughter thinking about, “She’s just
a part of the physical universe “and wow, neurotransmitters giving
rise to all this cuteness.” (LAUGHTER)
I mean, that’s not the mode I’m in. But even to think in those terms,
it doesn’t cancel the desire for her happiness.
The love survives the truth. Love…love is not vulnerable
to knowing how things are arising, and knowing how things are arising
doesn’t nullify all the distinctions about the differences, the possible
differences in human experience that we care about.
We still care about living good, happy, easy…
..positive lives, and what else could we care about?
We’re really almost out of time, but out of fairness
I want to take one quick question from each of these microphones,
so if we can start over here, please. MAN: Hello. How you doing?
Basically, when we all go home tonight,
I’m sure some of us will be told, if we’re lucky, that we’re loved
by our families and partners and things,
and I’m sure a lot of people in here will be thinking,
“Yeah, but that’s not your decision.” Like, “You love me,
but that just derives “from events that are
out of your control.” -(LAUGHTER)
-SAM: Right. And although I found your argument
very compelling, that facet is a bit depressing to me,
that no-one actually loves me if they don’t make the choice.
-So… -(LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)
Yeah, are you a bit unhappy with the idea that –
I don’t want to get a bit personal – but your wife didn’t
make the decision to love you, she just does?
-Do you find that a bit depressing? -(LAUGHTER)
How do you deal with that? (LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)
Well, it’s… It’s not that…
(LAUGHTER) I think stripping off the illusion
doesn’t just change all the bad stuff leaving all the good stuff
exactly as it was. I think there is a cost to…
You lose certain kinds of pleasures or they become…
..you can’t take them as seriously as you otherwise would.
And if you are… If you want to be
sufficiently adolescent about it, you could regret the loss of it.
You know, it’s sort of like losing Santa Claus.
When you lose Santa Claus, you’ve actually lost something.
It didn’t get replaced by something that consoles you
in precisely the same way. So Christmas got a little less fun
when Santa Claus was fully debunked, and yet believing in Santa Claus
and things like Santa Claus has so many other costs
that you just couldn’t indulge it even if you wanted to.
And so there are some Santa Claus-like things
that you lose, perhaps. I haven’t spent a lot of time
thinking about what they all are, but…
It’s not… You’re sort of asking…
Implicit in your question is that there may be some choice here,
but there’s no… Either this seems to be
the way the world is to you or it doesn’t seem that way,
and you can’t choose to believe one way or the other
based on how it makes you feel, or at least if you do succeed
in doing that, you should be pretty sure
you’re deceiving yourself. The way the belief makes you feel
can’t be one of your reasons for believing it.
You’ve got to believe it based on what you think is true.
But, on the whole, I find that almost entirely…
..the change almost entirely positive.
All of the negative states of mind that become so intractable
and just motivate people to waste their entire lives, really,
are undercut by this… ..are anchored to this illusion.
And the depth to which we can take things personally…
I mean, so if I read my Twitter feed and I see all the people hate me
and think I’m an idiot and all the people misunderstand
the thing I just said and… ..the moment I begin to lock in
and take it personally, well, then it’s just like
picking up a hot coal. I mean, there’s nothing good
about it. But an ability to disengage from that
and to see the illusion of that does come at the cost of
you can’t indulge the good stuff at the same level you otherwise would.
So again, pride and hatred are sort of on a similar level.
So how proud can I be of something? Let’s say I do something exactly
the way I wanted to have done it and it’s a success
and everyone tells me that was great. “No-one could have done it
the way you just did it. “Don’t you feel good about yourself?”
When I look closely, I can’t really make much out of that moment,
and it’s not… ..so therefore I can’t
really be so motivated by that kind of turn of events.
I just can’t feel… I see too much of how
luck was involved and other people’s contributions
and just stuff I wasn’t aware of. And it’s like hitting a golf ball –
sometimes it goes great and you feel like Tiger Woods,
and sometimes it goes into the woods. And the indulgence of taking credit
for the one so fully and feeling like a schmuck
for the other, that vacillation between the two
at a certain point becomes just a source of suffering.
It’s just not…it’s an illusion. It’s a dream you can wake up from.
Paradoxically, you can still want to play golf
and still have fun playing golf, it’s just you’re less miserable.
(LAUGHTER) And a quick question from you.
-Hi, Sam. -SAM: Hi.
I’m just wondering, you mentioned a couple of times the…
..sort of being unlucky if you were born with bad genes
or, you know, to be a psychopath or something like that.
And I’m just wondering, is there any evidence to your knowledge
that there is such a thing as, like, a psychopath gene
or an equivalent, something like that?
Oh, yeah. We… The genetics of it
are not totally worked out. The contribution, it’s not like
Huntington’s disease, where it’s 100% contribution
and we know what genes are involved. But, yeah, clearly there’s
a genetic component to psychopathy. And so there are people who have
this complement of genes who don’t wind up being psychopaths
but they can have some of the traits…
..there’s a scale of traits of psychopathy.
And it’s, you know, some, like almost everything that we care about,
some combination of genes and environmental influences
that cause it. So this has been a classic opening
for a Festival of Dangerous Ideas – golf, Ben Stiller, psychopaths
and a cherished illusion going out the window.
So I’m hoping you’re all going to head out into the night
relieved of the burden of free will, hoping that you’re lucky,
that you ended up with the right parents.
Sam will be signing books in the foyer as we leave here.
I’d like you to join me in thanking him,
and I hope to see you over the weekend.
SAM: Thank you. Thank you very much. you




Comments
  1. There is free will if you are able to examine yourself. To do that you must set your actions against a backdrop. This will be your standard. Psychoanalysis seeks to find emotional injuries that take away free will. The unexamined life has no free will. Any punishment without understanding simply confuses humans. Generally moral refers to actions that injure others. You cannot imagine there are hidden actions. This mean from the beginning you cannot do anything you would not do in public. It is further complicated because you are with so many emotionally injured people. You pick your associations. This too is free will. You do not choose people you would injure or who would injure you when seeking free will. That would be immoral. Those who prefer immorality are considered as insane people or sociopaths and psychopaths. They freely injure others and themselves knowingly and unknowingly. This is immoral.

  2. If free will was a steering wheel and our feelings was the body of the vehicle, and the heart and brain were its mechanical parts. Do we have free will when we are forced to change direction in order to avoid having an accident or from damaging the vehicle? Was the universe responsible for my reaction to turn the steering wheel to the left or right and if turning either way would ensure the same outcome in this instance avoiding an accident then why did the universe engage in a meaningless task?
    What about if there was no need for a steering wheel because instead of a vehicle it is a train which runs on train tracks.
    Instead of a steering wheel you have controls to accelerate and a brake handle to stop. Free will does not exist because you cannot veer off the determined path.
    And so now when an obstacle comes across the trains path, there is no alternative choice to take, but to head directly for it.
    Is the difference between a vehicle and train confined to the differences in navigation? In either scenario both vehicle and train still follow a predetermined destination. But different options exist between the two when faced with an obstacle in its path.
    Is the analogy of the train and train tracks relevant to the determinism theory?
    As long as the path has been set there is no need for a steering wheel.
    But the train will always travel along the tracks and when the tracks have been rerouted the train has no choice but to travel along those lines.
    But someone must lay down the path that the train takes and it is here that pandoras box lies.
    To say that it is the universe that is responsible for laying down that path, is like saying that God is responsible for laying down the tracks. And that we have no choice but to follow his path.
    But the reality is that those tracks were laid down physically for a reason.
    Its purpose was to reach a predetermined destination and if those tracks were laid down with a reason and purpose Then purpose validates intention and intention validates a decision and a decision validates free will.
    Isn’t this a logical conclusion.

  3. The origin of the big bang is a thought. Thoughts are acts of creations. Yes you can choose another's thought and make it your own, or you can create brand new thoughts. The space of thoughts are infinite. This is why they cannot be determined. An infinite source provides infinite possibilities continuously without ever running out. When you say we don't have free will? what is the "we" made from? One must clarify what the "thing" that has or has no free will made from before you can say anything about if it does have free will or not. So the steps for a viable approach is.
    1. What is the definition of free will?
    2. What stuff makes the "thing" that I call me?
    3. Does that stuff permit free will?

    These are my answers to the above
    1. What is the definition of fee will.
    The ability to change space-time 4 dimensionally, that is change past present and future
    2.What stuff makes the "thing" that I call me?
    The thing I call me is a single thing that is made of stuff that can connect simultaneous events as is evident from my ability to see simultaneous event.
    3. Does that stuff permit free will?
    A thing that can connect simultaneous events can operate faster than the speed of light and as such can change past present and future as needed by the definition

    https://philpapers.org/rec/DESCAS

  4. Free will these are words Christianity when they are asked by atheists and they can't answer , they will use free will, so that they can explain why is god doesn't responsible for our choices.But think about if a god who is full of love and he claimed himself in bible that he is almighty, he is the highest power as he knows the past, the present and the future he knows everything, but one thing I am curious, if a god who is so with love and he is compassionate, if he knows something bad is going to happen on someone who pray to him, trust him so much, why doesn't he help? He let that kind person be hurt? He calls this free will? If this is the case fuck him! He doesn't deserve human to bow down to him, he doesn't reserve human to praise and respect him, what can he do? So contradicted!

  5. The illusion of free-will, how exactly does that help us and not some dog/insect from a Darwinian perspective? All of Sam's delusions are debunked in this book.
    https://www.amazon.com/Sam-Harris-Delusion-God-Book-ebook/dp/B00R1Z3PIG

  6. I'm still sad. But I love that someone finally stated what I always knew. Thanks to Harris, Dawkins, Pinkert, Bloom.

  7. Struggle to understand how at 20:37 it can make sense to say your audience are there because they 'want' to hear what you have to say. With no free will they surely can't have wanted it or not wanted it. Circumstances just conspired to put there arses on those seats!

  8. 'you are not condemned to be the person you were yesterday. In fact you can't be that person'. This means you are condemned to change according to random and deterministic laws.

    'Don't throw the oars of your boat and just drift in life'. Because you can't, unless you can. Either way, doesn't matter, since you have no choice.

    I think he is being ambiguous, and trying to defend and sugar coat his ideas when they start sounding demotivating to general public.

  9. I watched this video when it first was released, and I have to say that Sam changed my life; I am now a rich owl farmer.

  10. Freewill is bullshit Sam Harris puts it rightly. But since he did not chose his words thoughts are actions. It's all outside of his control. Which means he deserves no credit.

    I still agree with him though.

  11. the unconscious is influenced by conscious thoughts and unconscious stimuli and then affects our consciousness. However, when we have a conscious goal in our minds, can we generate information and control them? remove them, reorient them to our consciousness, to modify them, to mix them with other concepts, etc. The answer is yes. Can someone predict what will we think now before we think it with fmri? it has not been sufficiently proven to be so, but when uninvited thoughts come without our own control it may be possible. With conscious control as I described earlier, does it mean that there is free will? Logically not, because free will in the classical sense means that there is no factor influencing you that you did not create (brain, environment, etc.) But it makes no sense to predict a conscious thought (with a mental goal) because this is not uninvited, we can pull out various informations and control them for example if you mentally know that you must pull out informations about your job, you must make an effort and pull out the informations you want and then mix them with others etc, this isnt ''no control'' like uninvited unconscious thouths, emotions and desires/insticts. Sam harris in my opinion should make that clear because in some sense we can control our next thoughts, it depends on what you define as ''control'' and ''peaking up thoughts''. Μore specifically, if the creation of the thought was unconscious then it certainly had to come to us uninvited, we have no control in this creation. If, however, on the basis of a conscious goal , we know that we have to convey intellectual information (about our job for example), we can do it consciously, here the ''creation'' is not unconscious, it is conscious (whether it can be induced by unconscious tendencies)

  12. Harris and Dennet make the same mistake, it's true that free will is an illusion, however, that fact has little or no effect on how the legal system should act, we punish people with jail sentences for three reasons, deterrence, isolation and rehabilitation, we blame the psychopath when he/she kills, so that one other would be killers are dettered by the threat of a jail sentence, two so that the killer psychopath can't hurt anymore people (isolation) and three to try and make the killer see that it is in their best interest to abide by the law. Blame and punishment are purely pragmatic, they are about setting precedents, shaping the behavior of the tribe/group/society and keeping the group/society safe from the harmful tendencies of those prone to committing damaging acts.

  13. Anyone who believes this crap that free will doesn't exist, anyone who preaches the dangerous idea that free will doesn't exist, can't help but create a helpless humanity resembling caged rabbits, but only if you believe this crap!! It is in fact unalterably true that people do have free will!!

  14. So If our decision making is influenced by an endless chain of causality, then determinism is true and we don't have free will. But if the opposite is true-indeterminism then our actions must be random – still not free will.

  15. At 38:14 Sam states: "That in itself is a choice." Who is making that " choice ?" Whatever mechanism is making that "choice" even at the nano level after all considerations are taken into account is free will. And unlike the making of red corpuscles, it varies from person to person. The conventional ideal of free will needs to be expanded not abandon. Sam states clearly that enough science is present to unequivocally support his position. That is a bold statement. But as his fellow horseman, Christopher Hitchens said: " I no other choice, but to believe in free will.'

  16. When one uses the term “free will” they are not actually referring to mans will being free because the Bible does not teach that “mans will is free” anywhere! You are using the term “free will” in error when you really mean “free choice”. The term “free choice” correctly describes what God has done when He gave man an alternate option to sinless perfection. God Graciously provided an alternative, namely the Gospel, that we may “freely” accept or reject. The free part means that nothing, and no one, outside of you forces the decision. You make the decision “free” from force. Otherwise it would be against the will.

    Now… whats going on within man when he makes his final “responsible, free choice” is a completely different matter. The will does not work independently! The “will” has its part, but it’s part is not decision making! Don’t be deceived! When you make a “free choice” you don’t just flip-a-coin, then willingly move towards heads or tails. There are other faculties involved, than just the will, that determine the final choice among the available options. Your wills part is just the action toward the option already decided upon by the deeper faculties.

    Also if you believe that your will makes decisions then you have been deceived along with thousands of other people who erroneously use the term “free will” instead of the correct term “free choice”!

    There is a biblical term that the Bible uses that describe where decisions come from and its not the “will”! Nowhere in scripture will you find a place that teaches that choices are made by the “will”.

    Consider these verses and you will see the biblical term used for the deeper faculty, within man, that makes decisions… then the will is engaged according to those decisions…

    Romans 10:10, Matthew 15: 18-20, Luke 6:45, Mark 7:21, Romans 6:17, Hebrews 4:12, Ezekiel 11:19-21, Romans 2:5, Ephesians 6:6, 2 Corinthians 9:7, Acts 8:22, Psalm 37:4, Luke 16:15… etc.

  17. Well, you know what you are going to think next and you generate it (if you can) for example if i know that in the next moment i have to think the alfabet, then before the words come in surface i make an effort and bring them and control them..so sam harris is wrong on that (obviously) but it doesnt mean free will exist..i may control the next thought if i try but i didnt choose the ability to do that (cognitive functions, iq, etc) is like lionel messi..he didnt choose his abilities but he control his movements on soccer etc and he is the best

  18. It's not even funny.

    This is remarkably stupid, idiotic. These "popular thinkers" can really influence it seems stupid, uneducated people. He thinks he is really deep, scientific. Just another "popular" pseudo intellectual, who really thinks he knows a lot. Being popular doesn't mean you are right, talented or smart… A lot of people are stupid, and uneducated.

    As Einstein said only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former.

  19. Is it ever possible to fully identify with not believing in free will, or dose this just remain as a interesting yet useless though exercise.

  20. Great upload! To learn more about the lack of free will and determinism, join the facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/nofreewill/

  21. Read On the Prejudice of Philosophers, the first section of Beyond Good and Evil by Friedrich Nietzsche (22 pages). Why freewill does not exist. — Also read The Four Great Errors (page 58 to 65) of Twilight of the Idols. Nietzsche.

  22. The Vedic (ancient Hinduism) over 5000 years ago realized freewill did not exist (nor God or heaven) and people fell into suicidal nihilism (depression, listlessness, world-weariness) that Hinduism invented karma and reincarnation to replace no freewill and the eternal reoccurrence. And now the ancient school of thinking is resurfacing with the death of God, morality and freewill to make the postmodern age nihilistically suicidal once again. The modern world is becoming a hospital and more people are turning to antidepressants and other drugs and alcohol to escape reality. Religion will make a comeback to prevent knowing too much that makes people intellectually miserable, depressed, neurotic.

  23. Nature goes on forever for everyone and everything to return as everyone and everything an infinite number of times. 😱😫😰

  24. We are willed by the natural law of causality – the sound concept of cause and effect. The universe unfolds like a crowd of dominos falling. One thing leads to another. The ripple effect in a pond. A chain reaction. — The Justice System is wrong to hold people accountable for their actions, but does so to prevent social chaos. — And yes it would be wrong to hold the Justice System responsible as well, for might is right. —- The higher task is to create higher systems to prevent people from becoming socially offensive through a moneyless scientific wonderland, higher morals and medicine.

  25. You claim that Christianity is built upon the delusion of free will. that is totally wrong. Philippians 2.13 – for it is God who works in you to will – – Mans will is no way free. Luther establish the true Christian doctrine in his main work : The Bondage of the Will.The important thing for him writing this book was to correct the heresis some, and in  our day, many humanistic "Cristians" have, putting man in charge, but this power applys always and forever to God. So if you shall chose an opponent, turn to his face, and do not attac his back. Do not tell me that I believe what I don`t. Rune 🙂

  26. There is no freewill and I am working on proving this in ways that will be revolutionary. — inspired by Dostoyevsky and Nietzsche who said: "It is certainly not the least charm of a theory that it is refutable: it is with precisely this charm that it entices subtler minds. It seems that the hundred times refuted theory of 'freewill' owes its continued existence to this charm alone – : again and again there comes along someone who feels he is strong enough to refute it." — But there is no freewill and I have proven it in ways I can't wait to publish.

  27. "Love survives the truth." Wow. Really. A slip of the mind. To get along with the mob and keep our social status we will say anything. Shame on you as a scientist. But as a philosopher all is good. Thus spoke nature.

  28. It's not that your wife doesn't love you, only she would have loved somebody else (your buddy) had he hit on her first.

  29. Half the world and counting knows freewill doesn't not exist. Nature goes on forever for everyone and everything to return as everyone and everything an infinite number of times.

  30. Why did I choose to watch this video? I have no idea. Except that I was discussing free will with someone earlier, and I have liked Sam Harris in the past, so I guess it was predetermined to do so. Or maybe I just felt like it.

  31. islam does say we have no free will. thus submitting to the will of Allah is the definition of islam and the person who submits to the will of Allah by realising that he has no "free will" and still submits to Allah's will becomes muslim.

  32. first u need to understand that there is no "free will". now you will reach a point where you will choose between the following:
    1) take a road of ego centrism. where you will say that there is no base for rationality. i can do whatever i can because i have no free will. in this road you will justify your bad actions by simply not taking the blame on your own. but blaming others.
    2) take a road that you are still responsible. follow your intuition. and accept the present moment as it is. submit to the will of Allah. and become muslim. follow the guidelines of Allah.

    by following the 2nd path. you will reach a point in life in which you will starting experiencing free will. this is the point or state romi had achieved in the past and you can achieve it as well. this state of consciousness called "ihsan" in islam. "this is the core PURPOSE OF ISLAM"

  33. life is paradoxical in nature. it shows you that you have no free will. yet it offers you a path that you can follow to become more disciplined, more responsible, more enlightened, more successful. a path to faith . a path to one true God. by accepting this paradoxical nature of life one can achieve higher state of consciousness and become a master to self. self improvement, self help true purpose is to gain control on your self. this is the life purpose as well. to gain control on your self . but your first step would be the realisation of that you have no free will. and than follow the path of self improvement or self help. this is exactly why islam came in to being. this is the one true purpose of life and islam

  34. determinism should not lead you to fatalism. it should lead you to the one true path. watch this video. this video will guide you how to handle determinism.

  35. "I did not choose to look like Ben Stiller, why sometimes I don't even feel like Ben Stiller." – Ben Stiller

  36. Free will is impossible. We can't deviate from what god knows we will do. If we do deviate, then he DOESN'T know everything.

    Either way, this proves Christianity is fake. The story is ignorant

    You're welcome

  37. Does anybody have a response to this article? https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4412198/ I was looking for articles pertaining to this discussion in regards to psychopathology. This particular article is in contrast with Sam’s viewpoints.

  38. If determinists are right why do we keep having that feeling that we have a choice? Does it serve a purpose or is it the way the universe has of showing us how absurd things are?

  39. 39 minutes 50 seconds "if I hadn't decided to write a book, it wouldn't have written itself. These things don't happen by accident"
    Come on Sam, get a grip on reality, stop brain washing yourself! Yes many things influence our decision a lot of which we don't even know about but that does not mean you have no other choice but the one you make. It simply means that there are consequences to your choices and no choice is truly free. Stop the over dramatization that free will means free of consequences. This is a Strawman argument in that Sam and others of like mind has built up this well defined free will so that they can tear it down. The truth is you can make a decision and impose your will to do so upon the outside world, where as chemical can't. You do or don't run a stop sign based on the known consequences of doing so. If you mixed bleach and chlorine together the out come is determined no matter what decrees are made.

  40. There is an even deeper realization. That the whole "you" is a concoction of concepts and conditioning. When that collapses then a sense of oneness arises. No separation….just this swirling, changing no-thingness we call life. All the descriptions (words fall away)- remember words are not the thing. The center no more. Terrifying prospect to lose one's identifications (good and bad) and it will feel like death as the fantasies and delusions begin to dissolve – especially the "good" ones we carry about ourselves. The entire conditioning and reinforcement of society will rise up against this ultimate freedom of no self. Resonating with life now, in the expression of existence, you are thaT! LIFE ITSELF!

  41. The fact that your sub concious has an active role does not mean you have no free will. It is still "you" making the choice. They are ignoring the fact they have no idea what conciousness or sub concious is

  42. Or you pick your favorite film which you will always choose because it is your favorite? Then you are intentionally choosing for a reason. He seems to be saying people ALWAYS do things without thinking about them?

  43. How is insiration exlained? From nothing, I create the idea of a painting. Where, in my physical brain is that image? Where did it come from

  44. Free will does not exist why, because

    If we want to survive on earth.

    we cannot all be police officers.

    That is why god have structure.

    Richard

  45. With respect, that kid who talked about "no one really loving him" without free will is incredibly childish, and I hope his question was mostly hyperbole. Everyone has experienced love of a family member and most have of a mate. To believe these feelings are by choice whether free will exists or not is moronic.

  46. Today I prefer to have vanilla over chocolate. Last year I preferred chocolate over vanilla. I didn’t choose what I wanted last year nor did I choose what I wanted now. That’s the way for me which makes it easier to understand:-)

  47. I'd like to suggest that a more important question is, given that we have no free will, why do we think we do? I think the answer inheres in our ability to conceptualize alternative behaviors, each of which is seen as possible. We think since all these behaviors are possible, I can evaluate each behavior and based on this analysis, I can select the best one. Free Will! But what is overlooked is that there are hidden factors in the situation which when known reveal why some behaviors are in fact impossible. Still, we think right up until the moment of choice and the precluding factors are revealed, we think we could choose that behavior. PS. some of the precluding factors reside in our past learning and acquired preferences.

  48. Wait, so the person you really are is your brain and not the outward expression of its decisions? Your brain picks "right hand" before the you that you think you are picks it, so doesnt that mean that the you you think you are is an illusion? Do our brains have free will even if our personas dont?

    sigh Pass the weed, i need another hour to think this shit over😌

  49. I wonder why the americans have to take an example of foreign war criminal as an example when they have enough of them in the US. That is, why mentioning Saddam Husein instead to simply say G.W. Bush. The Irak was maybe ruled by an autocrate, but the US is ruled by corporate psyhopates, which is worse. The proof that is worse is that it maybe will not free from them for a long time, much longer that an autocrate country from it's ruler.

  50. These ideas presume the world is constructed "bottom up". However, evidence is gathering that the world is "top down" with conscious "choices" bringing reality into existence ….

  51. Mr. Harris is the victim of self-contradiction. If he is not free to speak against free will, then he cannot have any claim to truth. Just because our thoughts are produced physiologically, does not mean that they do not give us a choice of action a or action b. The choice between various actions is where the free will is found. Many times, we go against our own desire or choice of the mind because external laws or moral values prohibit us.

  52. For those who believe in determinism I have a few questions. Why does one use phrases like: I decided, I chose, my decision, your choice, your fault and the like?! Why do we say: think about it before you decide? Why should I be responsible for the wrong choices I make in my life?!
    🤔the best way to avoid responsibility or accountability is to believe in determinism!
    It’s true that I didn’t have a choice to have this body of mine BUT didn’t I have the free will to play with it? Didn’t I have the free will to take care of my own business?! Didn’t I have the free will to release or control my emotions?! Why do we philosophize the common sense?!!

  53. FREE WILL: Freedom to do anything that we have the desire and ability to do.
    Only 25% of society is rich, for though most all desire to be rich, only the 25% most intelligent have the ability. Those who are good natured have a desire to produce a grateful response by showing compassion and being generous, so it is impossible for them to do evil.

    On the other hand, those who have a desire to be enriched upon the misery of those who have less education, less wealth or less whiteness of skin, for them it is impossible to do anything but evil.

  54. "Free will"? … "Free" of or from what? … Control by some 'super-parental' being? Free from your body? 'Destiny'?
    Define "free" … define "will" even.

  55. Satan was actually the first challenger of God..Some go as far as to find him right in his inept rebellious mind to reject to obey his unbeatable All Knower Creator..
    Since his outcastting from Paradise he has no other occupation than to gain others' votes for him.
    You are right…your two eyes your two ears are illusion in fact.You think you have them others think you have them but it's an illusion indeed.They are not really yours they are someone else's.If that sounds logical so is your arguement..Futility restlers..!

  56. If you smell delicious to the crocodile you might be screwed. But you might be able to bribe the guy with the ax with $1,000 not to chop up your face. Also crocodile's don't know what to do with money, they don't like the idea of carrying a wallet; especially those made of certain materials, which they find disturbing. 🙂
    With the case of the murderer, you may find an excuse to explain his actions but you'd be nuts to allow him to date your daughter. Instead you should introduce the murderer to the rude lady at the DMV.

  57. "All the world's a stage,
    And all the men and women merely players.
    They have their exits and their entrances."
    —William Shakespeare

  58. We have the freedom to do everything that we have both the ability and desire to do. Suicide is a thing most everyone has the ability to do, but in the U.S. only 13 people out of 100,000 have the desire to take their life. Also, most everyone has the desire to be rich, but only 25% of U.S. society has the capacity to be rich.

    Since the beginning of civilization, the more educated upper-half of every nation has had both the desire and ability to hoard all the land, wealth, political power and healthcare. Which is exactly what has happened, for every nation has had a 50% working poor. Wealth being the excess property we own above what is needed for a comfortable life, wealth being a luxury the 50% working poor has never known.

    The one billion least intelligent humans have the desire to not starve, but they have not the ability to earn a living wage, so for a fact, they will slowly starve to death.

    Reality is, seven billion sinners have the ability to help end hunger. Problem is, sinners love to enrich themselves upon the misery of those with less education, less wealth or less whiteness of skin. Truth is, virtually all of us are born sinners.

    Therefore, the real issue: The only purpose of planet earth, is it to reach the ultimate conclusion of the realm of sin?

    For hunger, global warming and nukes exploding, surely the only possible destiny there could ever be, in this paradise for ingrates O woe is me. That's what I always say.

  59. Our will being the decision maker of our being, we should have the desire, ability and freedom to enjoy life without being enriched upon the misery of another. Also, to truly have a freewill and not be a slave to good, we need to have both the ability and freedom to maximize pleasure even if it causes misery.

  60. first of all Libet experiment isnt some irefutable proof that humans are not free. You already know concsiously what to do you, wait, and later you feel that you want to act. But look closely. How do you know exactly when you decided, if you knew concsiously all the time what to do later? i guess these experiments are implying that even when you know what to do, this conscious knowing of something is intergrated with subconsious mechanisms (which are still you but the "automatic" you) and the tendence to act is building subconsciously, but even so the conscious knowledge of moving your arm or whatever was there by the begining, otherwise the subjects wouldnt know why they suppose to do (obviously). But that doenst mean that you have to know something necessarily in order to act later, of course thoughts and desires many times just appear in our awereness without a conscious plan at the begining. Im just saying the obvious that the human subjects already knew what to do so the consious part was there all the time, in other words the thought was there all the time it didnt just poped out of the blue. Libet experiments doenst even examine real situations of dilemmas. There isnt any dilemma at moving your arm or not. Free will mostly refers to situations when you have to deside between diferrent tendencies. These kind of experiments doesnt objectively examine these conditions. Sam Harris is of course correct certainly at the highest percentage of his points. Tendencies. desires, beliefs, iq, thoughts are just present to us. This doenst mean of cource that you have to sit back and see what happen, you have to make an effort to think something, hes just saying that when we make these efforts the mental informations are just coming to us. In a case that didnt? we all have experienced situations that we couldnt remember a word it just didnt come to the consious surface. Who decided that? Look at the positive desires you have: you want to be happy, not fear, not panic, have sex, love, have money, live comfortable and carefree. Where all of these wants come from? you decided or your brain did? you didnt build your brain. we just happened to be in all these psycological rules and stetements we never picked in the first place. But on the other hand Sam cant impact any evidence that at two opposite tendencies there isnt some kind of not exactly entirely free will but consious choise between two opposite equally strong forces. Like the little red devil and the white angel in our perceptions. Whats happening there? we didnt choose for the red devil or the white angel to exist in our minds but we choose what to follow with consious effort. When we choose something Could we choose otherwise? in order to answer this question you have to turn back the time 50 times and see what happen. If 1 out of 50 times you could choose something diferrent then determinism doesnt exist. Or you have to make two identical situations and examine that. But we cant examine that apparently. So how can Sam be sure of something that we cant proove? hes just falling at the same trap as religion people he disaprooves..

  61. Hooeee. Just 12 mins in and I'm lost. I am a reasonably intelligent university graduate atheist of 63 years old who has read philosophy widely, studied and practised meditation for decades … and I can't follow his ideas, metaphors, arguments, logic. It's wordy torture. It's all just too complicated to travel with him to maybe "be convinced" he might be right. I ponder how anyone of lesser education and maturity, or not in an expensive Opera House audience, could ever get the gist of his arguments or learn from this talk. In other words, Sam and his intellectual ilk stand (or think they do) so far above the common man as to be unintelligable. Any simple idea, any simple proposition — such as there is or is not free will — should be expressed and argued simply. Sam fails this basic axiom. I suspect he is preaching to the not-for-changing already-believers and maybe a few not-for-changing critics to his position. Seriously, how many people would have entered believing in free will and exited not so??? He flatters himself that he'll make converts … as does Dawkings, Dennett, Hitchens, et al. Egoistic proselitisation clearly exists both within and outside of religion.

  62. Answer me this Sam:
    What is in play when one chooses their weekly Powerball numbers? Is it (according to you) some prior biological and/or environmental chain of neurological causes, or is there not momentary free choice (ie free will) to logically, rationally choose (let's say) 6 evens this week and 6 odds next week? Surely free will is that mental force which DETERMINES a fixed outcome from a smorgasboard of innumerable possible RANDOM options?

  63. Sam Harris says the self is an illusion, and that we are not the authors of our own thoughts. If you believe that, you have accepted as truth philosophical ideas originated by an illusion that did not even author them. You might want to reconsider that.

  64. Sam has the making of a great politician. He throws a lot of words out there without really saying anything, or anything coherent for that matter.

  65. whats it matter if love is a choice or a consequence ofcauses… whats nice about love is its actuality… not the knowledge of why it is…

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