Embracing the Illusion of Free Will

from maniacworld.com

Image from maniacsworld

I am often asked how I square the circle of recognizing that free will doesn’t exist but still embracing the joys of life, celebrating achievements, etc.

My usual response is to ask the person to remember what my (our) priority is: improving human happiness and reducing suffering. I submit that embracing truth helps us do this better than embracing superstition. And I feel that knowing that we don’t have free will makes us behave better to each other in the long term than the alternative.

But this does not mean we should drain the color from our art, or the taste from our food. It’s a path to overly reductionist thinking, but we don’t have to take that path. Knowledge of the atom is a path to blowing stuff up, and we don’t have to take that either.

This is my approach:

  1. Realize that we are configurations of the universe devoid of true free will, and this should help to diminish our hatred of each other, and increase our compassion for each other.

  2. Rejoice in the fact that we are alive. As Dawkins says, the odds of our existing in this universe are infinite against. The very fact that we can enjoy friendship and wine and laughter is a gift. So embrace the win, embrace your accomplishments.

Is this contradictory with the lack of free will? Sure. But it’s all a contradiction anyway, isn’t it? Our consciousness lies to us about what we see in front of us. It claims many things that are not true. We are awash in biases. Love is a chemical illusion designed to make us procreate.

So what? Free will is an illusion. That rose isn’t really red. Love is elaborate evolutionary chemical squirt trickery. So what? Embrace them. Enjoy them. And do your best to see that others can experience them as well.

I believe this duality of acknowledging and embracing the illusion is the best path forward.

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