Free Will’s Endgame is Absurdism


Absurdism is fundamentally about the inherent disconnect between what humans seek and what exists in reality.

With meaning, humans seek an objective and universal version that can make sense of everything. It doesn’t exist, and we have to make our own. We want the same thing with morality, but it also doesn’t exist, and we again have to build our own imperfect models.

I think the final block at the top of the free will pyramid is another example of this.

Incompatibilists rightly point out that if we cannot have chosen differently for past decisions then we also can’t choose for future decisions. We can experience choice, but experience of something is not the same as it being real.

Compatibilists point out that nobody can live in the world as if free will doesn’t exist. Even the most militant incompatibilists rise in the morning and endeavor to be better people. Why would they do that if they were unable to make a different choice?

Even more fundamentally, why try to do anything? If everything is going to happen in one particular way, why spend time crafting a life with goals and plans? Why not just stay in bed? The answer cannot have anything to do with trying to change things, because they cannot be any different than they will be.

So the line stretched between incompatibilism and compatibilism turns out to be a piece of string wrapped around a cylinder. The ends rejoin each other on the other side and form a confused discussion.

Compatibilism is non-sensical because physics actually determines all our choices and removes the possibility of responsibility. And incompatibilism is non-sensical because humans are not wired to live as if nothing they do matters.

The only solution is an Absurdist one: We must accept this tension and live with it, like a warm yet pungent blanket that protects us from both intellectual dishonesty and suicide.

Just as we live on in spite of a lack of intrinsic meaning, or a lack of universal morality, we too can live on knowing nobody is ultimately responsible for anything they do while behave mostly as if they were.


  1. I actually like the smelly warm blanket as a metaphor for Absurdism. It’s freezing outside, and if you cast it aside you will surely die. And while you can ignore the smell sometimes, it is ever-present and can be extremely uncomfortable when attention is called to it.

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