The Difference Between Love and Hate in a World Without Free Will


Many who doubt the position of free will skeptics use the issue of love and hate as their weapon of choice. The argument goes like so:

If there is no free will, then we not only destroy hate, but also love, and that’s not something I’m willing to do.

Well, two things:

  1. You shouldn’t reject something just because you don’t like the implications, and

  2. There is a significant difference between love and hate that removes this dilemma

Hatred is based on believing that a person could have done otherwise, while love is not.

You can love puppies, or babies, or old senile relatives even knowing that they’re not responsible for how they are. Hatred, however, includes the notion that the perpetrator should have taken a different action.

If a friend is injured by a bear in the woods, or stung by bees, most rational people wouldn’t use ‘hate’ to describe the assailant.

Fear? Sure. Repulsion? Sure. But not hatred.

This is why free will skepticism is not an attack on love: love doesn’t hinge upon understanding the cause of one’s behavior.


  1. I didn’t come up with this distinction. I heard it first explained by Sam Harris in various debates.

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