Friday, September 23, 2016

Talk of “Free Will” Is So Much Navel Gazing

There was someone I used to interact with on Facebook a lot. We used to have endless arguments about what “free will” means. I couldn’t use simple words like “choose” or “decide” without being sucked into a tedious discussion about his favorite hobby-horse. It was all pointless because none of these arguments (on the actual topics I *wanted* to discuss) ever hinged on how the “free will” question was answered. Even had I fully explained a working model of human consciousness and decision-making, it wouldn’t have changed my policy views or social outlook on any topic.

I eventually realized that I don’t really care if you have free will or not. I care how you will react if I treat you as a responsible human being versus if you are shielded from the consequences of all your actions. All this endless talk about free will is meaningless navel-gazing. It doesn’t really matter if you’re a human being with agency, feelings, values, etc., or a mindless robot programmed to act like a human being with all those nice things. It doesn’t matter what’s going on under the hood. What matters, to me and to everyone else around you, is whether you behave like a good person or a shitty person. 

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