Free Will Again

Sorry about the writer’s block. I’m hereby restarting this blog; we shall see if I can keep it up.

I am still worrying at the free will question, so I will record some of my thoughts here.

The theistic view of free will is all about the burden of choosing good actions and avoiding evil ones. Nobody is interested in whether a person chooses chocolate or pistachio ice cream.

And for atheists who nevertheless feel the pull of morality this burden of choice remains. Not as a major feature of life, I think: it is my intuition that most of the evil actions I commit (yelling at my partner, say) are not the outcome of choice. The moral imperative as related to such situations has two prongs: that of repentance for the wrong, together with an attempt to undo its effects; and that of a resolve to train one’s mind to be better able to avoid such actions in the future.

(This mind-training aspect was brought more to my awareness recently through my friend Meng’s book Search Inside Yourself. The relevant theory is that mindfulness practice can enable one to notice emotions at the moment of their arising, so that one can actually make a choice as to how the emotion manifests in actions.)

So, unless the free-will-is-an-illusion crowd has a persuasive argument that we can be complacent about the moral choices that confront us, it seems to me that all the important features of free will as conceived by theists remain as an inescapable part of life.

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2 Responses to Free Will Again

  1. Re: Meng’s book: How does noticing an emotion in real time make it possible for the practitioner to manifest that emotion in such and such a way? Some claim seems to be missing in order to get the argument to work.

  2. dysangelist says:

    Andrew, the implicit claim is that the unfolding of an emotion begins with bodily correlates that the subject can notice, and that precede any acting out visible to others. This seems reasonable to me.

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