Sunday, December 30, 2012

Need a New Year's Resolution? Choose to Believe In Free Will!

Need a New Year's Resolution? Choose to Believe In Free Will!: We're approaching the end of one year and the beginning of another, when people resolve to quit smoking, swill less booze, gobble less ice cream, jog every day, or every other day, work harder, or less hard, be nicer to kids, spouses, ex-spouses, co-workers, read more books, watch less TV, except Homeland , which is awesome . In other words, it's a time when people seek to alter their life trajectories by exercising their free will. Some mean-spirited materialists deny that free will exists, and this specious claim-- not mere physiological processes in my brain--motivates me to reprint a defense of free will that I wrote for The New York Times 10 years ago: When I woke this morning, I stared at the ceiling above my bed and wondered: To what extent will my rising really be an exercise of my free will? Let's say I got up right . . . now. Would my subjective decision be the cause? Or would computations unfolding in a subconscious neural netherworld actually set off the muscular twitches that slide me out of the bed, quietly, so as not to wake my wife (not a morning person), and propel me toward the door? [More]