Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Sam Harris on Free will and preferences

'Free Will' by Sam Harris
Free Will  by Sam Harris
He played poker not by by accident or while in the grip of delusion but because he wanted to, intended to, and decided to, moment after moment. For most purposes, it makes sense to ignore the deep causes of desires and intentions - genes, synaptic potentials, etc. - and focus instead on the conventional outlines of the person. We do this when thinking about our choices and behaviours - because its the easiest way to organize our thoughts and actions. Why did I order beer instead of wine? Because I prefer beer.

Why do I prefer it? I don't know, but I generally have no need to ask. Knowing that I like beer more than wine is all I need to know to function in a restaurant. Whatever the reason, I prefer one taste to the other. Is there freedom in this? None whatsoever. Would I magically reclaim my freedom if I decided to spite my preference and order wine instead? No, because the roots of this intention would be as obscure as the preference itself.
- Watch Sam Harris' talk at Festival of Dangerous Ideas 2012: The Delusion of Free Will

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