BPS Research Digest: Psychologists use magic to study the illusory feeling of free choice

Spinoza told us that the feeling of free will is just an illusion; life is determined from birth (if not earlier). Could magic give us the answers we’re looking for with regards to question:

Am I free



One thought on “BPS Research Digest: Psychologists use magic to study the illusory feeling of free choice

  1. The illusion is that universal inevitability is at odds with free will. Universal inevitability is a “useless truth’. There are no helpful implications that can be drawn from it. All of the implications people wish to draw are falsely derived by mental errors.

    For example:

    1) Knowing our choice will turn out to have been inevitable provides no help in making the decision. We cannot know for certain what we would have chosen until we actually finish our deliberation and make the choice. If we reflect upon our deliberation, we may then see that our reasons and feelings did inevitably led to this choice. But still we had to go through that mental process to get there. Inevitability was useless.

    2) There is no way to take the inevitability of our decision into account while making the decision. If it appears that option A is to be our inevitable choice, can we decide in spite to choose option B instead? Well, if we do then option B was actually inevitable. So we choose option A … etc. It is an infinite loop. Again, inevitability is a useless truth.

    3) Some people think deterministic inevitability removes free will. But here we are, thinking and choosing what we will do next. We cannot simply sit back and watch the inevitable happen, because our choices cause what happens next, and choosing to sit and wait is also a choice that changes what happens next! What becomes inevitable is unavoidably still in our hands.

    4) Some people mistakenly think that inevitability means that no one can be held responsible for what they do. But it cannot serve as a “get out of jail free card”, because it always operates equally on both sides of the equation. If you say, “But judge, it was inevitable that I did the crime”, the judge will say, “And it is also inevitable that you be penalized”.

    It is best to simply acknowledge universal inevitability and then ignore it. At best it is a useless fact. At worst it’s misuse causes false conclusions and confusion (often in the most intelligent minds).


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