Notes On Attention Paid

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04 Rabbit Hole D’jour, Free Will

… Maria Popova sends me down this RH this morning… a post on James Baldwin quickly links to another post on Sam Harris talking about free will… she quotes this from his book on the subject…

The question of free will touches nearly everything we care about. Morality, law, politics, religion, public policy, intimate relationships, feelings of guilt and personal accomplishment — most of what is distinctly human about our lives seems to depend upon our viewing one another as autonomous persons, capable of free choice. If the scientific community were to declare free will an illusion, it would precipitate a culture war far more belligerent than the one that has been waged on the subject of evolution. Without free will, sinners and criminals would be nothing more than poorly calibrated clockwork, and any conception of justice that emphasized punishing them (rather than deterring, rehabilitating, or merely containing them) would appear utterly incongruous. And those of us who work hard and follow the rules would not “deserve” our success in any deep sense. It is not an accident that most people find these conclusions abhorrent. The stakes are high.1

… the thought leaps through my mind, i wonder if the troubles we cause ourselves are all because so many of us believe we are free agents in the cosmos?…