When it comes down to it, do we actually want to believe in free will? This article from Philosophy News (UK) argues that free will comes at a cost some of us may not want to pay:
"One of the most enduring philosophical questions concerns the tension between free will and determinism. The question of whether the future is predetermined or whether we are active agents occupies the minds of philosophers, insomniacs, bank tellers, robbers, nurses and perhaps dolphins, and it remains uncertain whether or not we have any choice in thinking of such things. ... The very idea of freedom is entrenched in our personal and moral codes: it is hardly controversial to say that we do not want to be bound by forces beyond our control, subservient to the whims of other people and of the universe. But the question of whether we should want freedom is so rarely asked. To question freedom itself is, for many, tantamount to insanity. Why wouldn’t we want to be free – especially when so many people have suffered the injustices of oppression, and still suffer them every day? But the desire for freedom is more than just a desire for liberty from oppression. It reflects an intuitive desire for self-determination, to be the author of one’s own life. For our lives to have meaning, the argument goes, it is necessary for us to have some control over what kind of people we are and the trajectory our lives will take. ... For [Danish existentialist Søren] Kierkegaard, freedom signifies a specific kind of anxiety, or dread, relating to the infinite number of possibilities presented to us by freedom. It compels dizziness. When we’re choosing what sort of milk to buy, what sort of career we might want, and to which destination we should travel, we are plagued by the burden of freedom. ... This anxiety relates to what the French call ‘ appel du vide’ – the ‘call of the void’ (nothing to do with apples). When looking down from a great height, or sitting in an exit row beside the door on a plane, some people feel the compulsion to jump or to pull the door open mid-flight, not because they are suicidal or eager to kill people, but just because they are curious about whether or not they are even capable of bringing about such an action – whether they are capable of disobeying their most primitive instincts of self-preservation and survival. This demonstrates the dizziness of freedom. They understand exactly what would happen, but they’re unsure of whether they could bring themselves to actually do it, to test the extent to which they are free. In other words, for Kierkegaard, our existential feeling of dread or anxiety is spurred by the knowledge of what we need to do to prove that we are free. ... Clearly, free will signifies the freedom that we can freely make the wrong choices, and that there are indeed wrong choices to be made. This is the kind of freedom that some would eagerly exchange for a prison of determinism. It can be far more appealing to comfort ourselves with the tonic of ‘inevitability’. Here enters what [Slovenian philosopher] Slavoj Žižek described as the ‘temptation of meaning’ that occurs when tragedy strikes. For some people, it is better to think that misfortune is some kind of cosmic punishment than to think of it as merely a random occurrence. 'When something horrible happens, our spontaneous tendency is to search for a meaning. It must mean something… Even if we interpret a catastrophe as a punishment, it makes it easier, in a way, because we know it’s not just some terrifying blind force' (Examined Life: Excursions with Contemporary Thinkers, Astra Taylor, 2009, p.157). As Žižek explains, in the middle of a catastrophe, 'it’s better to feel that God punished you than to feel that ‘it just happened.’ If God punished you, it’s still a universe of meaning' (p.158). ... We know we can choose not to open the door or jump, but we’re unsure whether we can choose to jump or open the door. ... While many philosophers are anxious about the moral consequences of a deterministic universe, freedom itself reveals to us the horrific possibility of choosing poorly rather than wisely."
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