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1 quote, 3 ideas & 1 question from each episode

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#241 — Final Thoughts on Free Will

Making Sense with Sam Harris

12 Mar 2021

43mins

Owltail Summaries

1 quote, 3 ideas & 1 question from each episode

_________

#241 — Final Thoughts on Free Will

12 Mar 2021

43mins

Weekly hand curated podcast episodes for learning

Quote

"We aren't free to want what you don't in fact want or to want what you want more than you want it"

Ideas

1

You aren't the author of your thoughts, intentions and actions, rather thoughts, intentions and subsequent actions simply arise and are noticed.
Subjectively speaking, as a matter of experience, there's no thinker to be found in the mind apart from thoughts themselves. The feeling that there's a thinker in addition to the flow of thought is what it feels like to be thinking without knowing that you're thinking. It's the feeling of being identified with the train of thought that's passing through consciousness in this moment.

If you pay attention to how thoughts arise, you'll see that they simply appear quite literally out of nowhere and you're not free to choose them before they appear. That would require that you think them before you think them. So here's the question, if you can't control your next thought, if you can't decide what it will be before it arises and if you can't prevent it from arising, where is your freedom of will?

As a matter of experience, you are not having an experience from someplace outside of experience. There is only experience. You're not sitting in the theater of your mind watching a life movie. And the feeling that you are the feeling that you can stand apart from everything that's happening and this feeling of being free to choose the next thing you do or the next thing you notice, the next thing you pay attention to is itself part of the movie.

1

You aren't the author of your thoughts, intentions and actions, rather thoughts, intentions and subsequent actions simply arise and are noticed.
Subjectively speaking, as a matter of experience, there's no thinker to be found in the mind apart from thoughts themselves. The feeling that there's a thinker in addition to the flow of thought is what it feels like to be thinking without knowing that you're thinking. It's the feeling of being identified with the train of thought that's passing through consciousness in this moment.

If you pay attention to how thoughts arise, you'll see that they simply appear quite literally out of nowhere and you're not free to choose them before they appear. That would require that you think them before you think them. So here's the question, if you can't control your next thought, if you can't decide what it will be before it arises and if you can't prevent it from arising, where is your freedom of will?

As a matter of experience, you are not having an experience from someplace outside of experience. There is only experience. You're not sitting in the theater of your mind watching a life movie. And the feeling that you are the feeling that you can stand apart from everything that's happening and this feeling of being free to choose the next thing you do or the next thing you notice, the next thing you pay attention to is itself part of the movie.

2

[00:35:29]
There is no free will, but choices matter, and this isn't a paradox, your desires, intentions and decisions arise out of the present state of the universe, which includes your brain and your soul. If such a thing exists, along with all of their influences are part of a causal framework.

So your choices matter whether or not they're products of a brain or a soul, because they're often the cause of your actions.

Imagine that I want to learn to speak Mandarin.

OK, how is that going to happen? It's not going to happen by accident only to attend es or hire native speaking tutor or travel to China. I'll need to study and practice and this will entail a lot of effort. I don't get frustrated and embarrassed by my failures, and I have to overcome my frustration and embarrassment and keep learning my decision to learn Mandarin and all of the efforts that follow, if they persist long enough, will be the cause of my speaking Mandarin at some point in the future badly.

[00:36:41]
I'm sure it's not that I was destined to speak Mandarin regardless of my thoughts and actions. Determinism isn't fatalism, Choice's reasoning, discipline. All of these things play obvious roles in our lives, despite the fact that they're determined by prior causes. And again, adding randomness to this machinery doesn't change anything. But the reality is, is that I show no signs of making an effort to learn Mandarin. It simply isn't a priority for me. Am I free to make it a priority?

[00:37:17]
Well, in some ways, yes, but not in the crucial way that the common notion of free will requires. I can't account for why I don't want to speak Mandarin more than I do. I can't decide to make learning this language my top priority when it simply isn't my top priority. And if I suddenly became the most important thing in my life, I wouldn't have created this change in myself. I would be a mere witness to this change.

2

[00:35:29]
There is no free will, but choices matter, and this isn't a paradox, your desires, intentions and decisions arise out of the present state of the universe, which includes your brain and your soul. If such a thing exists, along with all of their influences are part of a causal framework.

So your choices matter whether or not they're products of a brain or a soul, because they're often the cause of your actions.

Imagine that I want to learn to speak Mandarin.

OK, how is that going to happen? It's not going to happen by accident only to attend es or hire native speaking tutor or travel to China. I'll need to study and practice and this will entail a lot of effort. I don't get frustrated and embarrassed by my failures, and I have to overcome my frustration and embarrassment and keep learning my decision to learn Mandarin and all of the efforts that follow, if they persist long enough, will be the cause of my speaking Mandarin at some point in the future badly.

[00:36:41]
I'm sure it's not that I was destined to speak Mandarin regardless of my thoughts and actions. Determinism isn't fatalism, Choice's reasoning, discipline. All of these things play obvious roles in our lives, despite the fact that they're determined by prior causes. And again, adding randomness to this machinery doesn't change anything. But the reality is, is that I show no signs of making an effort to learn Mandarin. It simply isn't a priority for me. Am I free to make it a priority?

[00:37:17]
Well, in some ways, yes, but not in the crucial way that the common notion of free will requires. I can't account for why I don't want to speak Mandarin more than I do. I can't decide to make learning this language my top priority when it simply isn't my top priority. And if I suddenly became the most important thing in my life, I wouldn't have created this change in myself. I would be a mere witness to this change.

3

Sam says, Holding people responsible for their actions make no sense, apart from the effects that doing this, will have on them and the rest of society, such as considerations of deterrence by having the laws set-up to punish people for certain crimes.
He uses the example that, if the Dalai Lama, winds up in a clock tower and s killing people at random, we'd be sure that something has gone very wrong with his brain, that there's likely something that wasn't in his control. And in this case, we're taking away responsibility. This is obviously an extreme example, but it pushes us to realise that the impulses to do bad things, isn't always in our control because we simply want to.

3

Sam says, Holding people responsible for their actions make no sense, apart from the effects that doing this, will have on them and the rest of society, such as considerations of deterrence by having the laws set-up to punish people for certain crimes.
He uses the example that, if the Dalai Lama, winds up in a clock tower and s killing people at random, we'd be sure that something has gone very wrong with his brain, that there's likely something that wasn't in his control. And in this case, we're taking away responsibility. This is obviously an extreme example, but it pushes us to realise that the impulses to do bad things, isn't always in our control because we simply want to.

Questions

1

Can you think of something where you didn't have free will, but made a choice still?

1

Can you think of something where you didn't have free will, but made a choice still?

What else is in the episode

1

How realizing there is no free will means you have more empathy to others, and how it can change your worldview on criminals.

1

How realizing there is no free will means you have more empathy to others, and how it can change your worldview on criminals.

2

What's the difference between how we react to getting eaten by a bear versus almost killed by a person?

2

What's the difference between how we react to getting eaten by a bear versus almost killed by a person?

3

How people who are evil and commit crimes, are potentally just unlucky.

3

How people who are evil and commit crimes, are potentally just unlucky.

1

Written ten volumes of poetry and four books of prose on topics such as human identity, human striving happiness & more. - Worked with companies such as Boeing, AT&T, NASA, Toyota, The Royal Air Force and the Arthur Andersen for organizational leadership. - When young, he worked as a naturalist & led anthropological and natural history expeditions in the Andes, the Amazon and the Himalayas.

1

Written ten volumes of poetry and four books of prose on topics such as human identity, human striving happiness & more. - Worked with companies such as Boeing, AT&T, NASA, Toyota, The Royal Air Force and the Arthur Andersen for organizational leadership. - When young, he worked as a naturalist & led anthropological and natural history expeditions in the Andes, the Amazon and the Himalayas.

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