Should I have taken the highway instead of the surface streets? Should I eat all this candy? What I spend on shopping last year should go to something meaningful this year like learning a foreign language or another course. These are illustrations of issues and apprehensions people let run in their minds because they are of the opinion that they have some control of their decisions or actions, or have an alternative in how they exist. Despite the thoughts of many that, they have an opinion on the lives’ proceedings and the decisions they make each day, thinking this is plain wrong and misleading. The fact is we are all passive observers in our own lives with little choice other than to follow what is already predetermined (Frankfurt, 1971). As it follows, free will is and will always be an illusion. This essay, therefore, is a discussion that seeks to persuade and argue for the statement, free will is an illusion. The paper will take a stand that this is in fact true and make use of a number of academic materials to support this position.
What is free will? Free will can be defined as the ability of individuals to have a choice or say from a number of limitations or constraints. It is the ability of an individual to make his or her own choices freely without any imposition. It seems to, many individuals that they have a free will. When people make decisions, say, to go shopping, to a certain concert, to eat or do anything else, they feel that they chose that activity or decision because they could and they wanted to, and that they had the freedom and choice to choose any other decision or activity they would have wanted. However, numerous philosophers say this deduction is wrong. According to their argument, free will or choice is an element of people’s imagination and it does not exist. They argue that no one has ever had free will and that no one will ever have it. They point out that the choices people make either are predetermined (necessary results of past activities and events) or are purely random (Searle, 2004).
Many scientists are of the idea that free will is in our imagination and never real. This is to mean that choices, intentions, and decisions individuals seem to make are made by their subconscious minds, which later informs our conscious minds of the decisions and choices after the fact. Such arguments were common with such scientists as Huxley, Darwin and Einstein who argued that people do not have free will. The same thoughts are held by such modern scientists who have even done numerous experiments and studies since 1980 to prove these arguments (Searle, 2004).
The conclusions of these surveys signify that the brain has the ability to make decisions subconsciously, and it makes them, before the alert mind even apprehends what is happening. For instance, an experiment supporting the argument that free will is imaginary, a participant was asked to press a button voluntarily at any particular time and notice the clock’s marker position when they think they first had the will or chose to make the movement (Pereboom, 2003). The researchers measured the activity of the brain of the participant as they made these movements and before they made the movements. The part of the brain that was measured and monitored was the one that regulates one’s movement mechanics. The researchers came up with startling findings. They found that the participants show changes in brain activity before they show their free will and intentions to make the movements. This is to mean that their brain issued the movement command before their conscious minds could get a chance to decide on where and how to move. All this takes place within a second, and the scientists concluded that the subconscious mind is the one that made the decision before the conscious mind was probed to execute it (Pereboom, 2003).
Other set of scientists firmly believed that unconscious processes in the brain have a powerful effect on the choices people make in their study; participants solved a word puzzle in which all of the words were associated with either politeness or rudeness. Those participants exposed to rude words showed a higher tendency to interrupt the researcher in a subsequent part of the experiment. When debriefed, the participants were not aware of the fact that the puzzles influenced their behavior. The researchers used this experiment as one of the examples that indicate that most of our choices are direct results of underlying forces (Penrose, 1997).
Therefore, ironically, because the subconscious mind has so much power over the conscious one, one cannot truly trust the idea that their will is free. The paper stands by the ideology that free will is a fantasy according to examples and works of science described above. There, however, other signs in real life that indicate that people’s actions are because of something more powerful (Penrose, 1997). For instance, when people eat they do that because their bodies tell them that they are hungry. They do not just decide to eat because they can. They take action of finding food and consuming it to satisfy hunger. In addition to this, other things also influence the way we are. For instance, when a person comes out at a comedy club at 11 pm he or she is likely to be more gay or happier than other people who stayed home to watch PBS.
Another example that can show that free will is an illusion is when people wet their beds. No one ever chooses to wet their bed they do so because they do not have power over their dealings or decisions. As it is, the human brain plays the role of both the unconscious and the conscious brain. It the conscious part of the brain that makes people aware of their actions, giving them a sense of control. However, even when this awareness is absent, people’s brains still have the ability to induce their bodies to act, and numerous studies have supported the fact that consciousness is something that is led by the unconscious neural activity (Frankfurt, 1971).
The purpose of this essay was to discuss how the conception that free will is a false impression is true. Through a number of examples, the paper has supported the actuality that individuals do not have a choice in their decisions or actions; they simply act as their subconscious minds make them do. The power of the subconscious mind was also seen to be extreme, one that overbears over the conscious mind. As it follows, people only believe that they have some free will because their conscious minds tell them of the activities and decisions the subconscious makes it aware of, therefore, convincing individuals that they are in control when in reality they are not.
Frankfurt, H. (1971). Freedom of the Will and the Concept of the Person. Journal of Philosophy 68 (1): 5–20.
Penrose, R. (1997). The Large, the Small, and the Human Mind. Cambridge University Press.
Pereboom, D. (2003). Living without Free Will. Cambridge University Press.
Searle, J. R. (2004). Freedom and Neurobiology: Reﬂections on Free Will, Language, and Political Power. Cambridge University Press
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