Many argue that without free will, we are left having to admit we’re all essentially automated machines with no sense of purpose. If we are not free, why fight so hard to live? Why live at all?
But what is so wrong with an illusion?
The very best magic shows are those with illusions that appear so real that you can’t comprehend how they are possible. That you know it is an illusion doesn’t detract from your enjoyment – in fact, it heightens it.
When you consider what makes life enjoyable, its easy to come up with a short list of items everyone agrees on. We all want to be happy, we enjoy certain emotions, and we seek emotional and physical satisfaction. There is love.
Nothing listed in the prior paragraph changes by recognizing that free will is an illusion. For instance, you don’t need to explain the cause of a good mood to enjoy its benefits.
Whether you are a machine, a simulation, or just dreaming, all of these sensations and the enjoyment you derive from them remain the same.
Some will argue that lacking free will removes incentive. Yet paradoxically it’s the opposite. Continuously recognizing that your thoughts are tied to prior causes encourages you to treat your thoughts and actions with extreme care.
Though you can justifiably claim that your desires and abilities are entirely the result of genetics, upbringing, and prior influences, in this moment, what you do with those desires and abilities is what will determine your future level of happiness.
This remains true whether or not you appreciate the illusion of free will. No matter how you spin it, the best part is that you get front row seats to this marvelous adventure called life.
Many refuse to consider the idea that free will is an illusion on the basis that it leads to an unappealing conclusion. It is hard to accept an idea that on the outset seems so dreadful – who wants to admit they lack free will? Yet disliking the consequences of a concept says nothing about its veracity.
For clarity, I am referring to the dictionary definition of free will: “The ability to make choices unimpeded by prior causes”.
For this to be possible, you would need to be aware of all the factors that determine your thoughts and actions, and you would need to have complete control over those factors.
In any given moment, despite thoughts constantly popping into your head for reasons you cannot explain or control, you’re still prone to think you’re not tied to prior causes. This speaks to the strength of the illusion.