A Very Brief Rant on Free Will

Much buzz about free will — my sense is we are far from being able to speak meaningfully about this idea, but we may be able to speak meaningfully about how we speak about this

Grant H Brenner


Credit: Grant H Brenner (photo by author)

There is a lot of buzz about free will now — I guess that makes sense with the way the world seems to be careening along under its own special momentum — but I think it’s a pointless question we’ll not answer any time soon, no matter what the smartest of our species has to say after a lifetime of study.

Specifically, it kind of makes NO sense, though it also kind of makes at least a visceral sense. In your gut, you want to have free will.

If you don’t have free will, then what you write in your book and say in your TED talks isn’t valid — what is it, a message from the universe to itself from a rudderless sentient? That might be OK.

But there’s got to be more to it — we just aren’t able to very meaningfully discuss any of this stuff, given how little we know. We don’t even know how our own brains work — we do have a sense that the way they work ties closely with what reality is, particularly as we’ve created so much of our current reality, so quickly in the last 200 years or so.

Tech seems to have a mind of its own— metaphorically like letting the genie out of the bottle. Those myths always were about tech and science alas — not magic. Intelligence and consciousness, both clearly properties of the known universe, unlock or correlate with what physical reality can do.

It’s a bit like cracking a code — the “reality code”. Anyone who cracks the reality code — including the all-important social reality code — weilds much power.

Belief in free will is correlated with greater productivity in one study (https://psychologytoday.com/us/blog/experimentations/201903/do-you-believe-in-free-will…). This raises the mildly mind-bending question of whether belief in free will IS free will. It may be that the question of free will is simply irrelevant, or poorly formulated.

To be continued…




Grant H Brenner

Psychiatrist, Psychoanalyst, Entrepreneur, Writer, Speaker, Disaster Responder, Advocate, Photographer