The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully. - Richard Dawkins

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Does Free Will exist?

In a manner of speaking, yes.   But only in a manner of speaking.   Thoughts arise within our minds, which lead to emotions and desires and ambitions, which lead to motivations, which lead to actions and behaviors.   Because of these things, we experience a perfect simulation of free will.  To us, it seems as if our actions and behaviors are completely self initiated, autonomous.  But the fact is, they all arise from factors that are completely predetermined, and over which we have no ultimate control.  Ultimately, what passes for free will to us, is worthless. It is only an illusion.   Do our decisions and choices and behaviors have consequences upon ourselves and others?  Absolutely.  For that reason, our society must use punishment and separation to minimize the effects of individual bad choices upon society as a whole.  Indeed, the very fact that our society has established consequences for bad actions, becomes itself a determining factor in the future actions of others in society.   Therefore it is absolutely necessary that we hold the individual accountable for their actions, even though their actions are ultimately beyond their control.  But there is an important distinction between holding individuals accountable for their actions, and punishing them out of a sense of retribution or revenge or justice.   In a universe without true free will, there really is no "justice", only damage control.   So why is the concept of justice (the idea that individuals should be punished for their past deeds simply because of what they did, rather than for positive reasons such as to prevent harm upon themselves or society as a whole) so important to us.

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