A couple years ago I read Sam Harris’ book on free will. Basically he thinks free will is an illusion. I agree with him, that what we actually have is luck.
But I have serious reservations about this idea. While I truly wish individuals were the authors of their own thoughts and therefore responsible for their actions, I don’t see that as true. Our brains are like computers constantly being programmed by external forces. Nobody chose to be born, much less into the specific family and environment that they exist within. Still, personal responsibility is what our entire system of justice is based upon – this seems to be the foundational principle of all human interaction and civilization itself.
So this does seem like a potentially dangerous idea however true it may be. When we stop thinking of ourselves as autonomous decision makers I’m afraid it opens the door to the destructive forces of nihilism. Doesn’t this justify every wrong action we’ve ever taken? How do we blame murderers for their crimes when structural violence and a chain of events starting at the dawn of time were actually the culprits?
On the other hand, maybe this philosophy can be channeled into positive changes. If we can see ourselves as a single organism evolving simultaneously I think we could have a much safer, healthier, harmonious world, even approaching utopia.
While Sam Harris has said himself he “has to be reminded he thinks this way.” It’s a really psychedelic thought in my view. Harris has said he’s done LSD and MDMA. I’ve done psilocybin a few times and during the peak I felt a strong sense of empathy for myself and others, and of being “one with the universe.” I really think this feeling, however dangerous it could be if interpreted selfishly, has enormous potential to change the world for the better.