The Tour

Getting Free Will Right

From the Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology: "Consciousness, as a state of awareness, is not a passive state, but an active process that consists of two essentials: differentiation and integration." (p.5)

Free will is the observation that thinking does not happen to you. You do it. You start it, control it, and keep track of it. You deliberately make the effort to focus your mind on reality. You don't just hope to get things right; you act to get things right.

If you watch your pet, you see that animals react to difference. Their senses, like ours, are difference detectors. When a difference is detected, the animal reacts. What animals do not do is look for differences. They do not deliberately compare things to measure the differences.

An animal's consciousness regulates its actions, but does not regulate itself. Human cognition does regulate itself. You are in charge of your mind. You look to see where things are different, and where they are similar. You decide what methods to use to keep things clear, and to find better ways of handling things. If the methods you were taught do not work well, you can learn better methods.

Getting free will right means taking responsibility. It means living the life you choose rather than the a life chosen for you. It means training your brain to be as smart as you want.

Getting Free Will Wrong

When you get free will wrong, you live a soap-opera life. You bounce from lover to lover, or lurch from crisis to crisis. Excuses are your stock in trade. "I couldn't help it!" "I got carried away!" "Nobody told me!" Instead of looking for evidence and drawing your own conclusions, you wait for somebody to convince you of their conclusions. You feel that you are not in charge of your own life.

Determinists try to claim that nobody is in charge of themselves; everything is determined by impersonal forces. But if that is so, then the theory of determinism is determined by impersonal forces, and is being told to you by robots. Unlike the robots, you operate yourself.

To try denying free will, you first have to crank up your mind, using free will. So getting free will wrong is not denying it, but refusing to take it seriously. It is evading the necessity to take charge of your life by taking charge of your mind. It is letting your mind drift and pretending it comes to conclusions on its own, automatically.

If having an automatic consciousness seems attractive to you, consider what that would really mean. Your proudest accomplishment would mean nothing, since it came automatically. There would be no way to improve your mind. If you were not born smart, you'd be stuck dumb. Life would consist of just going through the motions.

If your life consists of just going through the motions, rethink free will and take charge. When you do that, there is no limit to how far you can go.

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