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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Can you falsify

Sam Harris is the author of the book "Free Will". The central point of his book is that free will is an illusion, because the reason of every our action are completely removed from our control and - even - our consciousness.

In other words: "I may be able to choose, but I cannot choose what I choose"

This way of framing the problem (as any other way, I admit) has a side that bothers me, as expressed by the following (Popper inspired) question:

"Is it possible to imagine an entity that is given free will in a sense that complies with the above objection?"

The problem is - obviously - that I cannot (and I'd like to ask Sam Harris). If the answer is indeed that such an entity cannot exist then we need to ask to ourselves if the reason is that the above objection is self-satisfying and therefore not very helpful (sort of saying "black is black" when asked to define black: true but trivially so) ? Or is the idea of free will intrinsically meaningless (like the "heigth of sweetness")? Or - finally - is the underlying definition of free will so bad that we need to go back to the drawing board before discussing its existence?

I rather tend to side with the third possibility, to which the first one may perhaps be reduced. The second remains a possibility, but it begs further explanations - after all, we do not spend much time debating the height of sweetness.

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