Free Will - Sam Harris

The following are notes and insights inspired by the book, "Free Will" by the author Sam Harris. This blog post is a collection of sections that I took to be important for me out of this particular book. I hope that you discover the illusion of free will and how it may open you to the sense of freedom in simply having a human experience.

My notes on the highlights:

Free Will - Sam Harris

Our wills are simply not our own making. Thoughts and intentions emerge from background causes of which we are unaware and over which we exert no conscious control.

Concepts of free will:

1 - Each of us could have behaved differently than we did in the past

2 - We are the conscious source of most of our thoughts and actions in the present.

Both assumptions are false.

A moment of serious self-scrutiny might allow the observation that you no more decide the next thought than you decide the next action.

Unconscious = slow to learn, quick to respond

Conscious = quick to learn, slow to respond

Consciousness is dependent upon the "working memory" or "the remembered present".

The intention to do one thing and not another does not originate in consciousness, rather it appears in consciousness, as does any thought or impulse that might oppose it.

We infer, rather than perceive, the moment we decide to act.

Some moments before you are aware of what you will do next, a time in which you subjectively appear to have complete freedom to behave however you please, your brain has already determined what you will do. You then become conscious of this "decision" and believe that you are in the process of making it.

The idea that we, as conscious beings, are deeply responsible for the character of our mental lives, or subsequent behavior, is simply impossible to map onto reality.

You are not controlling the storm, and you are not lost in it. You are the storm.

Unconscious neural events determine our thoughts and actions and are themselves determined by prior causes of which we are subjectively unaware.

People feel identical to a certain channel of information in their conscious minds.

Everything that we consciously intend is caused by events in our brain that we do not intend and of which we are entirely unaware.

The feeling of free will arises from our moment-to-moment ignorance of what we place our attention on and where it is not.

You can do what you decide to do, but you can not decide what you will decide to do.

Choices, efforts, intentions, and reasoning, influence our behavior but they are themselves part of a chain of causes that preceded conscious awareness and over which we exert no ultimate control.

What evidence could possibly be put forward to show that one could have acted differently in the past?

We are nothing more than biochemical puppets - reactions to the inner source of our being.


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Jace Anderson

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