One reason why people want to believe free-will

To a lot of people the idea of free-will seems to be the reason for action, the justification for action. I have been to Christian meetings where they have criticized a sect of their religion called Calvinism by saying something like “If our actions are determined then why should we do anything at all?!”. This is usually said in a humorous way and everyone laughs knowingly.




I’ve even heard this argument used by someone who I deem to be quite intelligent. I was in his car with him when he said in reply to what I was saying about determinism “If I don’t have free-will then why don’t I just take my hands of the wheel and let the car crash? What’s the point to doing anything if I don’t have free-will?”




To ask the question “Why don’t I do x if I don’t have free-will” is self-refuting. You are claiming free-will is a causal reason for you not doing ( or doing) x. But my intention here isn’t so much to refute the idea of free-will but to show how the reasoning most people use to bolster it is really reliant upon some despicable assumptions. They seem nice and laudable on the surface but when one gets into them they show themselves to be really quite inimical to living life joyfully and authentically.





What are the hidden assumptions behind the question “Why should I do anything if I don’t have free-will?” That one of the main reasons you do anything is because you are responsible for it. All well and good right? We want people to act in a responsible way so that they act… well responsibly as in they don’t cause harm or damage.







But let’s rephrase that: The main reason you do anything is because you want to be praised or blamed for it. That means that the main motivating factor in your actions and decisions isn’t the sheer fun of it but that by doing so you avoid the boos and gain the claps! It means that you don’t really help the old lady across the road because you feel that she needs help; that you empathize with her suffering and because of that you help her. Oh no you do it because by doing so people will think you are a good guy!




The assumption underlying the question is inimical to a life lived joyfully and authentically because it means that the main motivating factor for you is to squeeze into some shape. You are a slave to other’s opinions or rather your belief concerning what their opinions consist of.


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