Sta Hungry Stay Foolish

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

A blog by Leon Oudejans

Free will: no one can predict what you’ll do. Seriously?

People who know me well will claim that they can predict my choices. I think, feel and believe their view is valid. Nevertheless, neuroscientist Stanislas Dehaene claims that ‘Free will is real. No one can predict what you are going to do’ (El Pais-2023). The explanation may be in statistics.

Knowing someone well implies that you’ve witnessed many events, in which choices were being made. Not knowing someone well implies that each of their choices might be a (total) surprise. Hence, neuroscientist Stanislas Dehaene should be right regarding strangers rather than family or friends.

In my view, our personality (eg, zodiac) will predict our choices to a large extent (c.70-80%). Nevertheless, the remaining c.20-30% would indeed constitute free will. In my view, a 100% free will is impossible as that would require an immense use of our brain and thus be lethally exhaustive.

Notwithstanding the above, our brain already makes some 35,000+ decisions each day, according to Dr. Eva Krockow (eg, CNN-2022, PT-2018, Leading Edge-2015). Without our daily routines, that number of 35,000+ would explode. Without our priorities, that number would multiply.

“What I think we mean by free will is that we are capable of exercising our deliberation. That’s why the word deliberation is related to free will. It means that we can bring information to the mind, consciously, think about the possibilities, consider them, consider their consequences according to what we know, and then we make a choice.”

A quote by neuroscientist Stanislas Dehaene from a 2023 El Pais article

Why is free will so important to us?

Perhaps, we (humans) assume that animals, plants or any other species do not have free will. Hence, we would then be a superior species, following such philosophical beliefs. Like human escape attempts, an animalistic fight or flight response should be a benchmark for free will.

“Most prey, when they detect a predator, do not try to escape immediately. “This is a decision, like many other decisions,” says Dan Blumstein, a UCLA professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, and co-editor of the new book Escaping From Predators.

A quote from a 2015 Atlas Obscura article: Animals Don’t Just Flee–They Make Surprisingly Careful Escape Plans

The Guardian-2014: “An octopus has made a brazen escape from the national aquarium in New Zealand by breaking out of its tank, slithering down a 50-metre drainpipe and disappearing into the sea.” [It] made his dash for freedom after the lid of his tank was accidentally left slightly ajar.”

A 2019 study in BioMed Central (ie, The notion of free will and its ethical relevance for decision-making capacity) comes with a different answer to my question above: “Free will is largely considered as a necessary condition for moral responsibility.” Note: markings in quote by LO.

However, that view is – once again – rooted in (human) philosophical beliefs. In my view, the opposite could also be argued: free will is largely considered as a necessary condition for amoral or immoral responsibility. I even suppose that my opposite phrase has more truth in it.

“But why is this debate relevant to anyone but a philosophy student keen to impress a potential date? Actually, a growing body of evidence from psychology suggests belief in free will matters enormously for our behaviour. It is also becoming clear that how we talk about free will affect whether we believe in it.”

A quote from a 2018 Conversation article: The psychology of believing in free will

Free Will (1972) by Gil Scott-Heron
artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-artist, Wiki-album+song

Note: all markings (bolditalicunderlining) by LO unless in quotes or stated otherwise.


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