Jack and Janis Discuss Free Will, Part II

Jack: Well, what did you do at that point?

Janis: I wrestled with the problem for many more years.  I began to read literature on the topic-from scientists, philosophers, psychologists, and others.  At this time, I do not know (nor does anyone else) whether free will exists; it’s a conundrum.  

Jack: That’s depressing.  

Janis: Well, I have to admit that what I read on the topic depressed me for a while.  Especially since I came to the conclusion that, even if free will exists, it is much more limited than I would have liked…However, I am now at peace-at least with regards to that subject.

Jack: How so?

Janis: I came to terms with the fact that we cannot definitively prove or disprove the existence of free will-in all instances.  At least not yet…

Jack: And how did that help you, besides leaving you permanently befuddled?

Janis: Well, let me answer that by asking you a few questions.

Jack: Go ahead…

Janis: Do most societies-and their laws, customs, and traditions-assume that people have free will? 

Jack: As far as I know they do-at least the current ones.

Janis: And do most people act as if they have free will?  Is it the norm for people to believe in free will?

Jack: Of course…

Janis: Are most people happier believing in free will than in not believing?

Jack: That is a more difficult question to answer.  People often regret their choices.  They suffer from their choices.  They sometimes wish they had no choice at all.  However, in the end, I think most people are happier believing that they have free will—that they have the power, to some extent, to determine their own futures.  So, I would say, “Yes, people are happier when they believe they have some control over their actions and thoughts.”  

Janis: Well, I’m like most people on this one.  I am happier when I believe that I have free will, even though many of my supposedly free choices have deleterious consequences.  By believing in free will, I conform to the norms of my society.  At least on this issue, I don’t have to worry about maintaining a discordant belief or being treated as an outsider-an aberration.  So, with that in mind, I decided (or well, I at least created the illusion of a decision) that I would vouchsafe for the existence of free will until science definitively proves that it does not exist.  

Jack: That is a simplistic answer.  

Janis: It’s a short walk.

Jack: Not that short of a walk.  We still have some time.  

[Both brothers stop for a second to admire the scenery and to gather their thoughts. Jack breaks the interlude…]

Jack: Your decision seems rather cowardly to me.  You seem to be taking the easy way out.  And apart from that, what if science does prove, beyond a doubt, that free will does not exist, what will you do then…?  How will you cope?

[Janis and Jack start walking again.]

Janis: I will try to answer both of those questions.

1 comment:

  1. Hello! You know I do not know the English very well...Interesting post...