Friday, September 27, 2013

Free will and the reality of love



People tend to confuse determinism with nihilism.  I was impressed with Sam Harris' book, Free Will. However, some of my friends who read it expressed misgivings.  People don't like to think they are "bioechemical puppets" (to quote Harris).  The resulting cognitive dissonance makes them into determinism deniers.

In his blog, Sam Harris addresses some of these concerns, and also makes an interesting observation about love, with which I agree completely:
What many people seem to be missing is the positive side of these truths. Seeing through the illusion of free will does not undercut the reality of love, for example—because loving other people is not a matter of fixating on the underlying causes of their behavior. Rather, it is a matter of caring about them as people and enjoying their company. We want those we love to be happy, and we want to feel the way we feel in their presence. The difference between happiness and suffering does not depend on free will—indeed, it has no logical relationship to it (but then, nothing does, because the very idea of free will makes no sense). In loving others, and in seeking happiness ourselves, we are primarily concerned with the character of conscious experience.  
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