serr0098: February 2012 Archives

Is Free Will an Illusion?

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Imagine a study that asks you to put a curse on your fellow participant by sticking pins into a doll. Your now cursed partner is annoying you, so you stick pins into the doll. You may think that your partner got a headache because of your control over the voodoo doll.
This study is an example of why an article from The New York Times argues that free will is an illusion. The study let you believe that you had ownership of your actions. But your fellow participant had actually been pre-informed of the experiment and told whether to act obnoxious or nice. The article argues that people are easier to fool when they think they are in control of their actions, even if it involves something impossible, like cursing and harming someone with a doll.
The article's central question was whether or not free will is an illusion. Free will refers to a person's act of choosing what to do without any kind of environmental or social influence. The counter theory, determinism, is a philosophical idea that human actions are caused by events that aren't associated with a person's will.
I personally found this article to be very confusing. I always felt that people can decide for themselves how they make their choices. I know that people base their decisions off a variety of factors, but this article made me question whether or not we think that we are in control when we actually aren't.

Overbye, Dennis. "Free Will: Now You Have It, Now You Don't." The New York Times. 2 Jan. 2007 https://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/02/science/02free.html?pagewanted=all
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