Received this email from Justin. I’ve edited it only to correct the typos my enemies placed in my Inbox.
I am contacting you because you have a different view on the subject of free will than Sam Harris and I am so glad to have found someone who does! I don’t want to overload you in this message so I will try to keep it short. For the last 2 years I have been in a rut because I came across Sam Harris and all of this free will determinism stuff. I was able to control my thoughts, emotions, actions, and just had a much more wonderful outlook on life. Like literally I was chasing my goals and sticking to my diet and controlling my OCD etc.
But once I came across Sam and his book and stuff I kind of feel like I lost it all and I haven’t been the same since. So that is why I’m glad I found your articles because not only do you challenge his outlook like many others but you also hold credentials behind your name as well. I consider myself an extreme layperson.
So I’m asking you if you can tell me in the most layperson way possible do we have control over our minds, and the power to you know do anything we set our minds to at any given moment. Do things like willpower exist? I know I might sound a bit crazy but I really just want to know from someone who knows a lot about our brains like Sam claims he does. Because it’s heartbreaking for me to still see others have fun and chase their goals and succeed all while I feel like I’m just a shell of my former self. And I also want to know if you can tell me in most layperson way possible because I feel like maybe the reason I’m like this is because I don’t understand Sam and the way he put his argument. Any feedback will be greatly appreciated. I also am letting you know I’m going to try to contact others as well with this question. I’m not a troll I’m just desperate for answers.
No need for desperation, Justin. Of course you have the ability to control your will and intellect, of course there is such a thing as willpower. You exercised your intellect and will—you had willpower—when you decided to write your email. There is no other explanation but that you have free will. We all do.
Now you’ll find people, like Sam Harris, who will tell you, usually angrily, that you do not have free will. But any attempt at rebutting free will is fallacious and self-refuting in the same way as when a man who says there are no such thing as language shouts at you, “There is no such thing as language!” Attempts at denying free will are just as silly as that.
Sam Harris, who is not stupid, has chosen a foolish path. His mind is not small. He can add numbers together without mechanical aid; he can string words together into coherent sentences. But he is like the language-using, language-denying man. He wants you to choose to believe you have no choice in your beliefs, and that is preposterous. His request is self-negating. If you choose to believe you have no free will, you have used your free will to choose.
So why does a man like Harris, who assuredly is intelligent believe something so obviously wrong? Because he is enslaved to a theory, which he loves more than reality.
Harris, and many like him, have developed a theory of how the brain works. This theory is immature and incomplete, but understanding it, even given its shortcomings, requires genuine and superior intellectual ability. So there are two bad things happening combining to produce an atrocious outcome.
The first is that the theory is that the brain works like how a car engine works: push this piston, and this rod spins. Car engines have no free will, and neither is free will possible in Harris’s theory. Harris’s theory of the brain, since is does not incorporate free will, which everybody obviously has, is therefore wrong.
The second thing is that Harris (and others) love not only the theory, but they love themselves for having created such a complicated thing.
You can see the problem. Admitting the theory, which is cherished more than reality, is wrong, would be to admit to monumental error. And that would be very painful.
Ideas have consequences, to coin a phrase. Bad philosophy is poisonous. Best thing to do is ignore Harris and his ilk.