On Free Will

Socrates: Is man possessed of free will?

Karl Smith: Free will is an illusion. Although we have a conception of what it means, there are human experiences that are inconsistent with this conception.

Socrates: For example?

Smith: If we sever your corpus callosum and show a card to your left eye saying “touch you nose”, you will likely touch your nose. If I ask you why you touched your nose, you may say that you acted of free will, since you are not consciously aware of having read the card.

Socrates: So what we conceive of as free will is really something else?

Smith: Some neuroscientists suggest that what we think of as our conscious selves is actually a collection of neurological, cognitive, and social structures that initiate, moderate, or control our decisions.

Socrates: I see. By the way, how did you come to the academy today?

Smith: I drove my car.

Socrates: Your car is an illusion. What we think of as your car is actually a collection of engine, drive train, transmission, and auto-body parts that collaborate to cause locomotion. I’ve been taking an auto repair course at the Y.

Smith: Your new understanding of engines doesn’t mean I don’t have a car. It simply means that you understand and can talk about my car in a new, more sophisticated manner.

Socrates: I see. Now, what were you saying about free will?

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