Sam Harris on Rejecting Human Free Will?


#1

Hi Richard,

If I correctly recall, you hold that medical evidence indicates that humans possess limited free will. You criticize versions of radical free will such as Cartesian free will. Alternatively, I see Sam Harris supporting Christianity while radically rejecting the existence of human free will (samharris.org/blog/item/life-without-free-will). I wish to ask, How do you respond to Sam Harris and other similar proposals?

Best,

Jim


#2

Oops, I conflated two different Harris’s in my mind. This one is an atheist and I refereed to him as a Christian. Sorry about my sloppiness. :blush: Okay, given that correction, how do you respond to Sam Harris and other similar authors who completely reject the existence of human free will.


#3

I didn’t read your link but I did listen to a “sermon” by him on the topic a while back. He has a lot of good points. Ultimately though, if he’s 100% right, there’s no point in him preaching on it. He hasn’t got a choice after all, and no one else has either. He “chooses” to attempt to influence other people who also are not free agents. It’s kind of useless as far as I can see. That said, my response would be that yes, I agree that people are not free. That’s why Jesus came – to set the captives free, because it is possible to BECOME free, and if the Son shall set you free, you will be free indeed.


#4

Hi James, so sorry it took so long to respond.

My first response is, I don’t think I have much to say. I see the plausibility of his view and get its overall point and maybe he’s right. But maybe he’s wrong. The point being, one of the advantages of UR, in my mind, is that it is compatible with lots of different antropologies, from free will to Harris’s view.

As to my particular views, I’ve been a critic of free will, but I don’t take it as far as Harris. My concerns have always been about the power and scope of the will. Specifically, I came from an Arminian tradition and I always worried from within that tradition: Is the will strong enough to get done (respond to God) what needs to get done given everything we know about sociology, neurocience, genetics, and environmental factors? My concern, thus, is less about the will being free vs. determined than with the will’s ability to “outrun” death. So my criticisms about free will aren’t about swinging wildly to the other side, toward a view like Harris’s. It’s simply arguing for the recognition that our wills are not omnipotent and can’t do what a lot of Arminian theology thinks it can do. In short, my worries are less about freedom than about power and capacity in the face of death (the limited and unpredictable allotment of time we each have).


#5

Hi Richard,

I recently adopted a restrictivist model of free will that conjectures humans can occasionally exert free will to interrupt default automatic responses. I am tweaking Peter van Inwagen’s restrictivist model in “When Is the Will Free?” and “When the Will Is Not Free.” My Arminianism and universalism fits well with this.


#6

He hasn’t got a choice after all, and no one else has either.
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#7

Like I (most likely) said here before. It seems to me that God is in process of MAKING us free. We aren’t free without Him, but rather reactive, creatures of instinct, slaves to sin. To the extent that we manifest love, we are becoming free.


#8

Does God have free will? He created man in His image. If God has free will, so does man whom He created.


#9

From my point of view, Don, you might as well also say that if God is mature and perfect, then so is man, whom He created in His image. I think we’re developing, and as God perfects and matures us, true freedom is one of the things He’s growing in us. That doesn’t mean we have NO freedom. Just that our freedom is limited by our immaturity–just like that of a child.


#10

I dunno, Cindy. I’ve seen childen exercise the freedom of their will in ways in which most adults wouldn’t dare to do.

I do ask you, however. If freedom of the will is not the chief way in which man has been created in God’s image, what IS the chief way? It certainly isn’t in his physical image, since He is not physical but is spirit.


#11

Reader’s Digest version

Full Version


#12

I watched the second one — the full version, Randy. Loved it!