Why did I choose to read this book? This is the question the book posed. Why do we do the things we do? Why some people rape and others steal? Do we actually have the freedom that we nearly killed ourselves and others for it? The answer, no matter how painful it will be, is a BIG NO. We don’t have what so-called a “Free Will” as we persuaded ourselves of possessing it. Simply, and we’re talking scientifically not philosophically nor religiously but mere science, because all of our doings and thoughts are linked with previous events had occurred in the past and its resultant is what we unawarely call, Free Will. We do not have the freedom we think we have.
Every one of us knows John Lennon, but not everyone knows who shot dead John Lennon. It was Mark David Chapman, this man did not wake up on one wintry morning and said, “Oh I have a gun, why not go and shot John Lennon dead?” The true story is: that man used to idolize Lennon, but when he became a Christian he turned against him when he said that The Beatles were more popular than Jesus. And a lot of events had occurred and made his ire get bigger and bigger toward him. Let alone, his prior hatred and ire toward phonies. For him, John Lennon was a phony due to that. The straw that broke the camel’s back, was reading J.D.’s Novel: The Catcher in the Rye. Anyone who had read it will know what J.D. has focused on: “phonies”. Reading that book combined with his hatred toward phonies caused him a delusional psychotic state. He repeatedly said that the novel was his statement.
What we conclude from this story is that shooting John Lennon was due to unplanned reasons, grown with time and led to his death. As much as John Lennon was a victim, Mark was also a victim in his turn. You will say that he could have chosen not to shoot him, but No, he couldn’t have chosen otherwise. It’s a series of continuous events that we don’t have authority over it.
A series of events led to the action of raping and murdering, that’s why the rapist and the murderer are victims as much as the victim itself. Whether we choose to believe it or not.
People who do not want to believe in this truth, and they want to cling to their alleged “Free Will” will philosophize it. Whenever we start to philosophize the truth to suit our intentions and desires, we lose sight of this psychological truth.
“We do not know what we intend to do until the intention itself arises. To understand this is to realize that we are not the authors of our thoughts and actions in the way that people generally suppose.”
Are we free to do what does not occur to us to do?
Of course not. When choosing a fruit to eat out of multiple choices of fruits, but instinctively and involuntarily you pick a cherry. Why did you pick a cherry not an apple, though you love apples? The thought of picking up an apple didn’t occur to you, so you weren’t free to choose as much as you thought you were. If we are still believing that we have free wills, then why not to believe that we are little gods as well. We do not have free wills nor we are little gods.
“The illusion of free will is itself an illusion.”
Back to the main question I posed at the outset. Why did I choose to read this book? When my eyes signed on the title of the book, I remember a conversation I had year ago with a friend of mine, he was so much taken with the idea of free will, and arguing that we have will of our own. This whole conversation stayed on my mind until the day I read the title of the book and directly said to myself that I must read it, like NOW. Let alone, being raised in Islamic country where Quran clearly says that there is no free will.
That’s why I felt more attached to Harris than Dennett, even if I wanted to attach myself to Dennett; I will not be able to. I don’t have the free will to do so because of my previous life events which led directly to Harris.
“You can consider your first marriage, which ended in divorce, to be a “failure,” or you can view it as a circumstance that caused you to grow in ways that were crucial to your future happiness. Does this freedom of interpretation require free will? No. It simply suggests that different ways of thinking have different consequences. Some thoughts are depressing and disempowering; others inspire us. We can pursue any line of thought we want—but our choice is the product of prior events that we did not bring into being.”
It’s an eye-opining book, I recommend it to everyone. It was my first but not the last reading for Sam Harris. I watched all of his videos and I’m keeping myself updated to his latest, they are inspiring and enlightening.
Free will by Sam Harris