Volition: Yet Another Discordian Hoax
Part II of the World-Redoubted
``You're a Discordian Whether or Not You
Want to Be'' Series
Free Will is perhaps the most successful hoax ever perpetrated by the Giggling
I mean, a goodly majority of the world believes that
was the Only
Begotten Son of God and the Messiah of Judaism (he was, in fact, a well-meaning
but slightly naive flower child who would have been wholly unremarkable if he
had been born in the early 1950's like he was supposed to be. Eris decided to
drop him in a bit early to up the strife quotient. Satan added a few likely
miracles in order to get the aforementioned majority of the world to worship
Jesus, which is one of the few things a goy can do [worshipping a man, that is]
to really get God's knickers in a twist. All in all, Jesus was a major coup
for the Coalition of
Gods), which is reasonably gratifying. However, almost everyone
believes that people are responsible for what they do. This is, of course,
Everything that happens has to be either determined (the situation has one and
only one possible outcome, as dictated by the preceding conditions and physical
laws), random or some combination of the two.
Now, something which is determined doesn't have any element of choice in it.
The situation, as it exists, uniquely determines what will happen next. You
may not be able to predict what will happen, but that doesn't remove the
determinedness (a chaotic system like weather, for example, follows simple,
deterministic laws of fluid dynamics but is nonetheless unpredictable). You're
standing there trying to decide between the chocolate cake and the peach
cobbler, but your existing brain state and the laws of physics move inexorably
to your picking up the chocolate cake; the ``choice'' was an illusion.
Things that happen at random don't have an element of choice, either, because
they're, well, random. If it happens at random, then it isn't chosen.
A combination of determination and randomness doesn't seem to yield any free
will, either. Take, for example, a random number generator that churns out
numbers between one and ten. The numbers are random, even though they'll never
be higher than ten or lower than one. The range of numbers is determined
(which doesn't allow for free will), but the actual outcome is random
(which also doesn't allow for free will). No matter how complex the
combinations of determinedness and randomness get, it still comes down to
random systems affecting or being affected by deterministic systems, and there
isn't any free will in either of those things.
The only thing that seems to be left for free will to be is something that is
not determined, not random and not any combination of the two. Unfortunately,
there isn't anything that fits that description.
Therefore, holding people accountable for their actions in ludicrous. It is
logically impossible that people choose their actions. ``Choice'' implies
that there is more than one possible option in a situation and that the agent
is responsible for which of those options is taken. In determinism, there is
only one possible outcome and hence the agent has no real choice. In
randomness, there are a bunch of possible outcomes, but the agent has no
control over which of them occurs, and therefore no real choice.
We can't predict what people are going to do, which gives us the illusion that
they can make a choice between alternatives. They may not be able to predict
what they're going to do either, which gives them a similar illusion of being
in control of the situation. The reality, though, is that there can be no
This immediately leads to a problem with any moral system; the people really
aren't ever responsible for what they do. To punish them for things over
which they have no control is cruel; free will may be an illusion, but
pain is real. Of course, you don't have any real control over
your actions, either, so I guess you can't be faulted for what you do.
This seems to leave a couple of alternatives open to you. You can either just
do whatever crosses your mind, knowing that no matter how long you deliberate,
you really aren't making a choice. You can also just sit in a chair doing
nothing, since you're not in control of what you're doing, anyway.
The only way to proceed is to ignore what we know. We have to pretend
that free will exists, despite the fact that we know that it
doesn't. This is, of course, highly irrational behavior. It is also
our only choice, pragmatically speaking. Reason demands that we ignore
Alternatively, you can believe in free will regardless of the fact that you
know it isn't real; if you're going to be ridiculous, at least have the nerve
to be glaringly so (when Goddess said ``Let us make man, in our image'' and all
that, what She was talking about was the ability to exist outside the bounds of
reason; despite the fact that free will cannot exist, we have it.
Explaining it is a different matter entirely).
Any way you slice it, it's beautiful. We can't even say what free will
is, whether we're claiming to have it or just pretending that we do. So
even if you know that you're only pretending to have it, you're only
pretending to pretend, because you can't even conceive of the thing that
you're pretending to have. It slips right through the cracks of the mind and
into the Spinning Nothing at the Source of EverythingTM.
So, do you believe that you have free will? Do you honestly
think that you're making the decision between the chocolate cake and the peach
cobbler (metaphysically speaking)? Good. Welcome. You'll find a pamphlet
explaining our lack of by-laws at the circulation desk in the
turn left at your
and go straight on 'til morning.