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Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Sam Harris Walks on Water

I’m tired of saying that I like this man. I do. He and I think the same(ish) about Israel and guns. He believes in absolute moral standards, which he thinks can be derived from observation (Science). I believe in absolute moral standards but I don’t believe they can be derived from Science.

I have just ordered his latest book (having been promised a superior frisson); I look forward to reading it.

While waiting for the delivery of the book I searched for him on YouTube.  He spoke about Free Will. He says there is no such thing.

By denying Free Will you have to re-define English. You have to be a part of the Ingsoc project (1984, George Orwell). You have to extirpate whole categories of English words. The following words (and many others) are now meaningless:


I would have to stop thinking altogether. I’d have to stop deploring Jihadi John and the decapitation of Western journalists and aid workers. But if you think there is no such thing as Free Will, JJ is no more to blame than bacteria – and I don’t think we can blame them.

I do have opinions about Scottish Independence. But if I bought Harris’s view, I would have no way of distinguishing between ‘Yes’ and ‘No’. Well, perhaps I would; but I would be left with one group of Scots who have no choice but to vote ‘Yes’ and another group who have no choice but to vote ‘No’.

Deny Free Will if you must. But then continue living your life. Everyone who denies Free Will always behaves as if they have Free Will. If you act, you affirm (if not Free Will) but your belief in Free Will.

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