Posted on | June 16, 2012 | 26 Comments
Q (emphasis mine):
Although Hood believes the self may be the greatest trick our brain has ever played on us, he concludes that believing in it makes life more fulfilling. The illusion is difficult–if not impossible–to dispel. Even if we could, why deny an experience that enables empathy, storytelling and love?
Insty links the SciAm review of a new book which is worth bringing up in discussion. If you want to factor out any theistic concept of a soul or notion of free will in one fell swoop, this sort of materialistic reduction is the way to go.
And it’s cool, too: once we’ve got life reduced to measurable bits of matter, and have nuked the idea of a ‘self’, we can set about the elimination of the individual and manage society through a series of spreadsheets. The molecules made us do it–how could there be a Devil?
This is not an evangelical pleading, though. My secular answer to this discussion is that the self, and freewill, have got to be taken as an assumption. That is, barring clear genetic-level defects like Downs, free moral agency has got to be the default position for the individual. Otherwise, we remain a societal collection of infants, forced into heroin addiction and inter-species romance because we’re, you know, victims.
Maybe there is some middle ground here, some non-slippery-slope argument. However, we will no sooner make some famous last concession to the purely materialistic worldview then some power-mad individual is going to use that concession as a pretext to herd people. E.g. ObamaCare. As you love liberty, don’t give up the conceptual ship of freewill, or you’ll be awash in authoritarianism!