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HAT Forum - "Free Will - Real or Illusion?"

  • The 519, Room 304 (Check lobby screen to be sure) 519 Church Street Toronto, ON, M4Y 2C9 Canada (map)

We go through our daily lives operating on the assumption that we choose our actions freely. But developments in the understanding of how the brain works may put paid to this assumption.

Sam Harris, a neuroscientist, in his book Free Will, says, “Free will is an illusion. Our wills are simply not of our own making. Thoughts and intentions emerge from background causes of which we are unaware and over which we have no conscious control.”

Religion, jurisprudence, moral judgements have traditionally rested on a belief in free will. The concept of consciousness itself seems to depend on the existence of free will. If free will is an illusion, what happens to our understanding of qualities of character - courage, wickedness, leadership - our assessment of which depends on a belief in moral agency, that actions are freely chosen?

Do the principles of Humanism - rationality, a belief in the scientific method, ethics, compassion and the importance of community - depend on a belief in free will?

Here are a couple of interesting background videos: Free Will vs Determinism Compatibilism

NOTE: The HAT Forum adheres strictly to the City of Toronto Policy on Non-Discrimination (