It seems impossible to view the full range of influences on our behavior and conclude that there is anything like free will.Maybe he cannot freely choose his shirt, and if he says that he cannot, maybe I should believe him.
Sean Illing: That’s a bold claim…
Robert Sapolsky: You’re right. On the one hand, it seems obvious to me and to most scientists thinking about behavior that there is no free will. And yet it’s staggeringly difficult to try to begin to even imagine what a world is supposed to look like in which everybody recognizes this and accepts this.
The most obvious place to start is to approach this differently in terms of how we judge behavior. Even an extremely trivial decision like the shirt you choose to wear today, if dissected close enough, doesn’t really involve agency in the way we assume. There are millions of antecedent causes that led you to choose that shirt, and you had no control over them. So if I was to compliment you and say, “Hey, nice shirt,” that doesn’t really make any sense in that you aren’t really responsible for wearing it, at least not in the way that question implies.
Now, this is a very trivial thing and doesn’t appear to matter much, but this logic is also true for serious and consequential behaviors, and that’s where things get complicated.
But when he says that it is obvious to most scientists that no one can exercise any choices, I have to wonder. Are there scientific papers saying this? How did it get to be obvious? Is it implied by some textbook knowledge?
Maybe this is more a philosophical question than a scientific one, but I object when someone declares some sort of scientific consensus, but it is just an opinion with no data to back it up.