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Experiment Suggests Existential 'Placebo'
Posted In: Meditation And Spirituality  5/28/11
By: Chris Capps

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It's a question that many philosophy students ask themselves, and indeed everyone wonders at some point or another whether our lives are following some track of predestination or are in themselves completely free in the world.  But it seems scientists may have evidence that could soon turn to a warning for those locking themselves into believing they have no free will.

The findings, which were published in Psychological Science and later picked up by Wired, suggests that we may have only a few errant philosophy books between us and a decrease in our mental efficiency – even citing experiments where people reacted less quickly than when they hadn't read a treatise on free will resulting in an existential dilemma.

While this may seem trivial to some, it actually does demonstrate a far more serious and possibly dangerous scenario.  Finally we have evidence of a philosophy that can -in measurable terms – result in  a fundamental and even detrimental change in the reader without necessarily even being accepted by those exposed to it.  While it may not be profoundly evident just yet that this is actually a tremendously important and possibly dangerous discovery, it is still getting very little attention in the mainstream media.

Why is it such an incredibly disturbing discovery?  The FDA every day regulates the use of automobiles, heavy machinery, and certain occupations based on the effects of a given drug.  What does this have to do with philosophy?  If reaction time is significantly affected by those feeling they have no free will, then it's certainly possible these philosophies will become a point of interest in the future to -for example- jet pilots or police officers.  But are we ready for a world where thought is treated the same way, or a similar way to the medicated conditions of an individual?  Can we honestly say we understand these changes and what having no “free will” will not affect us in the future?  Or will there be those who are so overwhelmed and paralyzed by the thought of having no free will that any philosophy claiming anything of the sort may be in danger of undergoing some serious regulation?

It may sound preposterous, but it has been quantified now.  There is nothing that still needs to happen in order for scientists to be able to reasonably predict that free will is something that would be harmed by the believe that we have no free will.  And so even asking someone if they have free will may one day be considered enough to have a measurable impact on their wellbeing.  How might this impact the future of conversation, thought, and even expression?  And are we truly prepared for a world with specific words that can either increase or decrease things like security and business?

Perhaps we will find other things as well.  It's possible every philosophical question has a very strong potential to impact believers in more ways than just their beliefs.  And questions like, “Do we have free will” are just the beginning.  But there is good news.  If doubting your own free will can have a negative impact on consciousness, it does seem to suggest that will does indeed exist.


 

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