Cogito ergo sum, or its translation, “I think, therefore I am,” is a frequently-quoted line from well-known mathematician and philosopher René Descartes. I’ve noticed that it often seems to be misunderstood; this post is a brief outline of the idea and some of my thoughts on it.
I suppose that a post on free will has been a long time coming so I felt perhaps I ought to get round to finally writing it. In this essay I want to make two points: 1., that claims of free will are faith-based, being made without the burden of proof we would normally require, and 2., that choices seemingly invoking free will are in fact a product of competing desires.
I’ll begin by saying it: I don’t believe in free will. I used to – in fact I used to think it was one of the most self-evident things in the world – but a few years ago when I examined the situation, I came to the conclusion that I hold now: There appears to be no acceptable evidence to support a belief in it. None at all.
I was raised in a Christian background — so much so that my parents used to take me and my family to an annual Christian retreat in the Spring. Consequently when I was growing up, Christianity was a heavy influence on my personal development. It wasn’t until I was 15 or 16 that I began to really comprehend the implications of my beliefs — specifically that if my friends didn’t believe, they would go to Hell. And Hell no less — an unfathomably bad place for even the gravest of criminals, let alone people that simply didn’t know any better. After this I began to have strong reservations about the ethics of a God that would punish my friends just because they didn’t believe in something they had no tangible experience of.