Updated: Mar 19
The Ethical Lexicon #15: The same way you build your muscles in the gym, build psychological strength by exercising free will
Did you actually choose to read this? According to some biologists and neuroscientists, free will is an illusion. Nature and nurture conspire to program our response mechanisms so that we think we’re making choices, but we’re really nothing more than organic robots.
Do you find that depressing? If so, you’re not alone.
Research shows that belief in free will makes us happier, since it imbues us with a sense of purpose and agency.
What’s more, belief in free will makes us more ethical. If we don’t have control over our choices, what’s the point of trying to make the right ones?
Why would anyone want to advocate for a position that we have no control over our actions? Perhaps because then we can abdicate all responsibility for making ethical choices, for aspiring to be good, kind, and virtuous.
Again, if those choices aren’t in our hands, why bother trying?
What should be obvious is that every time we struggle to make the right choice, we build our ethical muscles. Even if this time we get it wrong, next time we’ll have a better chance of getting it right.
🥷Don’t we want to be good?
🥷Don’t we want to be better than we are?
🥷Don’t we want to contribute to a society that aspires to goodness?
🥷Don’t we want others to see us as a source of inspiration?
🥷Don’t we want our businesses to thrive because we have created an aspirational culture?
What choices are you struggling with? What strategies do you have for choosing rightly and wisely?