Ask most people if they have free will (defined here as “the ability to think and act outside of the laws of cause and effect”) and they will tell you that they do. 

Ask them to describe in detail how they create a thought and they cannot. After reflection, some will accept that thoughts appear spontaneously in their minds but will still cling desperately to the conclusion that they still, somehow, retain some level of final control. 

Most of them will get to the point where they say something like this:

“I still feel like I must have the ability to choose my thoughts and actions.”

What they fail to see is the recursive logic in this answer. 

Here’s my Socratic dialogue approach to pointing out the absurdity: 

Where do your thoughts appear? 

In my mind. 

What is in control of the thoughts? 

I am. 

But what do you use to control your thoughts? 

My mind. 

So you use one part of the mind to control another part of the mind?


But what controls the part of your mind that is in control?

My mind. 

So yet another part of your mind is in control of the part of your mind that is controlling another part of your mind?


So….. What is in control of THAT part of your mind?

Cue canned laughter track. 

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