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In this episode of The Ken Show we explore one of the oldest and, in many ways, most profound and consequential philosophical questions in history: what is the nature of “free will”, and is it ultimately just an illusion?
It is an absolutely massive question, with implications that range from philosophy to spirituality, to psychology, art and creativity, neurobiology, evolutionary theory, morality, ethics, and all the way to the very foundations of our legal system. And it is a question that clearly requires an integral perspective in order to even begin to untangle.
The debate between free will and determinism is one that has raged in religious, philosophical, and scientific circles for millennia, and has more recently come under fire from modern thinkers like Daniel Dennett and Sam Harris (Sam’s recent appearance on the Star Talk podcast is discussed in this conversation) who tend to frame “free will” as little more than an illusion, noting that recent discoveries in neurobiology seem to indicate that our brains often know what we are going to do before our conscious mind is able to register the decision. Which seems to imply that our very notion of free will is just a phantasmal after-image produced by the chemical soup between our ears.
And yet, if you have ever painted a canvas, written a novel, named your child, or engaged in any other creatively intense process, the argument for free will seems self-evident.
So what do you think? Are you truly responsible for your own choices, or are you simply following the waves of physical, biological, and/or metaphysical determinism wherever they may take you?
Who is more right, Calvin or Hobbes?
Stay tuned in coming weeks for future installments where Ken and Corey discuss:
- the many different limitations and constraints on our will
- practices to help us cultivate and exercise our free will
- the nature of things like fate, destiny, and synchronicity
- how spiritual enlightenment influences our free will
Image: Power of Vision by De Es Schwertberger [+view gallery]
Previous Episodes of The Ken Show
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The Ken Wilber Biography Series
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The Integral Vision
About Ken Wilber
Ken Wilber is a preeminent scholar of the Integral stage of human development. He is an internationally acknowledged leader, founder of Integral Institute, and co-founder of Integral Life. Ken is the originator of arguably the first truly comprehensive or integrative world philosophy, aptly named “Integral Theory”.
About Corey deVos
Corey W. deVos is Editor-in-Chief of Integral Life, as well as Managing Editor of KenWilber.com. He has worked for Integral Institute/Integal Life since Spring of 2003, and has been a student of integral theory and practice since 1996. Corey is also a professional woodworker, and many of his artworks can be found in his VisionLogix art gallery.