Nautilus

Do We Have Free Will? Maybe It Doesn't Matter

It’s hard to change people’s beliefs about free will. So, it can feel like a relief to realize that even when you can change people’s beliefs, it seems to make no moral difference anyway.Illustration by Triff / Shutterstock

Belief is a special kind of human power. Agustin Fuentes, an anthropologist at the University of Notre Dame, eloquently claims as much in his recent book Why We Believe: Evolution and the Human Way of Being. It’s the “most prominent, promising, and dangerous capacity humanity has evolved,” he writes, the power to “see and feel and know something—an idea, a vision, a necessity, a possibility, a truth—that is not immediately present to the senses, and then to invest, wholly and authentically, in that ‘something’ so that it becomes one’s reality.”

A great example of this is the widespread and intuitive idea that we have free will. Most people grow up with the notion that they are, in some sense, responsible for

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