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Can We Be Free-Willing Robots?

On the Possibility of Free Will in a Deterministic World

6. Manipulation

Book cover: Mistaken Identity: The Mind-Brain Problem Reconsidered by Leslie Brothers

When you are coerced into doing something you don't want to do, you feel real psychological pressure. Imagine someone holding a gun to your head. On the other hand, when we are robbed of our free will through manipulation, we don't feel this pressure personally. Yet the person on the street also regards manipulation as a means of robbing a person of their freedom to choose. In both cases, though, the basic notion remains the same: an unfree will is an encumbered will. Manipulation is a direct means of mind control and includes hypnosis, brainwashing, brain implants and zombie drugs. Here are a couple of examples of how non-philosophers and non-theologians regard free will in these cases.

1. Yeonmi Park fled Kim Jong-il's North Korea with her parents. She claimed she was brainwashed by the regime with the result that 'I had not been a real person – I was created for the regime to work for them. If they ordered us to die, I would've died for them. I wasn't a human – I was something else.' After escaping and educating herself, she said, 'I now have free will' [Comment: I Was Brainwashed to Believe Kim Jong-Il Was a God, SBS, 2014].

As this example illustrates, brainwashing robs a person of their free will through replacing their personal identity, their character, with another. Central also is the idea that this manipulation is done deliberately by another agent. Once again, the philosopher's and theologian's notion of contra-causality seems inconsequential.

2. This theme of third-party control and loss of character appears also with judgments about brain implants. Although mind control through brain implants is still very much the preserve of science fiction, some believe it is happening now. Dave Hodges [Government Sponsored Mind Control Will Soon Eliminate All Free Will, 2015] writes that the government's aim in microchipping every citizen is 'the complete control of every individual through mind control' and 'to control all thought, all emotion and consequently, all behavior. The end result will be to remove all potential opposition (i.e. free will).' The interesting thing here is that for Dave Hodges, we all currently possess free will even though our minds are strictly subject to causal laws. The tipping factor for this writer is third-party control and not determinism.

Copyright © 2018

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