Another member of the minority is Dr. Susan Blackmore, who recently addressed the subject of free will on her website. This is what she wrote:
Neuroscience and meditation practice both seem to point to the uncomfortable conclusion that there is no persisting inner self that is the origin of creativity, the subject of our experiences, or the ultimate cause of our actions and decisions. In this case there can be no free will as it is usually conceived. Many people argue that life, law and society would be impossible without free will, or at least without an illusion of free will, but I disagree. We will explore what it is like to accept that “I” do not make the decisions.
I encountered this quote and more on free will in someone else's blog, in an entry titled Life Without Free Will. Here is an excerpt from that blog:
I am no expert on neuroscience. It is the kind of stuff that I like to read, but my faculties are weak and it’s hard to keep track of the arguments, let alone to grasp the complex geography of the brain. After all, the brain – when you start to poke around in it – is a complicated place. But without getting too technical, the problem with free will in relation to brain science is this: that there is no centre to the brain in some little homunculus or “will” could reside and from which it could direct operations. It’s not just that there’s no homunculus, no “mini-me”, inside pulling the levers and co-ordinating the whole show. Nor is it just that invoking such a homunculus leads us into infinite regress (who pulls the levers in the homunculus’s mind?). It’s also that there is nowhere for such a homunculus to sit. From what we now know of the brain, we can do quite well without homunculi. They add nothing to our understanding...I have been sceptical of the idea of free will for some time...So, I’ve been trying to put this into practice, seeing what it is like to lay free will to one side, to live without free will.
I left the following comment:
I have never believed in free will. To me, “free will” means the capacity to choose otherwise. That is, if one had two or more options to choose between, one could have chosen another option than what one did under the same precise set of circumstances.
I don’t believe that one could have done this, because I believe that we and our choices are manifestations of what Alan Watts called an “organism-environment field.” That is, “we” are a transaction of physical, biological, psychological, social, cultural, and spiritual factors that ultimately encompass the entire past and present universe. Thus, “our” choices are ultimately the choices of the unified totality of physical, biological, psychological, social, cultural, and spiritual existence and could not be other than what necessarily issues from that unified totality at any given moment. There is no magical “homunculus” or agency within each of us as individuals that is independent and can choose independently of this unified totality.
Alan Watts went on to suggest that the Buddhist nirvana is actually a concrete realization of this. I’m not sure I recall his exact words, but they were very close to the following: “Nirvana is a radical transformation of how it feels to be alive. It feels as if everything were myself, or as if everything—including my thoughts and feelings—were happening of itself. There are still efforts, choices, and decisions, but not the sense that “I” make them. They arise of themselves in relation to circumstances.”
In other words, nirvana is the concrete realization of “no free will.” It is also the concrete realization of “no determinism.” For in order for something to be determined, it must be determined by something OUTSIDE itself. But if there is ultimately nothing outside us to force us to choose what we do, then we are no more determined to make the choices we do than we are free to make them. They simply “arise of themselves in relation to circumstances.”
I think Watts' description of nirvana is a wonderful way of understanding the real nature of self and will, and I often use it as a kind of meditation on egolessness and on what it is to "live without free will."