I have begun reading Kahneman's Thinking Fast and Slow. He admits that system 1 can react before system becomes conscious of a particular behavior. Once system 2 becomes aware, however, it can modify system 1's response based on reasoning, additional evidence, past experience, etc. Is there any value in thinking of system 2 as the seat of free will (I choose not to accept system 1's acceptance of a "trick question" fallacy)? If so, and we agree that systems 1 & 2 are aspects of one mind, does it follow that we have addressed Harris's claim that free will is an illusion?

The brief answer is yes, I think it makes a lot of sense to think of something like system 2 as the seat of free, autonomous, and responsible action. And if we do--that is, if we think that our capacities for conscious reasoning and self-control are ultimately capacities instantiated in our brains--then the arguments by Harris and others lose a lot of force, since those arguments often play on the misguided idea that if our brains do it, then somehow we don't. I would not want to say that system 1 (or our non-conscious, more automatic processing) is in conflict with our free will, since often its functioning is crucial to our acting freely and we can also shape its functioning to some degree with system 2 processes. However, if we find that some of our actions are produced by system 1 processes (and situational influences) of which we are unaware and that we would not want to influence us, were we aware of them, then I do think our freedom and responsibility are diminished. And I think that the evidence suggests this is the case more than we tend to think. That is, we have free will, but less than we think.

For a less brief answer, you might want to look at some of my articles (or short pieces) on my website. There is a review of Harris' book here.

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