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What is afreeism?


Freeism is the belief that humans have free will.  Afreeism (ay'-free-izm) is the lack of such a belief.  Afreeism embraces a simple question: how would we live if we stopped assuming that people have free will?  This question contains powerful implications.  If fully embraced, afreeism radically alters the way we see the world. It changes how we view each other and how we treat one another. It shakes up our conceptions of the good society and of good social policy. It makes us better people, removes impediments to our own happiness, and increases the joy we find in life. Afreeism is an idea based in science and reason, requiring no leaps of faith. It is an idea whose origins date back over three millennia, and at the same time is rooted in modern scientific discovery. It is not an easy idea. It requires abandoning a worldview that we probably have never questioned, a worldview that we take for granted, a worldview that affects our actions on a daily basis.

Afreeism is based on determinism, the observation that all events have causes and that humans are not exempt from the laws of physics and chemistry that govern the universe.  The universe is a web of causation dating back to the beginning of time. Our actions are a part of this web. Although we feel that we are making decisions on the basis of free will, this is just an illusion. We could not have acted differently than we did.

What does afreeism say about how to live?

When we give up the illusion of free will, our perspective on life changes. We see that the notion that people deserve things no longer makes sense. Without the notion that people deserve things, we understand that blame, guilt, retribution, and anger make no sense.  Embracing the truth of afreeism has many potential benefits.  Here are some: 

• We will support social policies that are both more humane and more effective. This applies particularly in the area of criminal justice, but also to many other areas of government policy.  As for criminal justice, retributatory punishment no longer makes sense.  The criminal could not have done otherwise.  There may be other justifications for punishment, such as deterrence, but retribution does not make sense.  Since, in a sense, we are always punishing the innocent (since they could not have done otherwise), we punish criminals much in the same way we punish children, that is, with reluctance, with care, and with some sadness.

• We will act more generously towards other people in our personal lives. In particular, we will become more tolerant and more accepting of other people, their life situations, and their actions.  After all, they are not to blame for their actions and they do not deserve the consequences of their actions.  Rather than passing judgment, we try to understand why they acted as they did.

• We will improve our attitude towards ourselves by mitigating feelings of guilt, regret, remorse, and self-blame, all of which are impediments to a joyful life and all of which are unjustified, since we could not have done otherwise.

These are just a few of the implications of afreeism. Afreeism has much to say about our place in the universe, our relationship to our fellow beings, and how we want to organize society.

To learn more please see the resources on our homepage.  The most definitive explanation of afreeist ideas and ideals appears in Afreeism: How a New (and Ancient) Understanding of the Universe Can Transform Society and Enrich Our Lives.  You can read the Introduction or purchase the book here. (The book is sold at cost.)

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