Among all the disagreements over Brexit, one thing at least might appear to be uncontroversial: the decision was a free choice taken by the British people. Brexiteers would say that it was in fact a double victory for freedom, in that the result is a freer country, unshackled from the constraints of the European Union. If this summary seems self-evident it is only because the very idea of freedom has been debased. Brexit is not a paradigmatic instance of freedom at work, but of freedom being confused with something much less valuable: choice.
The idea that unconscious biological forces drive our beliefs and actions would seem to pose a real threat to our free will. We like to think that we make choices on the basis of our own conscious deliberations. But isn’t all that thinking things over irrelevant if our final decision was already written in our genetic code? And doesn’t the whole edifice of personal responsibility collapse if we accept that “my genes made me do it”?
Small thoughts about big subjects; big thoughts about small things; seeds of thought, scatttered to either take root or not; plus short links to longer work. Microphilosophy is the website of the writer Julian Baggini.