On Free Will and Wizardry by Gale Mantichare

© 2018 Gale Mantichare, all rights reserved

Wisdom without action does not promote the good. There are some pitfalls that we must avoid in order to accomplish what must be done. First, you must avoid the pitfalls of ‘analysis paralysis. Second you must remember the path to hell is paved with good intentions, and third, you must come to grips with free will. One concept we went over quite a bit was “analysis paralysis” which is when a person thinks a lot about something and is consequently unable to reach a decision, or spends so much time thinking about a project so that they never complete the project.

This is important because it is something that affects students of the grey school in their studies (I fully admit this is why sometimes my coursework gets delayed). It is also important because to the extent the role of a wizard is to give advice, advice that is delayed well beyond the point at which it is needed does no good for anyone. The way that AP denies students the ability to be autonomous and perform their duties is in the fact that it makes them focus on the minutiae of a decision, rather than the practical aims.

I find sometimes I read, reread, consider, ponder, pontificate, aspire, simulate, wonder, and poke and prod the subject or issue, often for weeks before I even type a single sentence. In this way, it’s almost as if an essay needs to be fully formed in my mind before an essay begins to materialize. In this way, I find that I am unable to focus on what needs to be done. We must not allow planning to crush us into inactivity. It is much better to break things into more manageable, smaller goals.

Beyond this, we’re also taken to the old adage that ‘the path to hell is paved with good intentions.’ This means, roughly speaking, that even divorced from metaphysics that you can do things that seem like they are good at the moment but which have negative consequences. As wizards, we also have to own this fact. Every choice we make has consequences, so we must carefully consider the options. There is always more than one choice in any dilemma, many we cannot even perceive. To not act is also a choice, so simply stalling out a decision has long-term costs and benefits that must be weighed like any other active choice. So it is by these choices that we must assume responsibility.

Great power and great responsibility are not just for spider-powers. Wizards have been putting things into motion and bearing the burden of this, both good and bad, for a very long time. As a direct consequence of a pure materialism comes a worldview called ‘determinism.’ Determinism says that the big bang put everything into motion and thus everything a person is the result of a causal chain of events, which means there is no choice but to act in the way that you do.

Your biology is predetermined, which makes you genetically predisposed to certain conditions and behaviors. These conditions and behaviors force you to act due to the limitations of your biology. Whether you are a prince or a pauper, saint or sinner, Trekkie or Star Wars fan, you ultimately are what you are due to no choice on your part. Free will seems obvious to many, but the determinist simply responds by saying that some people are determined to perceive free will. If you ask if free will is not real, then by what means can anyone be held responsible for their actions?

The answer is as simple as all the others, of course, the people running the criminal justice system are just as subject to this as those within it. People are held responsible for a choice they don’t freely make, by people who don’t freely make the choice to do so. Now if we knew everything about cause and effect, then we could actually predict everything that will happen, and extrapolate everything that has happened. But alas, with our limited knowledge, this deterministic world is just as chaotic and confusing as one ruled by free will.

As a wizard, I put my foot down, I say no! Free will is not something I can throw away, and neither should anyone else. Although ‘Pascal’s Wager’ has been picked apart, most often by internet pseudo-intellectuals with an axe to grind, there is a lot of value in a similar concept, the wager of free will. Ultimately, the free will question can be very vexing, but in the end, it’s a meaningless question when it comes down to it.

Our options are to believe in free will, while it does, which means not only are we right, but we are living in such a way that we make choices like they matter and we have the ability to make suboptimal decisions should we become apathetic about our decision-making process. We could also not believe in free will, whether we do or don’t believe in it, it ultimately doesn’t matter a whole lot. Even assuming our actions have consequences we don’t have the power in us to make choices, so our decisions, such as they are, have already been made and cannot be made to be otherwise, we cannot positively or negatively affect the world, everything that is supposed to happen, is going to happen.

This leaves us only with the most tragic outcome, that free will exists and we do not believe in it. This means that our choices matter, and we have the power to do otherwise, but we refused to believe in that power and take responsibility for it. This goes without saying, but this is not the philosophy of a wizard. It is the philosophy of a nihilist, a postmodernist, of the shadow of Peter Pan, the eternal child who torments a man until he is swallowed by something that sounds like a ticking clock…mortality. In conclusion, wizards need to learn to make choices that are considered but not late. Wizards need to acknowledge that unintended consequences exist and they are responsible for them too. Wizards must reject any philosophy that asks them to deny free will and they must embrace the future and their role in it.