Does Super-Sizing Disprove Free Will?

Our favorite neuroscience blog, Mind Hacks rebuffs a profound philosophical question: does unthinkingly opting to super-size your small popcorn disprove the concept of freewill, thus making you a soulless automoton? After all, if you decide you want a medium instead of a large, then pay thirty-five cents more to Super-Size that transaction, doesn’t that mean you’re a philosophical zombie?

Well, no, you idiot. Mind Hacks argues (as would even a half-stoned community college philosophy freshman, but more eloquently) that changes in behavior do not imply the absence of freewill. Here’s an interesting passage:

People faced a similar dilemma in the nineteenth century when statistics were first compiled of suicides. If we can predict from census records that the number of suicides in a parish in a year will be around seven, where does that leave the free will of those who ‘choose’ to kill themselves that year? Are you taking away the freedom of the seven people who now have to die to fulfill your prediction?

Exactly. Wanting a medium but then super-sizing to a large even after you’ve decided not to buy a large doesn’t make you an automoton. It just makes you a bad consumer and a buffoon. However, it does bring in a solipsistic conceptual problem: if I’ve never been stupid enough to super-size a medium popcorn, but everyone else does, does that mean that all other consumers except me are automotons? Or, as Mind Hacks puts it, “Free will seems to dissolve as you draw away from it – as an individual I don’t feel manipulated, but when i look at other people – especially groups of other people, it seems like I can see manipulation going on.”

Note to Mind Hacks: that’s because people are stupid as an aggregate.

Link: Does Advertising Erode Free Will? at Mind Hacks.

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  1. airship says:

    Hey! Props for citing Mind Hacks!
    I just read this this morning, and it’s interesting for exactly the reason they say: statistically, we are sheep, even though individually we may still be wolves. A paradox, no?

  2. AcidReign says:

    …..I always go for that super-size, infinite refills popcorn at the movies. My two teenage kids will eat every crumb before the previews are done. And I keep sending them back for more. And we take home a full tub for future reheated lunch sides.

    …..Besides, when a kid comes home from the movies stuffed with popcorn, it saves you the trouble of cooking dinner!