Free will: the only kind worth wanting

Reader Michael from the UK sent this poster, which gave him a double take. His notes:

I was in my GP’s waiting room this morning & my eyes were drawn to a poster on the noticeboard similar to the one below.  Your free will posts have so thoroughly meme-iated my head that it took me a few seconds to figure out the intended meaning 🙂
As Dan Dennett might say, “This is the only form of free will worth wanting.”


  1. Jim
    Posted February 17, 2017 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    I thought Dennet was a compatibilist? Has he come around?

    • Posted February 17, 2017 at 7:17 am | Permalink

      Dennett is indeed a compatibilist. He thinks that deterministic (= compatibilistic) free will is the only form of free will worth wanting.

  2. jeremy pereira
    Posted February 17, 2017 at 7:14 am | Permalink

    Hmmm, if the heir to the British throne offered to do some promotional work gratis for WEIT, that might be another kind of free Will worth having.

  3. Diana MacPherson
    Posted February 17, 2017 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    It would be even better if the free will was free because then you’d have free free will.

    • Randy schenck
      Posted February 17, 2017 at 7:51 am | Permalink

      I would get the free will because, of course I have no free will.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted February 17, 2017 at 8:13 am | Permalink

        I would be interested only in the free free will because I have no feee will and can’t help but like free things.

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted February 17, 2017 at 8:51 am | Permalink

          Gee, I hate to say an overused phase, you get what you pay for.

          • eric
            Posted February 17, 2017 at 9:06 am | Permalink

            There’s no reason a formulaic set of words on paper must have a high dollar value. Once you know the “formula,” reproducing it should just be cents per copy. Particularly now with computers, where fields and macros that can auto-update date fields and macros that can change names after a single new entry. Anything more than maybe a few dollar to use an auto-filling program is a form of toll-taking, IMO.

            There are a number of places where you can get the ‘will’ formula. I think I used LegalTemplates (which gives a free trial period but requires a credit card, so you have to do the kabuki dance of signing up, doing your work, then cancelling your subscription before the free period ends).

            However, no matter where you get the form from, you’re going to have to get a Notary Public to witness you signing it, and that usually costs $20-30 (plus a trip to where they are).

            • Michael Fisher
              Posted February 17, 2017 at 9:54 am | Permalink

              @Eric – you don’t say where you live but I assume that the “$” you mention refers to the USD, CAD or AUD. But when people talk about the law & don’t give a jurisdiction they’re usually American for some reason…

              AFAIK there’s no requirement in law to use a notary public to witness a will in the USA, Canada or Australia/NZ. Is that requirement peculiar to your state, territory, region, province? [I haven’t checked Quebec who like to be different if at all possible!]

              In my UK [England] the minimum requirements to make a legally valid will are:

              Be 18+
              Make it voluntarily
              Be of sound mind
              Make it in writing [exception possible for the military & such]
              Sign it in the presence of two witnesses who are 18+
              Signed by your 2 witnesses, in your presence

              • Michael Fisher
                Posted February 17, 2017 at 9:58 am | Permalink

                Also you might be able to get away with a holographic will in the UK, meaning in ones own handwriting with no witnesses at all

              • Randy schenck
                Posted February 17, 2017 at 10:32 am | Permalink

                Another old saying just came to mind. Free legal advise rarely comes from a lawyer.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted February 17, 2017 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

            Well, no. That is frequently quite false in terms of relative value.

            Just do a search for gadgets on Ebay and you’ll see the same identical thing being sold at widely varying prices.

            Or search for airline or rail bookings and the seat prices can vary hugely – for exactly the same standard of seat. Frequently depending when you book or if there are any special offers. They have an allocated number of ‘cheap seats’ and when these are gone you move up to the next price category and so on – but these are exactly the same seats and same level of service.

            Or, you can buy (here in NZ) ‘loss leader’ supermarket bread for a dollar which is indistinguishable in taste and quality from the $3 brand-name bread.

            So my advice is always ‘shop around’, you don’t necessarily get better quality by paying several times the price.

            In my experience ‘you get what you pay for’ is a sour-grapes saying after some deal goes bad. (If it was an expensive purchase you say “I was ripped off!” instead).


    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted February 17, 2017 at 7:55 am | Permalink

      Not to be confused with Free Willy, which was a Hollywood movie – something about orcas I think.

      Though whenever I hear that title I keep thinking of other possible interpretations of it. I can’t help it if I have a degenerate mind. 😉


  4. Posted February 17, 2017 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    Surely somewhere there is also a political prisoner unjustly languishing in a cell or awaiting execution named William. In which case, “Free Will” is thereby worth wanting there as well. 🙂

  5. Posted February 17, 2017 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    Insert TANSTAAFL joke reference here.

  6. Kevin
    Posted February 17, 2017 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    Sounds like a scam. 😊

    No really, not sure you want to give an organization personal identification information if they say they will assemble your will for free. There’s got to be a hitch.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted February 17, 2017 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

      @Kevin The current crop of grey dollar givers in the UK are the most cash-rich ever & it’s a unique moment that’s unlikely to be repeated for a few decades since it will require there to be both a booming housing market & the sorts of inflation-proof pension schemes that began to wither in the 80s/90s!

      Charities, restaurants, travel agents etc etc realise all the above & they’re doing their damnedest to entice that lucky generation into spending their excess dosh. One third of Marie Curie’s donations are via wills – they would be very silly to re-sell subscriber details of interest to rival charities who’re also chasing the grey dollar. That said, one would be silly to take up this offer given the deplorable standards of data protection operated by every corporation I can think of.

      That said – it isn’t a scam. You can have a simple, single or mirror will written free of charge by MC ONLY if you’ve donated to MC & are over the age of 55 or are a registered MC volunteer of any age. It isn’t a scam, but it IS a failure of imagination by MC who should perhaps PAY people to take up the offer of a will writing service. They could go crazy & offer free solicitor too! The payment could be in terms of a discount on goods & services available via MC & should increase their customer base substantially.

  7. Posted February 17, 2017 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know the legal details of wills in the US, but in Oregon, where I live, lawyer-produced wills seem to require notarization of signature whereas holographic wills, obviously, do not. I’ll hazard a guess, that as with many legalities in the US, it is determined by state law so may be different from state to state.

    Apologies for bringing too much lack of humor into this topic. I seriously recommend that everyone get a will, or trust, well before you think you may die. Also, talk with your family about your preferences through illness and death, as well as what you want done thereafter. Also, if you have them available in your state or country, fill out an Advance Directive to have on file with your medical practitioner detailing what medical procedures you authorize and those you don’t. Doing this should save you and your family an inordinate amount of grief when the time comes. I know whereof I speak as my husband died in January last year after two years of treatment for cancer.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted February 17, 2017 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

      @ Rowena. In Oregon, you do not need to notarise your will to make it legal – from what I can see the requirements are identical to the UK [as I’ve described above plus in your state & my country an under-18 can make a will if they’re married]

      I assume lawyers generally require a notary when they frame wills because a notarised will is “self-proving” which greatly speeds up probate – because then a court can accept the will without contacting the two witnesses who signed it.

      Your other points: I’m sorry that you’ve recently been bereaved, it’s a very long journey to the other side of it I have found. I agree with everything you’ve written & I would like to add that there should be very clear & detailed guidelines regarding death rites [or lack of] & disposal of the remains in the will. I have been to many funerals/memorial services over the past decade & too many of them contained little trace of the personality of the deceased. Generally speaking an empty experience rather than a celebration of a life lived – that could help the ‘survivors’/celebrants to move on.

  8. Derek Freyberg
    Posted February 17, 2017 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know about the Marie Curie deal but my grandfather was a solicitor (lawyer) in New Zealand working for a government department called the Public Trust (it still exists, but seems to be now corporatized). The Public Trust would prepare your will free, but the condition was that they had to be named as the executor of your estate, and they collected whatever the executor’s fee was. Which meant that people with limited income could get a proper will prepared at no immediate cost; and the executor’s fee would be paid to someone anyway.

  9. Posted March 29, 2017 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    Hitler Reacts to Free Will Skepticism 😉

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