Intellectual Table Tennis and Everyday Life

Abhishek Paul
2 min readSep 20, 2018

If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, did it make a sound? (Ancient philosophical question)

If I say I believe “X”, but live life according to “Y”, do I really believe in “X”? (My edit)

There have been quite a few recent conversations around God, Free Will (or lack of it), Multiverses and Simulations. The most intense (not necessarily negative) ones are always those that you have in person. Recently, I had the privilege of meeting with an older man who happens to be an open minded atheist. While he raised many issues with the idea of God, one thing that stood out to me was his segway into the topic of free will. According to him, everything was determined by our genetic makeup, ie, the chemicals coursing through our bodies, passed on through millions of years. For him this extended to our belief in God as well. While I could’ve countered this by using the same rationale to argue against atheism (as being a response to a particular genetic makeup). In other words, whether the belief (or lack of it) in anything is determined or not has no bearing on whether the belief is true (or not).

But rather than engage in this intellectual table tennis, I wanted to speak a language that would sneak through the usual mental defences. So instead, I asked him whether he lived his life according to his statement on free will. How could he blame people for suffering and evil (as he passionately did) if they did not have free will? Going a step further, does it not imply that his anger / sorrow at the evil is meaningless since it is something that he’s been programmed to do? What about the relationships in his life, his love for his wife, daughter — where they also nothing but chemically dictated responses?

Obviously he wasn’t living his life this way. He believed that every individual was responsible for his actions. So what started of as a deep and intellectual discussion around free will was short circuited by this simple test.

However many smokescreens we put up, however polished we might sound, our everyday lives betray our true beliefs. Everything else is just vanity and the only person we end up fooling the longest is ourselves.

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