“You don’t have any free will”

With a deft touch, blunt honesty and frequent swearing, the specialist on behavioural science provided numerous examples of how people are quick to judge the behaviour of others, in a talk based on his latest book, Happy Ever After: Escaping The Myth of The Perfect Life.

Dolan defined happiness as, “Experiences of pleasure and purpose over time. It [happiness] is in the experiences that people have in their daily lives, as they go about their lives, rather than in the constructions of stories that they tell about their lives.”

He explained how people struggle to comprehend the concept of luck as we struggle to explain it. He also reflected on poverty and the gross inequalities in contemporary society.

“The route out of poverty isn’t education; the route of poverty is paying a decent wage to people who do all the kinds of jobs that we always need. And, it’s about respecting those occupations, that’s what is important.”

Fundamentally, he emphasised that people don’t have free will, and people must accept their inability to control certain aspects of their lives.

“The punchline here is that you don’t have any free will, and you need to get over yourself.”

Photo by Chris Athanasiou.

If you are interested in philosophy, also see Hannah Critchlow discuss the science of fate at 1 pm, on Monday 27 May.  If you like watching Hay Festival events digitally, please sign up to the Hay Player for more from the world’s greatest thinkers.