A Scatological Argument for the Reality of “Free Will”

Eliott Edge
Sep 10 · 4 min read

“Free will” really is a weighty, almost philosophical, term for choice or decision. Conscious choice, conscious decision-making, is equivalent to free will. I have a scatological argument for the existence of free will. To me, the problems of the free will argument can be focused simply on the issues of relieving one’s own bladder and bowels properly.

I call this The Free Will Problem of the Bathroom Break.

I argue: that to release your bladder and bowels without spoiling the immediate environment requires a series of willful, conscious acts, decisions, and choices. Ask any blackout drunk, or anyone taking care of a blackout drunk — choice is supremely involved in accurately relieving one’s self. In deed, properly “going potty” is likely among the first series of conscious choices we learn as a growing human being. Breastfeeding comes more naturally to us than the alien and will-ridden activity of “going potty.” The steps necessary to achieve this neglected feat are nothing short of voluminous. That becomes clear when we encounter an individual who cannot pull these maneuvers off on his or her own. And either we are doing this completely automatically or we are doing it completely absent of choice and decision, or, again, it is automatic — without free will choice and decision-making.

Urinating and defecating might be biologically automatic, but going to a bathroom to do so, and then to do it correctly in said bathroom, is not automatic, I argue.

Animals more-or-less relieve themselves largely wherever they want (with some minor exception.) Human beings however are socially required to find an appropriate disposal site under normal circumstances. If a human being relieves himself or herself on a living room carpet for example, as say a dog, cat, or rabbit might, they will face serious, possibly catastrophic, social repercussions (see The Exorcist or The Big Lebowski for useful examples.) To avoid such trouble and shame, we direct ourselves to a bathroom. If you are lacking in mental capacity, say brought on by disability, age, inebriation, or disease — a feat like standing in front of a urinal might prove difficult or even impossible. These issues are about constrains on an individual’s decision space. The smaller one’s decision space is, the more difficult “going to a bathroom” becomes.

However, a nominally healthy and sober person should be able to achieve the feat of relieving themselves properly without outstanding incident. It will, however, require choices, decision-making, and the like. Even the bathroom that one ends up doing their business in — men’s room, women’s room, unisex room, handicap, stall, urinal, or sink all seems like volition-packed choices as well — and are actually litigious choices in some states of the US.

The need to relieve oneself is always a crisis, and it is a crisis that demands competency, free will choice, volition, decision, assessment, aiming, and a small list of important intentional actions regarding clothing and place of self, I would argue.

When you witness an otherwise competent individual fail to properly relieve themselves in a bathroom, you realize you have witnessed a failure of competency, orientation, decision-making, volition, and so on.

Neuroscientists and philosophers like Sam Harris who claim that there is no free will choice, I find prosaic and abstract if not downright insulting, especially when one considers the large group of people who cannot competently relieve themselves in a bathroom on their own.

But, even still, the best argument for this scatological example of free will comes simply from the fact that what we call relieving ourselves is actually, again, known by the euphemism of “going to the bathroom.” That phrase alone “going to the bathroom” is suggestive of so many competent operations that to suggest there is no free will, no volition, choice, or decision-making is nothing short of ridiculous.

One could argue that this is a matter of social programming, and I would not necessarily disagree. But to claim that there is no free will, no volition, choice, or decision-making involved in accomplishing that daily task is actually more vulgar and ridiculous than this otherwise scatological argument for the reality of free will. This is why I tend to coyly ask any free will skeptic, “Where do you shit?” It might sound vulgar and simplistic, but the feats of active volition involved with the task are both so neglected and so revealing, that I believe free will skeptics should honestly consider the assertion and argument brewing beneath it.

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Eliott Edge

Written by

Author of '3 Essays on Virtual Reality', global speaker, artist, humorist, futurist, netizen, critic & psychonaut Patreon.com/OddEdges EliottEdge.com IEET.org

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