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Free Will posted 23 March 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionFree Will by Peter, Auditor

If I reject the belief of unobservable inputs upon matter and energy we have precisely as much "free will" as a can of soda. Human thoughts and actions are more complicated examples of rocks falling down hills, controlled completely by our past actions and the world around us. Humans are lightning in meat.

If I accept the existence of unobservable inputs upon matter and energy, and further posit that those inputs act upon the "lightning", then it is those inputs which constitute free will. In that case I consider myself precisely as free as the degree to which my consciousness is composed of these phantom inputs.

I believe in the first of these hypotheses. Thus, I believe that I have no free will.


Unless of course we go with a different account of free will. What if we started with the idea that we are free just when we are not unfree. If we then work out what it is to be unfree, we can know in a negative sense, when we are free, and this even with complete scientific determinism (which falls apart because of quantum anyway).

So, I know that I am unfree when I am stopped from acting the way I want to act. If I am put in prison, if I am being held down, if someone is using mind-control techniques on me, these are all cases where I would clearly consider myself to be unfree. If this is unfreedom, then when I am considering whether or not to eat this apple pie I am free to the extent that there is not someone standing over my shoulder with a tazer waiting for me to choose to eat it (or not to eat it).

All this account is saying is that freedom is being able to follow our desires (including second and third order desires) and this is perfectly compatible with determinism (hence why the theory is called compatibilism).

Also you might go with something like Scott's Dunyain. I don't have the glossary to hand, but the idea that logic is formally (if not materially) outside the darkness that comes before and that be acting according to reason we are able to defeat it. This I think comes mighty close to the Kantian notion of Autonomy (although Scott did say that there are Hegelian elements in Dunyain thinking and given that I haven't read Hegel yet it may be closer to him than to Kant).

Essentially a lot of free willists argue that the identification of free will with being able to overcome causation and subsequent attacks on that notion is really only targetting straw men.

BTW if anyone asks this counts as work (ahem) <!-- s:D --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_biggrin.gif" alt=":D" title="Very Happy" /><!-- s:D -->... Why no I don't have finals starting in just over eight weeks time. (cough cough). view post


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