Free will fascinates me. I don't believe it exists. Yet it sure seems like I have it.
Of course, if the cosmos has determined that I shall believe in free will, even though it is an illusion, I have no choice but to feel like I have free will.
(Type "free will" into the Google search box in the right sidebar to find my many blog posts on this subject that I couldn't help but write.)
Today I was re-reading a chapter in one of my favorite books, Raymond Smullyan's "The Tao is Silent."
Below are some excerpts from Is God a Taoist? Smullyan's take on free will and determinism from a Taoist perspective is pretty damn brilliant.
Reminds me of Alan Watts. But Smullyan is a mathematical logician (so says the back of his book), so he has a unique way of writing about this stuff.
HIs chapter consists of a dialogue between God and a Mortal.
MORTAL: Anyway, it is reassuring to know that my natural intuition about having free will is correct. Sometimes I have been worried that determinists are correct.
GOD: They are correct.
MORTAL: Wait a minute, now, do I have free will or don't I?
GOD: I already told you you do. But that does not mean determinism is incorrect.
MORTAL: Well, are my acts determined by the laws of nature, or aren't they?
GOD: The word determined here is subtly but powerfully misleading and has contributed so much to the confusions of the free will versus determinism controversies.
Your acts are certainly in accordance with the laws of nature, but to say they are determined by the laws of nature creates a totally misleading psychological image which is that your will could somehow be in conflict with the laws of nature and that the latter is somehow more powerful than you, and could "determine" your acts whether you liked it or not. But it is simply impossible for your will to ever conflict with natural law. You and natural law are really one and the same.
...MORTAL: So you really claim that I am incapable of determining to act against natural law?
GOD: It is interesting that you have twice now used the phrase "determined to act" instead of "chosen to act." This identification is quite common. Often one uses the statement "I am determined to do this" synonymously with "I have chosen to this." This very psychological identification should reveal that determinism and choice are much closer than they might appear.
Of course, you might well say that the doctrine of free will says that it is you who are doing the determining, whereas the doctrine of determinism appears to say that your acts are determined by something apparently outside you. But the confusion is largely caused by your bifurcation of reality into the "you" and the "not you."
Really now, just where do you leave off and the rest of the universe begin?
Once you can see the so-called "you" and the so-called "nature" as a continuous whole, then you can never again be bothered by such questions as whether it is you who are controlling nature or nature who is controlling you. Thus the muddle of free will versus determinism will vanish.
If I may use a crude analogy, imagine two bodies moving toward each other by virtue of gravitational attraction. Each body, if sentient, might wonder whether it is he or the other fellow who is exerting the "force." In a way it is both, in a way it is neither. It is best to say that it is the configuration of the two which is crucial.