I've written a lot about free will on this blog. To me it seems obvious that free will doesn't exist. At least not in the way most people believe that it does.
(You can find my numerous posts on this subject by typing "free will" into the Google search box in the right sidebar.)
But after finishing Paul Singh's book, "The Great Illusion: The Myth of Free Will, Consciousness, and the Self," I realize that when commenters on my posts object to free will being an illusion, they're usually thinking of free will of being something different than how I see it.
So hopefully this blog post will clear the confusion up. (Yeah, I'm an optimist.)
Singh makes a distinction between Free Will, which does exist, and Freedom of the Will, which doesn't. I agree with him. However, the problem is that when most people think of free will, they're really talking about freedom of the will.
Free will, in Singh's view, is essentially the philosophical position of compatibilism. Meaning, this definition of free will is compatible with determinism. Wikipedia says:
Compatibilism is the belief that free will and determinism are compatible ideas, and that it is possible to believe in both without being logically inconsistent. Compatibilists believe freedom can be present or absent in situations for reasons that have nothing to do with metaphysics. They define free will as freedom to act according to one's motives without arbitrary hindrance from other individuals or institutions.
Likewise, Singh writes:
Free will, according to common sense, is demonstrated by the way that a person's actions are as he or she wills their actions to be, and not otherwise. This basic conception of free will is the one built into our moral and legal systems, as we hold people responsible for their freely willed actions.
If you are able to rest content with this common sense conception of free will, then you can continue to speak of "free will" as something real and sensible, without worrying about science someday refuting it.
But this is a very weak view of free will. It just means, say, that when I will or desire to go grocery shopping in my car, nothing is stopping me from starting my car's engine, driving into town, and getting what's on our grocery list.
On the other hand, someone in jail could have the same desire, yet wouldn't have the freedom to carry out the willed actions. Thus they lack free will in this instance, and I don't. Meaning, I am free to do what I will -- go grocery shopping -- and they aren't.
This is far distant from how most people look upon free will. The usual conception of free will is that a person is able to freely choose what to will, and not merely freely carry out a willed action.
Thus Freedom of the Will is really what's usually meant by Free Will. Singh explains:
Free will defenders agree that a person's willing decision to something should result in the intended action, in order for the person to display liberty of action. What about the liberty of the will itself?... A person's control over an action really isn't like controlling ones' will.
...Defenders of freedom of the will set a requirement along the following lines. A person's will, they say, could have willed otherwise in the moment of willing, if a person's will is truly free. They then design a required test for this "could have willed otherwise" that goes something like this: If a will is free, then at the moment of decision, and with everything exactly the way it is, a will could both decide to do an action and not to do that action.
These requirements go far beyond anything suggested by ordinary free will. We aren't really talking about ordinary free will any more, but rather "freedom of the will."
...Defenders of freedom of the will treat the will as a mini-person, applying to the will the same sort of criteria for freedom that they apply to the whole person. If a person is free only if nothing outside of the self completely determines what he or she does, then the same must be true of the will itself; a will is free only if nothing outside of it completely determines what it does.
Even if things outside the will inform and influence it, the will must supply something extra to finally decide what is to be done, so that it retains the ability to both choose and change any choice.
There is no evidence that this sort of free will, "freedom of the will," exists. It goes agains everything science knows about the human brain, determinism, and the laws of nature. Freedom of the will requires a supernatural influence that overrides the physical goings-on in our craniums.
This FoW [Freedom of Will] criterion is commonly accepted among philosophers and theologians who prefer dualism over naturalism, usually for religious reasons. Dualism asserts that a person as a whole, and something within a person as well, cannot be entirely physical in nature and operation.
This non-physicality is manifested in a power to counter-balance and even override what would otherwise happen according to forces and laws.
...What is clear is that devotion to the FoW criterion drives free will enthusiasm towards the speculation that the will must be entirely unnatural and transcendent. If it were just another cog in the material machine, it wouldn't be able to control the machine by itself.
Freedom of the will calls for freedom from reality.
Which is why freedom of the will doesn't exist, while free will does. Einstein had it right:
“Honestly, I cannot understand what people mean when they talk about the freedom of the human will. I have a feeling, for instance, that I will something or other; but what relation this has with freedom I cannot understand at all. I feel that I will to light my pipe and I do it; but how can I connect this up with the idea of freedom? What is behind the act of willing to light the pipe? Another act of willing? Schopenhauer once said: Der Mensch kann was er will; er kann aber nicht wollen was er will (Man can do what he will but he cannot will what he wills).”
-- Albert Einstein
Der Mensch kann was er will; er kann aber nicht wollen was er will (Man can do what he will but he cannot will what he wills).”
My German is dated but but I think an alternative translation may be a bit clearer... any native speakers out there?
Man can do what he wants but he can't will what he wants.
Posted by: Dungeness | June 26, 2016 at 11:51 PM
Here Charan s explication makes the most sense
Free Will corresponds with your spiritual regional ( 1 > 7 ) level
In a way with free will at higher than it is on this deflated material level
would have destroyed planet earth ages earlier . . .
I heard today that the amount in Tons of plastics in the oceans is higher than fish
and this is just a little detail of our situation
Posted by: 777 | June 27, 2016 at 03:31 AM
Whoa... This is amazing.. Jurgen Ziewe interview.
Posted by: Jim | June 29, 2016 at 01:54 AM