No, I am not saying that. I am saying that a process of weighing criteria must occur before any subsequent action will take place. That process of consideration and acting upon it constitute choice. That process has its own set of mechanics and characteristics at the macro level, which warrant regarding it as a distinct phenomenon.
If you flip a light switch off, the light switch gives no consideration to the end result. There is no computation process; there is just direct response. If you ask me to turn the light switch off determination will dictate whether I do it or not, just as it did with the light switch, but there is an intermediary process that occurs in which I give consideration to your request. Do I fulfill it or do I not fulfill it? That process of consideration could be analyzed, diagramed and established to be a process disctint from that of the light switch. We call that choice.
It's about the process of weighing criteria and not the ability to defy causality. The ability to defy causality is not only nonsensical, but also completely unnecessary for defining 'choice'.
Causality does not limit this process. Causality is not a forcefield that acts upon things or makes them do one thing over another. Causality is the recognition that things have intrinsic properties, definition, characteristics, mechanics (etc.) that are consistent and thus predictable.
My nature will govern how I make choices and I am not capable of choosing my own nature. I understand where people see that as a negation of free will, but that is not how we experience reality. Part of my nature is to have self-awareness, as well as an awareness of my environment and an awareness of the consequences of my actions. In that awareness, I also have desires and a conscious appreciation for some consequences to my actions over others. That's also know as 'will'. My will is one of the factors that determines how I make decisions. That is all a part of my nature, part of the mechanics of how I function.
Could I be considered a biological computer? Sure, but will and choice are components in this computer that strongly define how this computer runs. If you've ever tried to replace components on a computer, I'm sure you'll find that a reductionist approach doesn't work. "Yes, I'd like to order a collection of atoms that behave in a deterministic manner based on the laws of physics to create a set perceived behaviour that creates the illusion of random access memory". I know my analogy probably should have been software and not hardware, but I'm typing furiously on a break and am too lazy to go back and fix it.
So from the position that I am arguing, yes I am a biological computer, but choice and will are definitive components in how this system runs. I think, in order to understand human biology and psychology, it is necessary to acknowledge these phenomena.
Is my will free? Ah, freewill isn't that important to me, but I would say it does exist. 'Free' means without impediment. In the absolute sense, I am not aware of anything that exists without impediment. I don't think it's ever useful to use the term 'free' in the absolute sense. In a practical sense what impedes my will when I make choices? I am standing in a hardware store to buy pain. I am presented with green paint and an equally priced yellow paint of the exact same quality and performance. Personally, I prefer the colour green. My desire is to have a colour I like. Using that single criterion, I act on that desire and select the green, which is the enactment of my will; an intrinsic preference based on an appreciation of the available candidates. Where there any restrictions on that will? Yes. For instance, I did not choose to like the colour green. In this case, however, liking green may not be a choice, but it is part of my own nature. To say that it impeded my will is to say that my will is impeded by my own nature, which would be odd because I also say that my will is determined by my own nature.
When considering the dynamics of human behaviour (and perhaps other animas as well), I think it is not only practical in an expedient sense, but also meaningful to acknowledge free will as part of the equation.
I do not see what point you are trying to make.
I think we agree that we do not really know whether or not we have freewill, and I am arguing that unless we can conclusively prove that we do not have any freewill whatsoever, we should live as though we have some measure of freewill, because choosing what to do based on a lack of freewill makes no sense whatsoever.
With limited freewill, life is like driving a car. You can turn left or right, accelerate or stop, but you can't necessarily teleport or fly. And it makes a difference what you do.
A total absence of freewill is like a roller-coaster. no matter what you do, it is going to follow its path. It might be fun, it might not, but you are along for the ride, and can't do anything about it.
If you are on a roller-coaster, and think you are in control, you really aren't going to cause any harm. If you are in a car, and think it is a roller-coaster, you have a fairly good chance of either not going anywhere at all, or going somewhere you would rather not be.
After reading the above posts, I think I'd just like to say that I don't see free will as a philosophical question. Rather I see it as a question for chemical and physical law. If there is no place in the human mind that can escape the laws of chemistry and quantum whatever - then everything that happens within our mind is not of any control. It is impossible for any agency to exist regardless of appearances.
What we consider consciousness would be merely the output from an organic computer, wired and programmed by evolution.
As for the punishment question, I feel that in regards to criminals, we must understand they are not evil, but merely big fleshy products of a robotic existence. That said they can either be rehabilitated or destroyed.
"What we consider consciousness would be merely the output from an organic computer, wired and programmed by evolution."
That's just a form of reductionism. It's akin to saying that a cat isn't really a cat; it's just a collection of atoms.
The Universe has a state which represents the exact arrangement of its constituents (whatever these may be). This state + randomness completely determines the immediately next state the Universe will have. To say anything else would be mathematical (not just physical) lunacy. Considering this, I could not believe in our power to overcome the laws of physics, which, by definition, completely govern us.
Now, I know most sane people wouldn't claim we aren't subject to the laws of physics, so what's all this fuss about? I am yet to hear a clear definition of free will, even though I've asked for it numerous times. It's either me who's not getting it or people don't want to accept that we are made of particles whose future states are completely determined by their present state + possibly randomness. If this free will is something that is not esoteric enough to escape the laws of physics, and ultimately mathematics, then what is it and why is it so important for rational people?
However, that being said, consciousness, whatever it may be, is completely real (at least for me it is, you damn philosopher's zombies) and all those qualia that baffle me are real. Therefore there is meaning, even though on a fundamental level we aren't in control. In my opinion, the fact that we can feel love, friendship, hope, joy and so on, is something of the greatest importance, regardless of the fact the current state of the Universe determines its future states.
I will use Bob Arctor, Keanu Reeves rotoscoped alter ego in A Scanner Darkly (2006) from PKD's A Scanner Darkly (1977).
Bob Arctor is a free agent - he is in fact the freest agent in his environment. You could say that if Arctor did not actually, really, truly, positively have free will (what ever we can agree this to mean) he had 'the kind of free will he could use'. Meaning - he had something that, in the limit, approached our maximum or upper limit of what we have both agreed is free will.
Both LaPlace's Daemon and Maxwell's Daemon will represent the two agents (imaginary agents admittadly) that possess what we will agree to is a measurable or weighable or durative or in anyway making a material impact on the universe since we are monists, rationalist, skeptics, doubters, peer reviewers, furious bloggers etc. etc. and we can eventually decide a very important question.
My question is: Can you express free will in multiples of Plancks Length, the smallest 'allowable' space-time area allowed in this universe. Planck's Constant gives us the Planck length which you can think of as the opening in a net that holds up this universe. Your measured quantity of free will cannot get smaller than this. How big is your free will particle - it must be larger than this?
How big is free will. In the 13.72 B years, when did free will emerge from star stuff and planet stuff and biological stuff? Was it last Thursday? Could we measure the effects of free will on black holes? is free will encoded in Hawking Radiation?
Or maybe evolutionary biology explains free will. But you would be wrong. Or chemistry, or fishing for trout or panning for gold or commenting on blogs. B.F. Skinner fail.
Or is it possible that this is a remnant of rampant dualism in an atheist? Do you really want to go back to having a free 'little you' in the cockpit that talks to Zeus? That is called Casper.