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.
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.
Richard Dawkins and Steven Pinker on Free Will
I have gone around and around with this free will thing.
I have not decided exactly where I stand on the matter. I like to say there is no such thing as "true" free will, because if there was, my wishes would come true because that would be what I would want to happen.
Since the option to have my wishes come true is not avaiable to me, there is no such things as true free will. Free will generally means to be able to do what you want to do within a range of options. "True" free will would mean you can do what you want to do (period).
Oh, we can do some things that we want to do, but why do we want to do them? Can we decide what we'll want before actually wanting it? What would this decision be based on, if not yet another desire? (end of snippet of Radu's post)
I know there are times we have the opportunity to make a decision that brings us complete contentment for a time.
What I meant, by saying true free will, would mean you can do what you want to do. This would be impossible for me, because I would wish for all suffering to stop existing immediately, for all.
I think most people, if they had one wish that could come true, would wish the same thing. I guess if Christians think their God has true free will, I don't understand why they don't understand, he did not make a good decision when he chose to create everything as he did, because of all the suffering that exists. And I don't want to hear all this "without suffering we would not be able to be happy bull crap" beause I am talking about really severe, pointless suffering.
For example, why does a baby die in agony and I live to be 50 years old with a lot of goodness in my life? In the scheme of things for the Christian concept of God, this example points out the pointlessness of his "grand design". What was SO worth the suffering of that baby? What?
Instead, he (the Christian concept of God) chose to allow suffering in unspeakable degrees, for billions of beings, for a very long period of time. So either, in the Christian concept of God, he does not have true free will; or he has it, and he is sadistic and a liar; or there is no such God as the Christian concept of God. Take your pick.