In my own philosophical development, I've had to give up the notion of free will. One will hear, for example—and even from people who are otherwise believers in science—that things like painting, symphonies, and poetry imply that we have free will.
Science seems to be telling us otherwise, not only because everything else in our world seems to be determined by preceding events in causal chains that go all the way back to The Big Bang, but because what we are learning about the brain tells us that what we think we are doing freely was actually determined in our brain prior to our being conscious of it.
For me, the most fundamental problem comes from the illusion that by simply juxtaposing the words "free" and "will" we have a rational and understandable concept called "free will." Consider if we put the words "exuberant" and "soap" together. What have we got? Nonsense! I think the main reason we don't see "free will" as nonsense is that we never stop to ask ourselves what this word "will" means.
What does "will" mean? It's hard to resist thinking of psychokinesis when referring to will.
What do free will believers believe? Apparently that a novel or string quartet or a murder (to take a negative example) happens through an act of willing these works or events into reality quite apart from a causal chain or through some act of personal intervention into a causal chain.
Free will believers believe in personally-caused miracles.
I myself believe that people originate works and events by being who they are. They are part of the causal chain but not outside or above it.
If you feel free will exists, then let's start with a definition, not a simple refusal to believe that we don't have it. And in your definition, please avoid negative definitions centering on what free will is not or on what is not explained if you don't believe in it. In regard to the latter, please avoid stuff like "If we can't refer to free will, then how do we hold criminals responsible for their misdeeds?"
I think you'll soon see that the main problem with the notion of "free will" is that you can't define it well enough to turn it into a proposal that can be disproved. And if you haven't asserted something which lends itself to disproof, you really haven't asserted anything at all. As if one were to propose that there is an invisible, ineffable, and totally undetectable being in control of everything.
That is the kind of notion of free will is, it seems to me.
Even if they are synonyms, how does that alter my point? How can you say you've used logic (which is a tool in the proces of evaluating ideas and discarding some and adopting others) if your every action and thought is determined? You can't truly evaluate anything on determinism - the outcome is already determined!
On the contrary, how can one use logic at all if our use of it isn't determined. If we form a syllogism and then announce that the conclusion is something other than the one implied by the premises, that is neither logical nor rational. And yet, I hope it's not an example of free will!
Seems like you are agreeing with me. You say that a conclusion that is neither logical nor rational was not formed by free will. That means that if I am an irrational and illogical person (and as a Christian, many on this site would consider me so) then I didn't become that way freely, and therefore I can't freely change. So, to point out the irrationality of my beliefs is pointless because I can't change them.
Might as well tell a rock to stop being a rock...
If at least you are not going to deny consciousness next, why do you suppose it evolved in us?
How can I deny the existence of a sensation of consciousness? I can't. However, I suppose we can view it as an epiphenomen of brain processes. Consider the robot example I just gave. Simply because a robot can choose among cold cuts according to its algorithm, there's no need to assume a consciousness in it. So, consciousness would appear to be something we should feel lucky to have. A fluke. I say that, because as long as, like the robot, we could operate in the world without it, it is superfluous.
Okay you grant us a "sensation of consciousness" I think this is awfully self referential (since what is it that senses it?) but does this epiphenomenonally redefined internally inconsistent definition of consciousness differ from actually being conscious in some subtle way or not?
You see apart from or rather within or as a consequence of this experience of being conscious I submit we experience free will. We experience it as being in control and we experience it when we lose it. Would you argue with this?
What do you think the functionality of this sensation of control is and again why it evolved if fatalism is true. What in other words would be the evolutionary edge that makes it at least apparently so useful?
How does the availability of possibilities imply freedom? Suppose you have a robot who is known to operate according to a complex deterministic algorithm, and we send it to the deli counter to select and buy cold cuts. It then selects the pickle loaf. According to the OCD it has made a free choice, right? even though its choice can't possibly be free! So, the OCD has a fundamental flaw.
@David England Seems like you are agreeing with me. You say that a conclusion that is neither logical nor rational was not formed by free will. That means that if I am an irrational and illogical person (and as a Christian, many on this site would consider me so) then I didn't become that way freely, and therefore I can't freely change. So, to point out the irrationality of my beliefs is pointless because I can't change them.
Might as well tell a rock to stop being a rock...
Well, it's hard to say anything about agreeing or disagreeing about "free will" when I don't even know what that means. Especially the "will" part. Is it kind of like that Firestarter movie or Carrie where the protagonists could make things happen with their mind? Hahaha!
I don't think you're being irrational. I think free will is nonsense to start with. You're just not making sense, which is a little different from being irrational, which I take to mean that there is a rational position, but you're not taking it.
"...fatalism holds that the natural world causes events in human life but is not itself influenced by human will or behavior. No matter what you do, the same things will happen to you."
No, actually I hold the opposite, that the human being isn't exempt from being the effect of antecedent events nor from being the cause of subsequent events. I hold that the free will people seem to imagine that humans are exempt, at least at times, from being part of such deterministic systems. This is the natural view, not a supernatural view. Of course, if you do A, B will happen, but if you do C, D will happen. It's just that the decision to do one or the other is because of who you are, not because of some free choice you made.
I think Gervais's answer to this is the best.We have the illusion of free will and that's good enough.
I guess it's good enough to condemn people to death or life in prison. Go figure. Best we just send them off to their doom and not ruminate overmuch.