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.
Well, recent science is proving your point and it does NOT rescue free will. When we think we have made a decision, it turns out that decision was made instants earlier in a part of the brain we would call subconscious. Since it's subconscious, we have no control over it, so in effect we have no control over the decisions we made. Not in any deliberative sense.
This leaves the thorny question of what, then, makes us responsible for our decisions?
Those experiments deal with the most rudimentary of activities, like moving your finger. I remember reading about it. The scientist himself was careful to admit that it doesn't prove anything and couched his words in qualifiers like: "suggests", "might", "may".
The kind of anticipation that confirms free will is most commonly known as "plans". Whether it be a 5-minute plan or a 50-year plan, we conceive and execute them all the time. Do we execute them based on our experience? Of course. How else COULD we? Our choices are necessarily confined by our experience and by any infringements causality may make into our lives.
Consider the universe at large. As far as we know, Earth is the only place with life. So, as far as we know, at the macro level, the rest of the universe is 100% populated by inanimate objects: dust, rocks, comets, planets, stars, etc. Most of these objects, other than stars, spend most of their existence in a state of stasis or inertia: just laying there or drifting in space. Causality intrudes on us in a similar way. Like static, inert, inanimate objects, there are many times when the only influence causality exerts on us is via gravity and photons. What I'm saying is that the "external world" isn't a constant chaos demanding our vigilant attention. Causality's biggest influence on us is genetic, biological and neurological -- not from its demands of the present. Most of causality's demands are handled automatically or autonomously by our brains and bodies.
It's unusual when causality demands our full attention. If you're attacked by a dog or a mugger or if an earthquake shakes things up, then you're more likely to be an unthinking reaction machine. Otherwise, we multitask our way through life without necessarily paying much attention to the world around us.
Human levels of intelligence means we are able to understand and anticipate causality. This is pivotal to "free will". We aren't absolutely free but we're free enough to be responsible and accountable for our actions. We can seek purpose, make progress, revise plans when causality makes it necessary, find answers to mysteries and navigate robots over the surface of Mars.
To suggest that we do all the things we do because causality has mapped out reality in advance is to deny the difference between a rock and a brain. Causality is a fact. So is our ability to anticipate it. We obviously act with purpose. The philosophical challenge is to explain how not deny how. Such fatalism is a cop-out.
And yet, just as "As far as we know, Earth is the only place with life," outside of the seemingly random and irrational level of subatomic physics, you can't point to any area where causality doesn't reign, nor give a reason why we should expect otherwise.
Causality, as far as we know (and you've provided no evidence otherwise) is at work at all times and in all processes, including in the brain. And if the brain is ruled by physical laws, then nothing happening in the brain could be otherwise than it is.
Sure, we have choices. Take the scenic or quick route to grandmother's house, for example. But that "choice" consists simply of the fact that before we choose there were two different ways to go. It seems clear, however, that the choice we finally make, when we make it, has causal reasons behind it.
In fact, as I harp on, "free will" is such a muddy concept (if it's a concept at all) that it's hard to imagine how one could make a choice that we weren't led to inexorably by the processes of the brain.
As for a plan, a plan is just a set of individual choices and doesn't rescue free will at all, if only for the reason I've mentioned: free will doesn't really mean anything. It's a non-concept.
One of the reasons I can say we don't have free will consists in admitting that it doesn't mean anything in the first place except, as people use the expression, it seems to mean that a person's decisions don't happen on the physical plane. This seems to leave a spiritual plane that I think most atheists are careful to shy away from, if only for the reason that we can't see how spirits can get a handle on physical reality in order to make exceptions.
You're stuck on your own ideas. I specifically said that self-determinism does NOT contradict causality but, rather, results from the interaction of human intelligence with causality. It's not the free will people (you?) think of. It's a natural extension of determinism: self-determinism.
Intelligent feedback works with causality to extend the potential of human (and other animate beings) actions beyond the predictable action/reaction of inanimate objects. To deny this fundamental difference between rocks and brains is simply ignoring the obvious: animate beings behave . . . inanimate objects react. Intelligent feedback is, perhaps, the single most significant component of this difference between the two.
Yes, Unseen, the SCOPE of our POTENTIAL is determined by causality but the minutiae of our thoughts and actions are not. There is variability and adaptability in our choices. We can make up our minds and change our minds. We can modify our own behavior. This is enough, overall, to produce "free will" in the form of self-determinism.
Causality is a physical process of action-reaction. Events lead to other events. A photon traveling through space causes no reaction until it impacts something else, like a surface or other photon. The majority of its existence is in a state of inertia. So, yes, causality is at work at the beginning and the end of that photon's existence but it has nothing to do in between. In the same way, yes, causality works on us through the events of our lives but we have brains that think about those events and learn from them, then anticipate causality's next moves and prepares for them accordingly. This intelligent interaction with causality extends determinism to self-determinism. It's all part and parcel of causality but qualitatively different for intelligent beings. By anticipating causality, we dance with it, and move through life with purposeful steps.
Like the notion of free will, I have no idea what that might mean. We all determine what we do, but do we have any real choice in the matter?
In a capitalist society, Will is a commodity, and, therefor, not free as long as it is in demand. For "Free" Will we'd have to move to a society that is either communist (everyone will have the same amount of Will), or a society where Will has no value; probably some aboriginal tribe in Africa or Iowa.
I was unable to find how much Will goes for these days, or if it is sold by barrels, pallets, pounds/ounces, etc.
Unseen, in terms of a definition, the way that I've understood the Libertarian concept is CDO - Could've Done Otherwise. This means that Beethoven's composition of Ode to Joy was done freely if he CDO - composed a different tune, or composed no tune at all, or went out for ice cream (did they have that back then?) etc. An action is freely made when the agent CDO.
The problem with that is that apparently everything we do is the result of some process over which we have no control. So, once you look a little deeper, free will defined that way evaporates. Once again, the problem is a definition that explains free will which shows how it's an exception to the determinism or randomness duality. Everything we know is either determined by preceding events (the gross level) or is random (the subatomic level). Now, of course, perhaps the subatomic level is subject to a determinism we don't understand yet, in which case there is no duality. For example, the supercollider is based on a deterministic assumption: smash two subatomic particles together and what's inside comes out.
I think the real issue here is that if everything we do is determined as you say, then that means the words you typed in response to me are not words you chose through a process of rationality and logical reasoning - you didn't arrive at these conclusions yourself, you were determined to write them, you couldn't have written anything else. This also means that my response to you (these words, whether or not I'm persuaded by you, etc) is also determined.
It may be that this is the case, but if it is then doesn't that destroy all rationality? Your apparent ability to think and reason and come up with ideas is just that - an apparent ability, merely an illusion. This renders all conversations meaningless and pointless as we have no choice but to have them and we have no choice in our response to them, so what's the point?
It means that thinking is an automated process not requiring a conscious mind.
You seem to imply that if determinism is the truth, then let's look away and pretend we don't know that.
That's not what I meant to imply. What I meant was that if determinism is true, then all rational discussion and use of logic evaporates because we didn't really use them to come to our conclusions. We came to those conclusions because we had to, and we couldn't have come to any other conclusions.
If that's true, then your determinism is determined, and my belief in some kind of free will is also determined - neither 'belief' is one that is rational.
I'm wondering how you define "rational." To me it's a synonym for "logical." In that case, there's no problem whatsoever.