Most people only have a hazy idea of what free-will is. This is partly down to the fact that free-will is an inconsistent concept but mainly down to the fact that down the ages it has been the main-stay of the Christian faith. (By which I mean the orthodox – or rather mainstream and prevalent – version of Christianity).
There are two problems Christianity has had since its inception in it’s commonly known form. The first is the question: How can evil exist if God is good? The second is: “How can a loving God send people to hell?” The crux of the mainstream response to these questions is free-will.
Evil exists because people have free-will and People go to hell because the use their free-will to reject God.
But what does free-will mean? For the Christians it has to have a very specific meaning. Free-will is a theory of choice. It is a theory of choice that states that human choice is undetermined. The our decisions arise solely from us. That we are the only entities responsible for our choices.
In fact in this theory our decisions are uncaused causes. They arise from nothing. The second you allow any cause in – like say the self – then the whole thing becomes determined and human responsibility vanishes. If the self causes the content of the decision then why is the self the way it is? From a prior decision perhaps but that way leads to a regress to a point where the self couldn’t make a decision – as a fetus or sperm and egg.
So if we allow the self to be the cause of the choice responsibility and free-will vanish. But what happens if we don’t? We are surely left with chaos. We are left with a randomness that makes the roll of a dice look like an accountants heaven. We are left with an uncaused cause. With choices that spontaneously pop up out of no-where and as quickly vanish. How can the self – disconnected from choice – be responsible in that case?