“The mental process of choosing is the function that we call “free will”.”
“The belief that free will is only an illusion leads to bad moral results.”
The two quotes above are from my friend who i’ve been debating on this issue of free-will.
Let me deal with the first quote in light of what I said in my previous blog.
So this guy wants to say that the act of choosing is the content of the term “Free-will”. All well and good but what about the question of why we choose what we choose? Does calling choice free-will make answering that question any easier? Also why make up another term when we already have a perfectly good one (choice)?
Of course many people sloppily equate choice with free-will. In fact this has been the means by which many people have dishonestly convinced people that they have free-will in the traditional sense of the term.
Let’s flesh out the traditional definition of free-will.
Free-will is a theory of choice. That is to say it is attempting to explain why we make the choices we make and what is happening during choice making.
Free-will states that choice is autonomous. This means that choice is something independent of the causal framework within which everything else operates. A good example to elucidate this further is to imagine two worlds exactly alike. If free-will were true then a person could make a different choice in one world to the other without changing anything else apart from the choice. This means that if you were to ask him why he made the choice he would give the same answer in both worlds despite making two different choices.
Free-will states that the choice is under the control of the individual who makes the choice. The definition above is what seperates free-will from determinism and this principle is what seperates free-will from chaos/randomness.
By calling free-will choice what do we call the possibility above? It seems to me that by doing this we make ourselves blind to part of the conceptual land-scape that surrounds the issue of choice.
Why would someone want to do this? The answer is given in the second quote. It is a technique of social engineering. In the past people were controlled by the idea that they were responsible (another term the compatabilist has tried to manipulate away from its original and common meaning) for their actions. This responsibility rested upon a belief in free-will. The compatabilist is trying to take the authority and social benefits that seemed to result from belief in free-will and keep them whilst maintaining determinism. To do this he’s trying to change the content of the term in academic circles in the hopes that the masses – who don’t really look into things – will say amongst themselves “Did you hear the universities say free-will and determinism are not contradictory?”.
This of course will make the normal man think he is stupid because the idea of free-will he has in his head is imcompatible with determinism yet authorative people in suits with degrees are saying otherwise.
This process should be familiar to anyone who has read George Orwell’s “1984” it is the process of double-speak.