Finally, after a couple of months of revamping, re-editing and polishing, the article “On Will” is published in version 2.0.
Read it. Comment on it. Share it freely.
Many changes in the article came about through inspiration from the contributors on this blog – such as marildi, Maria, Chris Thompson, 2ndxmr, Brendan, Valkov, Vinaire, Dennis, and many others. I value your input, so feel free to discuss the content or alternative views or give links and pointers to relevant data on free will.
Here’s the start of the article:
On the subject of choice, there are two options: Either you really have a choice, or the appearance that you may choose is simply an illusion.
By choice is meant the possibility of will being exercised. Thus, the subject of choice is strongly related to the subject of free will. Do you really possess free will?
Since there are many situations where people seemingly cannot choose what they want, we will refer to free will as meaning potential free will.
You either have potential free will or no free will. In the latter case, it should not even be called will as everything is then simply a series of events with no will involved.
Let us explore the possibility of no free will: You have no choices; it is all predetermined. Everything is simply a series of events. There is no will involved and everything is determined by the laws of the physical universe. This assertion we label a Physical Theory or an Objective Theory.
Determinism is a common view among natural scientists and is gaining ground in the general population. In the book A Brief History of Time the astrophysicist Steven Hawking explains it very well: If you know the state of the universe at any given time and all the laws that govern it, you can calculate all consecutive events. You can determine every single motion in the universe at any time. The brilliant French scientist Pierre-Simon Laplace formulated this idea in a paper published in 1814 (eng. 1902): Although it has been proven that such a thought experiment is impossible, that proof still does not disprove the universe as causally deterministic.
Many physicists disagree with Laplace in that they assert the possibility of randomness in the universe. Random events would break the prospect of calculating the future. However, such being the case still wouldn’t necessarily leave room for any will or real choices.
We see that there are two Objective Theories: the Deterministic Model and the model that allows for random events, the Random Model.
The Objective Theories are attractive in that they present complete systems within the boundaries of the physical universe without any external influence. The beauty of such a system lies in what it can prove — anything physical can be proven in and by the physical universe.
The Objective Theories also make the science of physics the ultimate profound science able to explain it all.
In the Objective Theories, there is no will that can cause anything. Everything is an effect of an earlier effect or is simply a random event. With no will there is never any purpose behind why something happens.
If the worldview of no free will is the truth, it has ramifications into most fields of human endeavor. It most obviously disrupts the field of religion as religions in the main build on the notion of free will and the possibility of choices. But it also disturbs the fields of philosophy, ethics and law. With the removal of the concept of will comes the subtraction of responsibility.
Aristotle outlined the essence of responsibility — a definition that remains the basis for accountability in our judicial systems:
“Aristotle’s discussion is devoted to spelling out the conditions under which it is appropriate to hold a moral agent blameworthy or praiseworthy for some particular action or trait. His general proposal is that one is an apt candidate for praise or blame if and only if the action and/or disposition is voluntary. According to Aristotle, a voluntary action or trait has two distinctive features. First, there is a control condition: the action or trait must have its origin in the agent. That is, it must be up to the agent whether to perform that action or possess the trait — it cannot be compelled externally. Second, Aristotle proposes an epistemic condition: the agent must be aware of what it is she is doing or bringing about.”
There is no accountability for actions if there is no will behind them. There is no one to be held responsible if the person had no choice. Thus, the human systems of law and order are merely illusions — as is the apparent drive for happiness or attaining one’s goals. All such pursuits are appearances that are bound to happen or that happen by chance. The appearance of choice is an illusion. There is no reason for living.
The nullification of responsibility may seem glum to some and a relief to others. But it hardly matters as it either seems that way due to chance, or it was bound to happen.
There is no wrongness or rightness in the Objective Theories. There is only isness.
In the Objective Theories, there is no real difference between a human, an animal and a well-crafted robot. Artificial intelligence is within reach.
The physical universe is composed of space, energy, matter and time. Everything within it is governed by its laws, whether the laws allow for random events or not. Therefore, in order for free will to exist, it cannot be governed by the laws of the physical universe.
The power of choice must at least in part be separate from the physical universe in some way. And only if it can potentially be completely separate can it potentially be fully free. Free implies free from space, energy, matter and time. It does not suggest that free will is somehow physically located outside the universe as that would still subject the will to physical laws and hence it would not be free.
Read the rest of the article.