In this discussion, we will refer to Schopenhauer’s definition of freewill stated as
that a given human being, in a given situation can act in two different ways.
and I think that definition would suffice for the purpose of the discussion we shall have this evening. We have been presented with a problem in this manner
how free will can exist in a deterministic world?
Before we proceed into examining the OP, I don’t know if those who, like me, believe we live in a deterministic universe believe also in freewill of any kind. I think this would be a contradiction of sorts, unless one who holds that the universe is deterministic while human actions are free has to explain in what way humans are exempt from the laws of nature, whatever these be. In this sense, I think the OP has started with a false dilemma.
I think therefore that this assertion that
when one has free will, one has a choice, and can make a choice without anything or anyone impeding, influencing, or forcing their volition. It is the ability to act without constraints, whether the choice is between two options or one hundred
is false. I also would need to clarify that when we say you don’t have free will, we don’t imply you have been coerced into doing something, no, far from it. We are only saying there are antecedent causes that made you act in the way you did and that all circumstances remaining the same, you will act in the same way.
We agree with observation, with reservation, that everything has a cause/ reason for its occurrence.
I realize that many people, for emotional and not rational reasons want to believe they have freewill. The author writes
I also feel very strongly that every human being has free will, and not just because I want there to be moral responsibility, but a world without free will just seems wrong and incomprehensible. Call it the human ‘superego’, but I don’t like the idea that humans are robots.
In what way would a world without freewill be incomprehensible and wrong? If this is an emotional reaction, it has no place in a philosophical debate. Maybe calling man robots seems too harsh for some, and as such I will refer to our race as biological automatons.
She says, she has come to a few conclusions on the matter. These appear under two headings
- The future is open and
- my will as a cause.
We will look at what she writes about each and explain where we disagree.
In the first instance, she writes, following Hume
that despite our tendency to link two events together and call it cause and effect, we still cannot properly conclude that A will always cause B, even if A has been causing B in every recorded and observable instance.
A point we would agree with. We cannot say effect B was caused by A. We however do not see how she jumps to the conclusion
Thus, when I make a choice, the result has not been decided for me already, and thus I am making a free and open choice.
Maybe am wrong, but I don’t think the proponents of no freewill mean to say when you act someone has decided for you. The argument here is that there are previous events A, B to whatever numeral you like that has influenced your effect Z. To say more here, we argue that due to the complexity of human actions, it is difficult to plot a chain of causes leading to the present effect and as such many people assume they are free. The future can, contrary to her claims, be predicted if we know how one behaved in a particular situation. We can be almost certain that if the circumstances remain the same, we can predict like clockwork how you will act. Many people after acting in a particular way do say I will act in a contrary manner next time. This however, is not usually the case.
Looking at the second point, yours truly doesn’t seem to understand what she means when she writes
[..]These two sentences (deciding on a flavour, and deciding that caramel tastes bad) seem to contain meaning; I am making a choice.
Our problem here being to determine whether this choice is free or not. She has already stated she has tasted caramel and didn’t like it- which to me represents a past cause and deciding on flavour is dependent favourites and motives so that if the greater motive is to try a new taste, regardless of whether she liked vanilla the previous, she will decide to try lets say strawberry.
As Schopenhauer wrote elsewhere, and I think it is persuasive that
[H]e is such and such a man, because once for all it is his will to be that man. For the will itself, and in itself, and also in so far as it is manifest in an individual, accordingly constitutes the original and fundamental desires of that individual, is independent of all knowledge, because it is antecedent to such knowledge. All that it receives from knowledge is the series of motives by which it successively develops its nature and makes itself cognisable or visible; but the will itself, as something that lies beyond time, so long as it exists at all, never changes. Therefore every man, being what he is and placed in the circumstances which for the moment obtain, but which on their part also arise by strict necessity, can absolutely never do anything else than just what at that moment he does do. Accordingly, the whole course of a man’s life, in all its incidents great and small, is as necessarily predetermined as the course of a clock.
In this case, the will is uncaused. Knowledge only comes to support the will and the phenomena of the will, that is our actions, follow like clockwork upon the laws of nature. We can go further and say and we will what we choose but we cannot choose what we will.
We would answer, tongue in cheek, yes to the question
Could we not say that it was their will that led them to their respective destinies? Could we not say that the Will was the cause?
as long as we grant that they don’t chose what to will. It must be understood that the acts of the will are not free and it is with this that the discussion o freewill is concerned. It is on the phenomena that, in my view, is the concern when we are discussing freewill and these I think are not free.
As I have said, I think the OP started with a case of false dilemma and so when she writes
it doesn’t seem like I’m committing any major sort of syntactical or logical error
she is blind to the dilemma she put herself in, in the very first place. I don’t think there are only two explanations available and other possibilities need also be examined.
I don’t know if this claim that
we all have the following two intuitions about ourselves and the world: (1) things are caused, and (2) we have free will.
is correct about everyone.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject. I also would like to stop here so this post doesn’t get longer than it already is.