My position on free will is known to the readers of this blog. I am not saying anything new in this post. Here is a passage from Nietzsche that I hope to hear your comments on.
Have the adherents of the theory of free will the right to punish?— People who judge and punish as a profession try to establish in each case whether an ill-doer is at all accountable for his deed, whether he was able to employ his intelligence, whether he acted for reasons and not unconsciously or under compulsion. If he is punished, he is
punished for having preferred the worse reasons to the better: which he must therefore have known. Where this knowledge is lacking a man is, according to the prevailing view, unfree and not responsible: except if his lack of knowledge, his ignorantia legis [ignorance of the law] for example, is a result of an intentional neglect to learn; in
which case, when he failed to learn what he should have learned he had already preferred the worse reasons to the better and must now suffer the consequences of his bad choice. If, on the other hand, he did not see the better reasons, perhaps from dull-wittedness or weakness of mind, it is not usual to punish him: he lacked, one says, the
capacity to choose, he acted as an animal would. For an offense to be punishable presupposes that its perpetrator intentionally acted contrary to the better dictates of his intelligence. But how can anyone intentionally be less intelligent than he has to be? Whence comes the decision when the scales are weighted with good and bad motives?
Not from error, from blindness, not from an external nor from an internal compulsion? (Consider, moreover, that every so-called “external compulsion” is nothing more than the internal compulsion of fear and pain.) Whence? one asks again and again. The intelligence is not the cause, because it could not decide against the better reasons?
And here one calls “free will” to one’s aid: it is pure willfulness which is supposed to decide, as impulse is supposed to enter within which motive plays no part, in which the deed, arising out of nothing, occurs as a miracle. It is this supposed willfulness, in a case in which willfulness ought not to reign, which is punished: the rational
intelligence, which knows law, prohibition and command, ought to have permitted no choice, and to have had the effect of compulsion and a higher power. Thus the offender is punished because he employs “free will,” that is to say, because he acted without a reason where he ought to have acted in accordance with reasons. Why did he do this? But it is precisely this question that can no longer even be asked: it was a deed without a “for that reason,” without motive, without origin, something purposeless and non-rational.— But such a deed too ought, in accordance with the
first condition of all punishability laid down above, not to be punished! It is not as if something had not been done here, something omitted, the intelligence had not been employed: for the omission is under all circumstances unintentional! and only the intentional omission to perform what the law commands counts as punishable. The
offender certainly preferred the worse reasons to the better, but without reason or intention: he certainly failed to employ his intelligence, but not for the purpose of not employing it. The presupposition that for an offense to be punishable its perpetrator must have intentionally acted contrary to his intelligence—it is precisely this
presupposition which is annulled by the assumption of “free will.” You adherents of the theory of “free will” have no right to punish, your own principles deny you that right! But these are at bottom nothing but a very peculiar conceptual mythology; and the hen that hatched it sat on her egg in a place far removed from reality.
The Wanderer and his shadow, F. Nietzsche