Kreeft and Tacelli implicitly define free will as the capacity of the intellect to make decisions in a way that is not entirely determined by material factors such as genetics and environment. Is this a good definition of free will?
It appears to me the following argument can be made that we do not have free will, that our decisions are entirely determined in a material way: We always choose the option that seems best at the time. Even when we sin, we sin because at the time it appears to us as a good action and the best course of action at the time. Never have I done anything thinking it was less than the best response at the time. We necessarily choose the option that seems best at the time from that same instinct that drives us to procreate, an instinct for preservation of the species. I posit that we are not capable of acting without first determining that act to be the best response (to the subconscious or conscious question ‘What is my goal and how do I obtain it?’), unless we are acting under mental disorders causing irrationality (insanity), which is clearly understood to be unhealthy, a lack of proper function. Therefore, it is an illusion to say that we freely choose between various options, because we must obey an instinct which impulses us to choose that option which we think is best.
You may say that free will consists in the determining process, that it is up to us to pick A, B, C, or D, that no third party is forcing us to scratch out A B and D and choose C. This is changing the definition of free will – the question is not whether we are free of an external source pressuring our decision, but whether our will is controlled by material forces that dictate its final decision. The only remaining question, then, is whether the process whereby we eliminate A, B, and D in favor of C is mechanically determined. If it is not, then free will is correct. It seems to me that we cannot be sure which answer to this question is correct, but that there is a compelling case that it is entirely determined materially: Our intellect is determined from genetics (our parents’ shaping our body) and our environment (how and what we have learned). Our thought process is then a consequence of instinct, social conditioning, genetics and biological processes.
What are your thoughts? Do you see a problem with this objection to free will? How do you conclude that free will exists, given our inability to act other than how we think is best?
I intend to read the OCE’s entry on free will, hoping it will address this objection.