Happy New Year everyone.
I’ve been thinking about free will and I ran across an interesting line of thought which I’d like to get some input on.
It is often asserted that there is an incompatibility between free will and a mechanistic, deterministic world view. The idea, I think, is that if the human brain is just a machine, then the choices we make are determined by time, space, history, chemicals, neurons, atoms, etc, and so we wouldn’t have free will.
But, I ran across an argument (I think) that points out that the free will we care about is really that “our” will isn’t overridden by some outside force, not that our will is compatible with other forces. In other words, in a mechanistic world view the choices that we make are still “our” choices because they are a product of ourselves – our brain, our, time, our space, our chemicals, our atoms – even if determined.
It seems to me to be an interesting thought. Proponents of free will seem to have this type of free will in mind too, don’t they? Even if our choices come from some place other than chemicals they are compatible with the atoms, chemicals, personal history, what we know and have learned, personality, etc, aren’t they?
The point being that the argument I am running across seems to be that determinism is compatible with free will – as long as it is your machine, your history, that is determining and causing your choices your will is free.
Now – one objection that I have seen raised to the mechanistic world view is that if we had a powerful enough computer (say) and could track every particle of matter and energy we would be able to predict exactly what someone would choose to do 10 years from now. This seems offered to show that this person doesn’t have free will. But, isn’t a response to the argument “God’s knowledge of what we will do 10 years from now shows that we have no free will” that “knowing something will happen and causing it to happen are different things”? Similarly wouldn’t someone argue that the computer that “knows” what someone will do ten years from now isn’t causing that person to do it, but rather the person is causing himself to do it (albeit by determinism) and that is what free will is anyway?
A fairly convoluted and confused post, my apologies. But I’m interested in any insights that you might have.