Hal Finney wrote:
This is all getting far more complex than it needs to be. I think the problem lies in unexamined assumptions about what the term "free will" means, setting up the compatibilist/ incompatibilist debate when there is no call for such a debate in the first place.The question of free will has generated an enormous amount of philosophical literature. I'd suggest reading at least the first part of this page on "Compatibilism", http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/compatibilism/. Compatibilism is the doctrine that free will is compatible with determinism. Probably the most well known advocacy of compatibilism is Daniel Dennett'e 1984 book Elbow Room. From the page above:
> Compatibilism offers a solution to the free will problem. This
> philosophical problem concerns a disputed incompatibility between free
> will and determinism. Compatibilism is the thesis that free will is
> compatible with determinism. Because free will is taken to be a necessary
> condition of moral responsibility, compatibilism is sometimes expressed
> in terms of a compatibility between moral responsibility and determinism.
Here is my definition: a decision I make is "free" when I feel that I could have decided otherwise. That's it! It covers every eventuality; if I don't have this "free" feeling, then it isn't free will. Now, where in this is there a theory about randomness and determinism? In fact, the feeling I get when I am exercising free will is neither that I am being controlled by deterministic laws of nature nor that I am doing something random; it is a unique feeling which, like an itch or a pain, has no correlate in the "objective" world and can only be understood by actually experiencing it. I realise that as a matter of fact, I *must* be subject to either deterministic laws, randomness, or some combination of the two - there are no other possibilities - but this knowledge no more negates the legitimacy of my subjective experience of freedom than the knowledge that pain is just lectrical impulses in a nerve negates my experience of toothache.
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