"That which is inside" begins an interaction with "that which is outside" at some point prior to birth. But most of the interactions we're concerned with are those after birth. The newborn infant immediately begins a negotiation with its physical and social environment, for example, the crying out for food and attention at regular intervals during the night. And this negotiation results in the infant making changes in its behavior to accommodate the environment and the environment changing its behavior to accommodate the new person.
I believe that probability and chaos are related to practical problems limiting our ability to predict certain events, rather than any problems with the underlying reliability of causes and their effects. A coin flip appears random, but it is theoretically possible to build a machine that would physically control the number of flips, just like the knife thrower controls the rotations to assure the point rather than the hilt hits the target.
Decision making is a deterministic process, whether performed by a program of logic running on the hardware of a computer or the calculations performed by the mind running as mental processes upon the hardware of the neurology.
A key distinction between actual and artificial intelligence is that living organisms come into the world with a will of their own, but machines are constructed by us to do our will, and have no will of their own. In order to have free will, you must first have a will.
My point is that free will exists even in a perfectly deterministic universe, because free will does not mean "freedom from causation", but only "freedom from coercion or other undue influence".
"Freedom from causation" is an oxymoron. Without reliable cause and effect we could not reliably cause any effect, and thus would have no freedom to do anything at all. All of our freedoms require a deterministic universe.
The behavior of inanimate matter is simply different than the behavior of living organisms. You place a round stone on the slope of a hill and it will invariably roll to the bottom. But if you put a squirrel on that same slope, it will go uphill, downhill, left, or right, according to where he expects to find the next acorn. The stone is behaving passively, controlled by physical forces. The squirrel is behaving purposefully, to satisfy his biological needs to survive, thrive, and reproduce.
A woman decides to build a playground in the backyard for her kids. She draws up the plans, buys the materials, spends hours sawing, drilling, putting it together, and painting it. The playground, now in her backyard, is the inevitable result of prior events, specifically, her decision, her planning, her purchasing, and her labor.
In theory, we could trace back, through an ever-widening network of prior causes, to explain how the woman happened to be there, on the planet Earth, at the time she decided to build the playground. But the farther we move away from the current event, the less relevant and more coincidental each prior cause becomes.
The most meaningful and relevant cause of the playground was her love for her children. And that did not exist anywhere else in the universe prior to her.
Therefore, we cannot attribute the cause of the playground to, say, the Big Bang. There was nothing about the Big Bang that “already caused”, “already destined”, “already fixed”, or “already determined” that there would be a playground in that backyard.
We may say that it was inevitable, from any prior point in eternity, that a playground would show up in her backyard. But we cannot truthfully assert that it was “caused” by that prior point. An event is never caused until it is completely caused. It cannot be “pre-caused”. And it never would have happened except for the desire of the woman to bring it about.
When we choose what we will do, and act upon that choice, we are the final responsible cause of the inevitable result. And while our choice was itself inevitable, it was never anything other than our own choice.
Free WillMirriam-Webster on-line:1: voluntary choice or decision 'I do this of my own free will'2: freedom of humans to make choices that are not determined by prior causes or by divine intervention
Short Oxford English Dictionary:1 Spontaneous will, inclination to act without suggestion from others. 2 The power of directing one's own actions unconstrained by necessity or fate.
Wiktionary:1. A person's natural inclination; unforced choice. 2. (philosophy) The ability to choose one's actions, or determine what reasons are acceptable motivation for actions, without predestination, fate etc.
The first definition normally contains the most common usage. I paraphrase this as "free will is the ability to decide for yourself what you will do, when free of coercion or undue influence". Everyone understands and correctly applies this meaning in practical scenarios.
The second definition is one that both of us agree describes an impossibility, freedom from causal necessity/inevitability. Therefore, it is not "moving the goal post" to suggest that we stop using this irrational definition (freedom from causation), and stick to the one that makes sense (freedom from coercion).
The first definition is all that is required for moral and legal responsibility. Our practical problem is that when "hard" determinists insist we have no free will according to definition 2, people assume they have no free will according to definition 1, and this undermines personal responsibility.
And it's not just in the area of personal responsibility. "Hard" determinists spew a lot of nihilistic ramblings about people having no control over their lives, being merely “puppets on a string”, or just another “falling domino”, or a “passenger on a bus” being driven by a fate over which they have no control.
The worst part is that the "hard" determinist presents a false view of reality. They refer to free will as an “illusion” while imparting causal powers to determinism. But, in the real world, the opposite is true. Determinism, being neither an object nor a force, causes nothing in the real world. However, the object we call a “human being”, estimates the best choice and acts upon it, physically bringing about the future, in a causally reliable way. That is empirical reality.
HOWEVER, she was never free from causal necessity/inevitability. Nor did she ever have any need to be free of it. If you wish to continue to hold to the delusion that causality is a force of nature, then you must at least see that causality was also present in her mental process of choosing. It was not an external force, but was carried out by the naturally occurring mental processes that we call "her".
Causal necessity not an inevitability that is "beyond our control", but rather, it incorporates our control and our choosing in the overall scheme of causation. And if you attempt to bypass or exclude human causal agency, your determinism is incomplete, and therefore false. And that is the error of so-called "hard" determinism.
And that brings up an interesting contrast between us and the bowling ball. We can "use" the laws of physics, but the bowling ball can't. The bowling behaves passively in response to physical causation.
But intelligent species can acquire knowledge of how physical forces work, and actively use these rules to accomplish a purpose which is unique to that living organism. And if you've ever tried to give a cat a bath, you'll find it actively squirming and scratching to avoid the threat of drowning.
It is highly improbable that any "Theory of Everything" will be found at any level of reality above quantum mechanics. And it may eventually prove necessary to treat quantum mechanics as just another macro description, as we delve into the smallest parts of the smallest parts.
But none of that is necessary. We can have a perfect determinism at the human level, simply by including purpose and reasoning, in addition to passive responses to physical causation, in our list of actual causes.
Every choice that any human makes is the inevitable result of some combination of physical (passive), biological (purposeful), or rational (deliberate, calculated) causation.
Now, it happens that we humans call "deciding for ourselves what we will do, when free of coercion or undue influence" a "freely chosen will", or simply "free will". That is what we call this empirical event.
The evidence suggests she performed a mental process that we call "choosing". Choosing is said to have happened when several options are input (the menu) and a single choice is output (her order).
If she had merely "experienced" choosing, without "actually" choosing, then the waiter would still be waiting for her to place an order.
Note that what I am describing is logically coherent. What is incoherent is the notion that she had no choice when clearly she did.
And if we examine the other objects in the room, we can find no object other than her that we can call the cause of the choice.
The incoherent suggestion is that "causal necessity" entered the restaurant, sat beside her, and forced that choice upon her against her will. Is that what you claim?
You see, causal necessity is neither an object nor a force. It is not an actor in the real world. Like determinism and inevitability, causality is a concept that refers to the behavior of the objects and forces that make up the physical universe. We are one of those objects, and we exercise physical force. But causality is neither an object nor a force.
"Causality" is not doing anything. We are.
The idea that we must be free from reliable cause and effect in order to be said to be "free" is an irrational concept. Without reliable cause and effect, we could never reliably cause any effect! Which means we'd never be free to do anything at all. All of our freedoms require reliable cause and effect, and therefore we must assume that the concept of "freedom" subsumes a deterministic universe.
The semantic context of the inevitable actuality is reality. The semantic context of possibilities is the imagination. When we speak of what inevitability will happen, we cannot speak of possibilities, what "can" and "cannot" happen. And when we speak of what "can" and "cannot" happen, we cannot refer to the single inevitability.
The process works like this, (1) a problem or issue arises, (2) our brain begins imagining different solutions, (3) some solutions are rejected as "impossibilities" (4) other solutions may be possible, but impractical, so we discard them by saying they are not "real" possibilities, (5) we evaluate each of our real possibilities according to the criteria relevant to the problem or issue, (6) based on that evaluation, one solution seems to best accomplish our purpose and satisfy our reasons, (7) we implement that possibility, which then becomes the single inevitable actuality.
You cannot run this process backward! You cannot take the fact that we will end up with a single inevitability and use that fact to suggest we never needed to imagine those possibilities in order to get there.
So don't do that. You cannot say we did not have a choice, because we just made one. We did it right in front of you. You saw it happen.
Now, it also follows logically that if "I can choose this option today" then tomorrow it will also be true that "I could have chosen this option yesterday". So we cannot object to the "I could have done otherwise", because it will always be true!
If we take the classic scenario, where we roll back time to the point before we made our decision, while we were still uncertain what we would choose, then two things will be true: (a) Once again, I "can" choose any of my real possibilities. However, (b) I "will" make exactly the same choice.
Atoms do not perform math or logic. But people do. Atoms cannot imagine alternate ways to solve a problem. But people can.
Without the concept of a "person", it would be impossible to explain why those molecules of water flowed down the hill, while these molecules of water hopped into a car and went to the grocery store.
You would have to redefine physics to include all the other sciences if you wanted to claim that physics could predict these events. Nor could you predict these events by an analysis of the water molecules themselves.
These sciences cannot be broken down into physics. You have to move up the chain into the other sciences before any practical predictions can be performed.
No one feels constrained by causal necessity (until someone like a "hard" determinist comes along and talks them into it). Causal necessity is the status quo. Everything that ever happens is always causally inevitable. It's actually a trivial fact with no practical implications.
All of our freedoms exist within the context of causal necessity. Without reliable cause and effect we could never reliably cause any effect.
And if you require "free" to imply "free from reliable cause and effect", then you may as well take the word "free" out of the dictionary, because there would be no freedoms at all.
Defining "free" to mean "free from causation" is irrational. It never can, never has, and never will mean that (except to those making a mental error).
We use the word "free" every day, and it always refers to some meaningful constraint. "Free shipping" from Amazon means you're not constrained by the shipping costs when purchasing. Does this mean you just "feel" like you're free of paying for shipping? No. It is an "empirical fact" that you are not charged for shipping.
The same is true for "free will". Either you are free to make the choice for yourself or you are not. Either something external is in control of the choice or "that which is you" is in control of the choice. This is a question of empirical fact. It is not about anyone's feelings. If someone has a gun to your head, or you're a kid and your parent is making the choices for you, then you don't have the freedom to choose for yourself.
Now, "that which is you" will change as you continue to interact with your environment, and learn new things. But this is not something that only happens TO you, but rather "that which is you" is half of what matters in every interaction ("that which is not you" is the other half).
Oops. This is running a little long. But let me clarify one more thing. Choosing is an empirical event. It happens in the real world. More specifically, it happens inside our head. It is a fully deterministic process by which multiple options are reduced to a single choice, according to our brain's calculation as to the best means of accomplishing its current purpose.
There is totally reliable causation prior to the choosing, there is totally reliable causation during the choosing, and there will be totally reliable causation as we act upon our choice.
However, we call this process "choosing what we will do". And it is actually us that is doing it. And it actually happens in the real world. There is no illusion here. Either we are free to control that choice by our own mental processes, or we are externally coerced or unduly influenced by someone or something else that controls the choice. This is the empirical reality of what is actually happening in the physical universe.
Free will is when you decide for yourself what you will do, free of someone else's coercion or other undue influence (brain tumor, hypnosis, an authority's order, etc.).
There is no "freedom from causation" in free will. Our choices are always caused. They are caused most often by our own purpose and our own reasons.
But nothing is ever "uncaused". So there is no such thing as "freedom from causation". It is an oxymoron, a self-contradiction. Without reliable causation, we could never reliably cause anything to happen! Every actual freedom we have, to do anything at all, requires a universe of reliable cause and effect, that is, a deterministic universe.
And that applies especially to free will. Without reliable causation we could never carry out any intent, and our will would be impotent and irrelevant. So, "free" never can (and therefore never does) imply freedom from causation.
What the "free" in "free will" refers to is freedom from external coercion, such as a gun to the head or other threat of violence, and freedom from other forms of undue influence, such as hypnosis, mental illness, authoritative command (parent/child, doctor/patient, etc.).
Coercion is a meaningful constraint upon our ability to choose for ourselves.
But causal inevitability is not a meaningful constraint. And that is because the final "prior cause" of our choice is the mental process of choosing that just occurred in our own brains. That event did not occur anywhere else in the universe.
It turns out that what we inevitably do is exactly identical to us just being us, doing what we do, and choosing what we choose. And that is NOT a meaningful constraint. It is nothing anyone can or needs to be "free of".
So, when we correctly define "free will" a the ability to decide for ourselves what we "will" do, when "free" of coercion or other undue influence, then we have a free will that is (a) not supernatural in any way, (b) makes no assertion of freedom from causation, and so is consistent with causal determinism, (c) is correctly understood and applied by everyone in nearly all practical scenarios, and (d) is sufficient for both moral and legal responsibility.
In most dictionaries, you'll see two definitions listed for "free will". The first one is the one I just described. The second definition is the "philosophical" definition, the one that implies "freedom from causal necessity/inevitability". The second definition is irrational, and I'm pretty sure no one ever implies that definition in any practical application.
(1) Inanimate objects behave passively, responding to physical forces so reliably that it is as if they were following “unbreakable laws of Nature”. These natural laws are described by the physical sciences, like Physics and Chemistry. A ball on a slope will always roll downhill.
(2) Living organisms are animated by a biological drive to survive, thrive, and reproduce. They behave purposefully according to natural laws described by the life sciences: Biology, Genetics, Physiology, and so on. A squirrel on a slope will either go uphill or downhill depending upon where he expects to find the next acorn.
(3) Intelligent species have evolved a neurology capable of imagination, evaluation, and choosing. They can behave deliberately, by calculation and by choice, according to natural laws described by the social sciences, like Psychology and Sociology, as well as the social laws that they create for themselves. A child will ask permission of his mother, or his father, depending upon which is more likely to say “Yes”.
A naïve Physics professor may suggest that, “Physics explains everything”. But it doesn’t. A science discovers its natural laws by observation, and Physics does not observe living organisms, much less intelligent species.
Physics cannot explain why a car stops at a red traffic light. This is because the laws governing that event are created by society. The red light is physical. The foot pressing the brake pedal is physical. But between these two physical events we find the biological need for survival and the calculation that the best way to survive is to stop at the red light.
2) The brain is a collection of specialty areas working together as a whole to support a single living organism. It is not just our conscious awareness, but also our autonomic functions, sensory processing, reality modeling, etc.
3) I do not call my definition of determinism "soft". I call it "correct".
When we confront a new problem or issue, we start thinking about how to resolve it. Different options come to mind. Some may be rejected because we recognize them immediately as "impossibilities". Others may simply be impractical, and we say they are not "real" possibilities. But each option that we could implement, if chosen, remains a real possibility.
Still in the context of our imagination, we estimate how each of these real options will play out, if we choose it. And the one that best suits our purpose and our reasoning is the one that we will inevitably choose.
When someone says "I could have done otherwise", it is an abbreviated version of "I could have done otherwise, if I had made a different choice, but I didn't". And that is pretty much always a true statement. "Able to do otherwise" means simply that "I had more than one option".
And, while it is always true that "I could have done otherwise", it is also true that "I would not have done otherwise, given the same thoughts and feelings about the issue".
Note that we always go from multiple possibilities to a single inevitable actuality. The "hard" determinist attempts to suggest that we never had more than one possibility, which is a false statement, given that we did actually have multiple options prior to making our inevitable choice.