Do humans have free will?

Subject classification: this is an Philosophy resource.

Free will is the ability to choose between different possible courses of action unimpeded. That humans have free will means that some of their actions are not predestined, predetermined or governed solely by chance. Do humans have free will? Is free will even possible?

Humans have free will edit

Pro edit

  •   Argument for Free will is an emergent property of the brain, meaning that the operation of free will, while indeed generated by neurons, creates a magnetic field like zone of effects which far outstrip the ability of the sum of the neuronal capacity in general.
    •   Objection There is no scientific basis/evidence for this idea.
    •   Objection Just because the brain has emergent and complex behaviors does not mean it does not operate deterministically. The Earth's climate has emergent properties, but if you had full knowledge about every molecule in the air, you could predict the weather (with enough computational power). Neurons, like all other matter in the universe, are subject to the physical laws of the universe, which are deterministic in nature. Because of this, it is not possible for us to "choose" among several possible futures.
  •   Argument for Lots of people report experiencing free will consciously, at least for some actions.
    •   Objection Experiencing something does not make it true. A person who believes they can fly can not automatically fly.
      •   Objection But by same reasoning, all human experience can be false. Just because people experience reality, doesn't make it real. We don't reject our experience unless we have a very strong reason that experience is caused by something else which adequately explain the exact experience without free will. So, unless there is adequate explanation for how such powerful delusion occurs which gives rise to free will, no need to assume that free is illusion.
        •   Objection This is a false equivalence. Not all experiences have the same weight in terms of their correspondence to reality. The fact that some experiences may be false does not automatically confirm the truthfulness of all experiences.

Con edit

  •   Argument against All evidence indicates that the brain operates via chemical processes and that chemical processes are deterministic. Therefore, human decisions are deterministic, and non-deterministic free will is an illusion.
    •   Objection Quantum mechanics shows that at the fundamental level, the behavior of subatomic particles is non-deterministic. Non-deterministic quantum effects can carry over to larger-scale measurable effects in our macroscopic world, for instance in the double-slit experiment. See atomic clock for instance.
      •   Objection Even if one were to accept the probabilistic interpretation of particle physics, probabilistic behavior does not entail free will. You have no say in the random behavior of those particles, and if you did, they would not be truly random. Either way, humans´ decisions are either determined or random
  •   Argument against Probabilistic behavior of particles at the atomic scale implies similar probabilism at higher scales, which is incompatible with free will.
    •   Objection Extrapolate the behavior of particles to humans is, to say the least, simplistic and not realistic.
    •   Objection A whole may have properties that its parts don't have, or viceversa. For example, human bodies are made up of particles which have charges and spins among other subatomic properties but human bodies don't have these same properties. So humans may have free will even if the particles that compose them behave deterministically.
  •   Argument against Humans are made up of particles that behave deterministically. If everything is determined, then humans don't have free will.
    •   Objection Extrapolate the behavior of particles to humans is, to say the least, simplistic and not realistic.
    •   Objection At the atomic scale, particles behave probabilistically, not deterministically. Therefore, the argument is unsound.
  •   Argument against For every future action, there's a proposition describing it. But by the law of excluded middle, every proposition is either true or false. Therefore, it's already true or false that we will perform any action and we're only discovering which one is it, not choosing.
  •   Argument against Every human action is ultimately the result of a chain of events that began at the very beginning of the Universe. If actions are determined by such a chain of events, then humans don't have free will.
    •   Objection Given the probabilistic nature of quantum mechanics, it's impossible to determine the current state of the Universe from the initial state of the Universe. Therefore, the argument is unsound.
      •   Objection It is still the interactions of probabilistic and collapsed wave functions that have led to this moment. Given that all wave functions collapsed the same way each time we would still end up here in the end regardless of the possibility to determine.
      •   Objection Whether quantum events are truly random is disputed. See Superdeterminism.
  •   Argument against "Free will" is a social construct, like "personhood" or "voting rights". "Free will" is the mechanism that allows societies to hold individuals responsible for their actions.
    •   Objection This argument is actually validating the existence os free will, whatever form it finally takes.
  •   Argument against The brain can react only to outside influences. The brain can think only of concepts it has learned. The brain can decide only of things that involve concepts it has learned. The self is only neurons, who operate through the above three principles.
    •   Objection The brain can act on memories and memories are not an outside influence, so the brain does not only react to outside influences.
      •   Objection Those memories were formed via outside influence.
      •   Objection The brain does not really "react" to memories. Processing of memories can be described as thinking of concepts it has learned.
    •   Objection If the brain could think only of things it had already learned, then no new ideas could ever be formed.
      •   Objection New ideas are developed by the brain using existing information already in the brain, by combining together different things the brain already knows. These "new" ideas are not actually new.
  •   Argument against Free will is necessary for moral responsibility. If one is responsible for what one does in a given situation, then one must be responsible for the way one is in certain mental respects. But it is impossible for one to be responsible for the way one is in any respect. For example, in situation S, one must have been responsible for the way one was at S-1, and before at S-2, and so on. At some point in the chain, there must have been an act of origination of a new causal chain. But this is impossible. Humans cannot create themselves or their mental states ex nihilo. This argument entails that free will itself is absurd.
    •   Objection Similarly, if humans exists at time T, they must exist at time T-1, and T-2 and so on. But, human cannot create themselves or their mental state ex nihilo. Therefore man does not exist, which is absurd. This kind of induction doesn't hold, because there may well be a state, maybe S-100, which was indeed the first causal state in the chain, perhaps corresponding to when the brain reached a critical mass of neurons and began to function.
      •   Objection The logic of induction does indeed hold in this case. In the case of humans, a sperm and egg becomes a zygote, then a fetus, and then a baby... a man does not create himself, but still, we do come into existence, due to outside causes, causes that are not under our own control. The original argument is not about of passage of time (T-1, T-2, etc.), but S-1, S-2, etc., different states one is, in a chain of causality. "The brain reaching a critical mass of neurons", is an entirely arbitrary cutoff point. And reaching that arbitrary magic number of neurons would cause a new chain of uncaused causality to occur and generate free will? That is nonsensical, if a brain of X neurons has free will, then why does this property not apply at all to a brain of X-1 neurons?

See also edit

Notes and references edit