This post will introduce my views on free will and defend them briefly.
The positions on the existence of free will are usually divided into three types:
- Libertarianism: We have free will, and free will is incompatible with determinism.
- Compatibilism: We have free will, and free will is compatible with determinism.
- Hard Determinism: We do not have free will, and free will is incompatible with determinism.
I take the libertarian view, because we observe that we have free will whenever we deliberate about what to do. When I study for school, I have the ability to decide what I will think about and how carefully I will think about it. I can choose to concentrate on what I am reading or let my focus lapse. If a particular point seems unclear, I can choose whether or not to focus on that point and go through the necessary intellectual steps to arrive at an understanding of it. It is even up to me whether I will continue studying or drop the whole thing and go argue with other people on the internet.
I also observe other people deliberating about what to do. When I ask my boss at work a difficult question about how to perform some task, I can observe that he takes a moment to think and reflect on the various alternatives. I can also observe that people in essentially similar situations frequently make choices that have different moral qualities – if two people are facing essentially the same moral dilemma, one may choose to do the right thing and one may choose to do the wrong thing. Again, if two people are both presented with the same cogent argument against one of their deeply held beliefs, one may choose to consider the argument objectively and the other may choose to evade.
So I have a rather large body of experience that points toward the existence of libertarian free will, and I think that pretty much everyone else is in the same position. I don’t think determinists are necessarily dishonest, because there are certain tricky conceptual arguments and certain initially compelling scientific arguments that might confuse an honest person about the existence of free will, but as far as the positive case for free will goes observation is sufficient to refute determinism.
At the moment, I plan to expand on this in future posts. I want to do three things: (1) elaborate further on the nature of the experience of free will, (2) present negative arguments against determinism rather than merely present positive evidence for free will, and (3) defuse the conceptual and scientific arguments that determinists give. For now, however, I am happy to simply make my own position clear.