Free Willy

Sabine H. is thinking about free will again.  I tend to be suspicious of such endeavors, mainly because I have no idea what she, or any of the philosophically inclined,  mean by the concept.  If I understand her, she thinks will can't be free if the outcomes of decision making are determined either randomly or by deterministic physical processes.  She thinks there might be an exception if the decision functions have a "singularity" beyond which they can't be continued.  Some think that some solutions of the Navier-Stokes equations might have this character.

My personal approach is that she has defined "free will" out of existence.  Most of us have no trouble distinguishing between things we do that are done under compulsion from those that are freely chosen.  If you imagine a universe that has only deterministic and random things in it, then will and decisions will be built out of those elements.

Suppose you imagine some transcendent entity that is unbound by these rules that lives in our brains - call it "Pneuma (πνεῦμα)" - ancient Greek for soul, or breath - that has a final input on all big decisions.  In that case we can ask if it has its own physics that it obeys, and if so, what rules does it obey?  We can quickly reach a turtles all the way down reduction.

So I have two answers to the question "does free will exist?"

If you mean in the ordinary, common sense meaning or the distinction between choice and compulsion, then Yes, of course!

If you mean in the deep philosophical sense that Bee seems to be addressing, then I don't think that the question is meaningful.


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