Free Will and Determinism

The following essay is on a matter that has been bothering me for some time but that the main texts on it are a long way down in my reading lists. I just want to get my two-cents out in case I get hit by a bus or otherwise become incapable of writing.

Every so often a scientist attempts to disprove free will by stating that human thought can be explained in terms of chemistry, which in turn can be explained by well understood laws of physics. Put another way; because a persons action is a result of the state that his brain is in and that state is the consequence of an earlier state choice does not exist.

Neurologist Sam Harris in particular has made the effort to meet meta-physicist on their own ground by showing the incoherence of choosing to think a thought before thinking it.

All of this though relies on choosing definitions of free will that are wildly impractical and easily refuted. Allow me to give one that I believe is much more useful.

Free Will is the consequence of what happens, and can only happen, within a given persons brain.

Note that this definition does not rule out that the the processes of the brain being non-random. That is a distraction from the basic fact people engage in actions that we call learning, contemplating, deciding. Yes deterministic science can model how these things are done but that doesn’t take away the fact that one person can not perfectly predict what another will do.

In short Free Will is deterministic.

By Ryan McCoskrie

Founder of the Hurunui Tech Club Creator of Vicinitude President of the Leithfield Public Library

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