Monday, October 9, 2017

Does Free Will Make Sense?

From now on, I’ll use character as an umbrella term that encapsulates all subjective reasons. Character makes us who we are. If anything gives us free will, character is it. But where does character come from? Let’s look at an example. Say I’m faced with a decision: I can eat an apple or I can eat an orange. I like oranges better, so I pick the orange. My decision is based on one subjective reason: my preference for oranges. This seems like a clear-cut case of free will in action. But things aren’t so simple. To show why, I’m going to ask a series of questions. First, why did I pick the orange? Say my response is, “I don’t know–I just prefer oranges. That’s just the way I am.” If that’s the case, my preference appears to be arbitrary. By my own admission I didn’t freely choose to prefer oranges, so how can my exercise of that preference be free? It can’t: if I was not the ultimate, original cause of my preference for oranges, then I am not now the ultimate, original cause of my choice of an orange. But what if I did choose to prefer oranges? Say I read a book a year ago that convinced me oranges are more environmentally sustainable than apples. Since I value environmental sustainability, I decided from then on to choose oranges over apples. Surely that choice makes my present choice of an orange free–right? Wrong. Once again, we must ask a question. This time it is: Why do I value environmental sustainability? Say my answer is, “I’m a moral person, and it’s immoral to destroy the environment.” Unfortunately, that leads to a new question: Why am I a moral person? If my response to this question is, “That’s just the way I am,” my decision is, as before, not a free one. If on the other hand my response is, “Because my parents taught me to be that way,” yet another question arises: Why did I accept my parents’ teachings? I won’t go further. A pattern is emerging: each “Why?” question about character yields a “That’s just the way I am” response or a further question. And since we haven’t made infinitely many decisions in our lives, “That’s just the way I am” will always come eventually. For us to have caused our characters–and therefore our actions–we would have had to have caused ourselves, which is impossible. The fact of the matter is: We are not the ultimate, original cause of our characters. And because we aren’t, we are not the ultimate, original cause of our actions. “Free will” does not make sense as a concept. It’s definition implies an impossibility.“Free Will” Does Not Make Sense As a Concept

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