Every now and then, on a Friday, I’ll step into the deep waters of Philosophy, ramble on about some idea and maybe even interact with something I might be reading. Most of the time, a real philosopher could probably read my drivel and speak into it offering a corrective—but for now I’ll speak from ignorance. After all, it is Friday; what better way to have fun than with philosophy. In this post I’ll answer the question “Free will?”
There’s a pie on my table, but before I get to it I need to hit preliminaries.
The question folk might want to ask is “do we have free will?” but before we would even approach that we need to ask what it is, how it works, and so on. It’s a question that has been asked by theologians and philosophers as far as we know and rightly continues to be asked. Psychologists fraught in neuroscience might be quick to say no, especially in light of recent (debated) research we choose to act before we will to act making our will not-free; scientists dipping into the field of quantum physics point out that the quantum sea is completely indeterministic—unless that is you are one of the quantum physicists working in one of the other competing theories that say that that isn’t the case at all.
Back to this pie: is my will free to eat it? Well, if free will is defined by who (being Me) is responsible to act on the desire then yeah, maybe I do have free will. But what if I’ve been hypnotized to want to eat the first pie that I see? I might have the desire and act on it but that in no way means my will is free.
So maybe me eating this pie has little to do with having this desire but more with the fact that I act on what I desire most. So if I act on this desire to eat the pie, I am free in that I am acting on my desire. If I don’t eat it, my desire was to not eat the pie. But that doesn’t get us anywhere either. After all, I can still be brainwashed to want to eat this pie, act on the desire and no one would say I was free.
Additionally, it would leave me no different from the dog sitting by my foot, salivating for some pie crumbs. Her desire is to eat, preferably this pie that is in front of me. But if I put this pie and another equidistant all around her, does she stay stuck in the middle? If I had the same thing all around me, do I stay stuck in the middle of a circle of pie, unable to act?
Okay, maybe free will must include some sort of rational faculty—to differentiate (at the very least) from animals and to really own this desire of eating the pie. So with this rational ability, I should be able to remember how pie tastes like and also think about the future ramifications of eating too much of it especially at this time of the day. My greatest desire might be to eat that pie, but I should be able to employ rational processes that overwhelm that desire.
But really, isn’t that just pushing my desire back a step? Maybe health is my greatest desire? It doesn’t mean I’ll act on it. Maybe there’s a higher order desire and a sub desire—one that is right in front of me (this pie) and one that hovers in the background that is based on values of some sort—with or without morals.
In any case, what would we say about God? Is he free to act against his desire or is he stuck? If anyone is free it would be him.
Maybe Free Will is just about having the ability to have done otherwise, even if you don’t. Or not.
Can’t type. Fingers sticky now. Very good pie.