Free Will

It’s bizarre to me that people act like “do we have free will?” is such a difficult philosophical question. Yes, we live in a deterministic universe and any conception of “free will” in the sense of decision making that isn’t just the inevitable consequence of our nature and our experiences is ridiculous. But also yes we really do think about things, make conclusions, and take action on that basis.

To see how those aren’t contradictory at all, think of a calculator. When I punch in an equation to a calculator and press enter the result it calculates is totally predictable based on how the calculator works and what number I entered. I could do it again a thousand times and get the same result. But the calculator still did do a calculation. It just gives the same response every time because that’s the right answer. It would have given a different response to different inputs. Our brains are the same. They really do consider and calculate and act. Sure those actions were determined based on the inputs you received, but that doesn’t mean you didn’t make a choice. A different person with a different brain, or you with different inputs, would have made a different one.

I think it’s religion that got this all confused. If there’s a god or gods who set the universe in motion then the fact of a deterministic universe means that they really just decided how everything would go. In that context “free will” becomes a big issue because of the weird philosophical implications of god having planned out your every move, including sinful ones, in advance. On the other hand if you start with the assumption that there’s no determiner of our deterministic universe the whole question just dissolves into an uninteresting debate about semantics.

Am I an idiot? Am I missing something here? Anybody want to throw out a defense of free will as a concept that’s more meaningful than I’m giving it credit for?

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