Existence of Free Will

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Existence of Free Will

Existence of free will is often argued from introspection. Freedom means choice. Since I chose to write this paper and I could have chosen otherwise, I am free in writing this paper. However, to establish that I could have chosen otherwise, proving that I felt that I could have chosen otherwise is not enough: One must also prove that my choice is the original cause of my motives to write this paper.

According to compatibilists, your action is free if the immediate cause of the action are your thoughts, there is no coercion, no duress (physical or mental), and your thoughts satisfy a certain condition on freedom, which varies depending on the compatibilist. If that is used as definition of freedom, then my writing this paper is free.

Unfortunately, if determinism is true, then the compatibilist freedom is merely an illusion of freedom. In evaluating freedom, we are not interested in counter factual conditionals unless the agent was free to make the conditional true. If a person is being shot, then the person would have been unharmed if he had stopped the bullet. Nevertheless, the person is not free not to be harmed because he was not free to stop the bullet.

According to determinism, my actions today are determined by what had existed a million years ago. Thus, if what happened a million years ago is held fixed, it is (according to determinism) impossible for me not to write this paper. I could only choose not to write this paper by changing what occurred one million years ago, and that is impossible. One can argue that there are some possible worlds in which the past is different and I am not writing this paper. However, we are restricted to this world, freedom of choice means freedom to choose i...

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...ut invoking circular arguments. Instead, human beings must choose what to believe and propositional logic along with free will is the only practical choice since it is the only choice that allows practical decision making. Accordingly, we have no practical choice but to believe the basis of knowledge; we have no choice but to accept it as true and dismiss the skeptical complaints, for any meaningful discussion of the complaints would be based on what we accept as the basis of knowledge.

Arguments against free will are valuable in that they force us to reconsider some of the basic assumptions that we make. However, they are ultimately unpersuasive since, in the end, human ability to make choices is the basis of knowledge. Some philosophers sincerely claim that free will does not exist, but their views are contradictory, for as human beings they believe in freedom.
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