I think most people want to feel like they have control over their life. Feeling out of control without limits is terrifying. Skydiving might be enjoyable in that there is a limit, the parachute. This gives you a level of control in a situation where you otherwise have no control; like falling at 120 mph till you transfer all your accumulated energy into the earth (splat). Keep this example of control and limits in mind as we analyze the concept of free will.
Free will is the belief that we have control over our actions. Having free will would mean that the future is not set and that we can alter the outcome of events by our self’s thinking or rationale. The concept of free will segues into many deeper philosophical problems like time and consciousness.
Logic of Free Will
Free will either exists or it does not. If it exists even in a tiny amount then it absolutely exists. If free will is not present in existence then it absolutely does not exist. In the question of its truth there is no middle ground. For example we might have a very limited free will where most of our actions are pre determined. Even if 99% of our actions were predetermined we still would have power over 1% thus free will would exist. I am not yet saying if it exists, just that if it does even in the slightest then it is real.
Logical Premise of Free Will
Free will assumes the existence of a will power or a self. This is a huge premise to gloss over and yet it is rarely brought up in discussions about free will. In order for free will to exist we have to prove that there is a self consciousness.
We are biological entities and biological entities are limited in choices and in some cases we can accurately predict an organisms reaction to stimuli. If we have a one celled organism that runs from light we can shine light on it and it will run away. It has no free will as we know it will run away. If electricity is applied to a muscle it will twitch. We can see these responses to stimuli are out of control of the organism, so then how can we be sure that our self is anything more than a complex mesh of biological responses to stimuli?
The conscious individual has to prove that the entity and feeling of self has the ability to rise above mere biological reactions to stimuli and that a decision can be made outside normal biological reaction. This essentially amounts to organizing sense data such that non-willful and rational material’s normal cause and effect outcome can be broken. In simpler terms free will would be proven if sentient beings had the ability to break non sentient cause and effect outcomes.
Free Will from Sense Data
We also have to prove that our actions are not limited to the limited sense data of the known universe. For example it is impossible to think of a color we have not already seen. No matter how you try you cannot do it. This shows we cannot choose a path outside what our sense data receives. If we cannot go outside our sense data then we might just be slaves to the external worlds sense data.
The Need to Feel in Control
The human brain doesn’t like to feel like it’s not in control normally. This is a reason to be skeptical of free will because our wants and desires may cloud our assessment of data and evidence. From this and the above reflections I would have to admit that I may have no control and no free will. I might be a simple chemical organic organism reacting appropriately to the universe. Even if there is random or chaotic universe data can I react to it in a way of my own choosing?