The apparent human ability to make choices that are not externally determined.
by the Free Dictionary.
I have heard many arguments that propound that Free Will is an illusion and due to hard determinism that exists in the laws of Physical World. That there is no true existence of choice. And that all our actions are actually determined by our genetic makeup and our up-bringing.
I beg to differ.
Let me get some things straight.
1) I am NOT going to use the argument that nature is inherently probabilistic in its laws due to Quantum mechanics. Biology of Neural architecture acts at a level much higher than Plank's constant and hence is within description of Deterministic Classical Mechanics.
2) I am not going to assume any supernatural explanation. De facto I am talking of the Biological basis of Free Will.
I believe that definitions are necessary when critical ideas need be presented. in this case I need a redefinition in fact.
With this I am not really going to change any inherent meaning behind the terminology already used in the previous definition but I will hi-light some key points that are needed to to make it more coherent and relevant to a meaningful discussion:
Free Will is the active ability of sentient creatures to choose from presented alternatives in their life-history.
There is so much information here that it took me about 6 hours to decipher it all.
The key words are :
3) Active ability
Sentience requires its own post. Please check this.
Choice has a double meaning. As a noun it represents, the alternative that you select. As the verb (choose) it signifies the process of selection WHILE being aware that alternatives exist.
Active ability is something that is is NOT available unless you are conscious to the effort of using it.
Now here comes the explanation to the definition.
Free Will can only exist if the creature under consideration is aware of its link with Sentience. In such a scenario the creature can use his perception (ability to perceive its environment) and knowledge to recognize that his identity is a composition of his life history. He realizes various biases/beliefs that he possesses and becomes alert (if not independent) of their existence.
This is particularly important, as being aware of Bias is being independent of it automatically; Knowledge of one's bias can be used to identify its role in decision making and thus it can be retained or eliminated.
Further it becomes possible for him to actually create Moral standards based on experience and projection as opposed to those formed of peer pressure.
The application of Sentience gives him the ability to pass judgments based on values that are learned and analysed instead of assimilated. The result of this process is the ability to decide in presence of deterministic landscape of life-history.
What it allows:
Based on experience of the person in question, he becomes aware of alternatives available towards a particular decision. The choice still WILL BE deterministic (due to moral values developed by him), but still the awareness of choice and of choosing itself is sufficient to classify the choice as Free Will (see definition).
The problem with detractors is that their expectations of Free Will are unrealistic: They typically assume that Free Will is equivalent to Randomness ( probabilistic vs. deterministic) and thus a non-Markov process. In my view these arguments are philosophical (with the negative connotation of the word) and good only for academic debates. By denying the ability to choose the detractors seek to escape responsibility associated with being a part of a society and portray Criminals as victims of their genetic makeup / upbringing.
What needs to be understood is that we all have the capacity and responsibility to BE sentient and make decisions according to what we believe (we do it anyway but tragically only sub-consciously) and take credit for our actions. If humans claim that they can not do it, I would be hard-pressed to call them humans.