Here are two disparate takes on free will by Susan Blackmore and J. P. Moreland. What they have in common is that both speakers conceive of “free will” in the same way: as dualistic, libertarian free will (Moreland buys it; Blackmore doesn’t). Now that’s the form of free will—the “ghost-in-the-machine” free will—that many readers here either say isn’t widely held, or isn’t the kind of free will we want. I still maintain that libertarian free will is species most people think they have, but that most folks haven’t thought much about it or the implications of determinism. And how many people know about the Libet-type experiments showing that actions precede conscious decisions?
And I maintain, too, that philosophers are better employed telling people that they don’t have libertarian free will, and are ruled by the laws of physics, than by confecting bogus brands of free will that are at odds with how most people conceive it. To me, that accomplishes very little except engaging in a semantic games. It’s as if, finding the prospect of death unpalatable, philosophers redefined “immortality” to mean “we live forever in the memories of others and through our accomplishments”, and then informed us that we’re really immortal after all—and that that is precisely the kind of immortality worth wanting! No thank you; I’ll take the conventional kind. As Woody Allen said, “I don’t want to achieve immortality through my works; I want to achieve it through not dying.”
In the first video, “Free will is an illustion,” Susan Blackmore, author, psychologist, atheist, and debunker of woo, gives an eloquent and energetic refutation of libertarian free will. Note that she takes “free will” as libertarian free will, so, you see, some prominent intellectuals see that as the going definition. Do tell me, compatibilists, why she would waste her time debunking a view of free will that no secular person believes?
J. P. Moreland is a professor of philosophy at the Talbot School of Theology at California’s Biola University, which is of course an evangelical Christian school. Here he mounts an uncompromising defense of dualistic free will, which is of course the brand held by many religious believers. He’s interviewed by Robert Lawrence Kuhn, identified by Wikipedia as “an international corporate strategist, investment banker, and public intellectual.”
Note that shortly after a minute in, Moreland claims that it is not rational for a scientist to believe in determinism, because all scientific beliefs are simply determined by “irrational atoms in motion”. Therefore, claims Moreland, we can’t choose to advocate determinism because that involves a rational choice—a conclusion based on evidence. And making a “rational decision” is at odds with the motion of irrational atoms that constitute us. He concludes, “And so the claim that all of my beliefs are determined by physical factors by is self-refuting.”
That, of course, is taken directly from the Alvin Plantinga Playbook, for Plantinga also claims that humans can’t find truth unless we’re imbued by God with a sensus divinitatis. The refutation is, of course, that rationality (i.e., the combining of evidence to reach good decisions) is a product of natural selection, which has ordered those “irrational atoms” into neurological programs that not only promote human rationally, but also help us weigh evidence.
Note, too, Moreland’s argument about why we still have libertarian free will even though God knows in advance exactly what choices we’ll make.
For further viewing, there are nice videos by Steve Pinker and Sam Harris also debunking dualistic free will. Why do they spend so much time criticizing this, and showing that our behavior is determined by physical processes, if nobody believes in dualism in the first place?