Free will? What’s that?


The question of whether we have free will is a longstanding philosophical debate that has led to divided fronts and interpretations. The first ambiguity arises due to a misconception about the relation between causal determinism, as formulated in classical physics, and the notion of free will, which, once clarified, undermines not only compatibilism but also naïve formulations of libertarianism. We show that either one maintains a material monistic physical causal determinism and must give up free will, or one must give up determinism and embrace metaphysical ontologies. Moreover, with the advent of modern neuroscientific investigations, the questions surrounding our freedom of choice have received renewed attention but, so far, lead to several inconclusive findings. In fact, the issue is far from settled and no resolution is in sight. We contend that an exclusively third-person approach that abstracts from the deeper complexities of the human psychological nature and resists a first-person inquiry has led to a much too simplistic and superficial understanding of the problem and is affected by fallacious inferences and unwarranted conclusions. Meanwhile, an introspective approach easily reveals that our identity can't be reduced to a single personality whose choice-making is determined by a unique agency and volition. Our nature is much more complex than that. Therefore, every analysis involving propositions about free will requires more careful articulation. One cannot meaningfully answer the question of free will if it is not clear (1) what determinism is in physical sciences, (2) who is supposed to be free from what and (3) what will is. Here, we show that the question regarding free will isn't meaningful in the first place unless cleared from conceptual conflations and that it is unlikely it will ever be answered by a binary ‘yes’ or ‘no’ statement.

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