Posts Tagged probabilities

Hard Determinism and Personal Experience of Free Will

Continuing on a similar theme, I wish to discuss how our experience of free will can be accounted for by hard determinism and why I don’t think hard determinism truly presents a problem.

William James believed that we live in a world of possibilities — determinism does not allow for that, because for there to be an otherwise, there had to have been an otherwise in the past. Personal freedom seems self-evident from our lived experience, but I contend that the illusion of free will and free will itself are indiscernible. In terms of epistemology, we — being finite physical beings — cannot have access to every piece of information that would be required to predict and retrodict events with certainty. (I am leaving the metaphysical question of whether this is even possible for a god in the open.) I’m not denying the possibility of there being sufficiently simple events where we can have complete knowledge of the determining factors leading to those events, but I think most of our knowledge lacks such convenience. Thus, while we can conceive of these possibilities, according to determinism, there is only one that was/is ever possible — this is the best we have.

In the view of determinism, the ‘world of possibilities’ is simply a world of illusions produced from our epistemic ignorance. William James was bothered greatly by this, which is why I suspect his conclusion of indeterminism and free will was a bit rash (as discussed in the link above). Again, how does one tell the difference between true free will and the illusion of free will? I don’t think it can be done, which is why if it so happens that I’m wrong, my lived experience would remain identical. I treat my ignorance on a probabilistic basis even while maintaining the position of hard determinism.

(I titled this post with ‘hard determinism’ to prevent confusion, because while soft determinism argues for a form of ‘freedom’, it’s not free will as hard determinism and libertarianism understand it.)


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