Sunday, August 3, 2008

Free Will and Naturalism

"Paradigmatic acts of free will are the lîbêra arbitria voluntâtis, the "free" (lîber) "judgments/decisions" (sing. arbitrium) of "will" (voluntas). We get the word "arbitrary" from arbitrium because of the sense that a free will can make a decision between indistinguishable alternatives, for which no preference, or no reason for preference, can be discerned. This is illustrated, and free will contrasted, with the story of the mule that starved to death because it was standing between identical stacks of hay and could not decide which one to choose. With free will, we can just make a choice.

"A major problem with theories of free will is that arbitrary choices are simply random. If the will is fundamentally a randomizer, it is not clear how will is different from some kind of mathematical function. We might as well be using the successive digits of pi, whose sequence cannot be predicted. And if it is not different, then there would seem to be no reason not to assimilate "will" to naturalistic theories about indeterminacy and randomness in physical systems. Free will, consequently, would provide no basis for denying a materialistic and naturalistic interpretation of the self. "
Copyright (c) 2002, 2006
Kelley L. Ross, Ph.D.
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