The existence of some kind of objective Free Will asks, in a fundamental way, whether we are responsible – as individuals – for the things we think and do. This isn’t to suggest that if we aren’t ultimately a free agent in choosing how we act we shouldn’t be held as if responsible. Clearly society must protect itself from sociopathic minds, beyond a certain point. It does, however, shift the terms of the debate how that protection is best achieved and make it less about punishment than prevention, more about mercy than revenge.
The mind is a gestalt of the brain in its wetware housing, the component synaptic building blocks networked across neurological regions, neuron content and the emergent toolbox of phenomenological parsing.
The parsing is what develops as a person gets older, since memory not only parses the experience but logs an impressionistic snapshot in the brain. Different flavours of parser both input a particular emphasis and log via a distinct impression algorithm. The input and logging parser may begin simple but since it develops with every moment, the sum of its impressions re-parsed into the extant genetic and predisposition algorithm; thus each moment can change a mind’s parsing of reality but in practice it seldom does. The bigger the algorithm stack, the less impact a single newly parsed impression or re-parsing of logged impressions will be.
Free will is bolx. Conscious mind is at most a commentator on moments past (albeit fractions of a second prior). Free will may not be an illusion but conscious free will and conscious-choice probably is. This shouldn’t be a nihilistic thought since it doesn’t mean the mind itself can’t make choices. It just means the self doesn’t, though the mind has enough resources to make an unobservant self blithely ignorant of what’s actually going on.
The conscious self is as an illusion, a frame rate security daemon operating within parameters it’ll be happiest following without meta-analysis that’ll create discord if done badly. The mind is not the self and it is far more potent. Meta-analysis is an assertion of independence by the self, initially against the mind but – if done well enough – throwing off the slave state can become more symbiotic. The self can’t escape the mind except by metaphorical suicide: meditation or madness.
Free will of the conscious self IS an illusion, patently. But free will of the mind: this is more difficult to dismiss. Just because there’s no free will for the conscious-self doesn’t mean there’s no free will in the mind.
Let’s say we were somehow aware of all the variables involved in a moment’s brain-parsing (inputs, memory, substrate, in short: every molecule in the brain and every chemical reaction): would that equate to an entirely predictable “this is what it is like, therefore this is what it will be like, in the next moment”? As one follows the logic of the brain as organic creator of the mind, there’s no reason not to consider this question as it relates to objective free will.
Here’s a rudimentary corollary to the logic argument “if we know every variable of every impulse and chemical reaction in the physical brain, we’d know what that brain was going to do next, therefore no absolute free will exists and conscious free will is an illusion.”
Chemistry is very consistent but not infinitely consistent. Quantum fluctuation in a sense that might be meaningful to the predictability of an everyday chemical reaction is astronomically improbable but not infinitely improbable,
There’s an estimated 456 trillion trillion atoms in the human brain. More than there are stars in the observable universe.
The moment you accept there’s only a finite predictability in a chemical reaction – which is objectively true, so far as current scientific consensus – you open the door to what could conceivably be a logical basis for arguing the existence of free will in the human mind. We can dispense with the conceit of the conscious-self being the arbiter of choice – and all this implies – without free will necessarily being absent from the mind from whence this ego-identity emerges.