Words may have more than one meaning. “Free will” the mundane concept and “free will” the theological concept are distinct, separate meanings of the term. Merriam-Webster1 lists the two definitions:
1.voluntary choice or decision, as in “I do this of my own free will”
2.freedom of humans to make choices that are not determined by prior causes or by divine intervention
I am motivated to write about this because I hear people saying that if human decision making depends on determinate physical processes, free will doesn’t exist. Note that definition 1, “voluntary choice or decision” does NOT involve determination by prior causes. The human process of exercising free will exists. It may be determinate, if quantum processes are not involved. If quantum processes are involved, that might introduce an element of random chance.
Question: does this “free will does not exist” stuff derive from a desire to reevaluate the concepts of guilt and punishment? That purpose could be achieved without it. Unless one chooses to believe in a blamey god, one can choose to reevaluate guilt and blame. Blame is a human choice, and often, in human terms, not the best choice, a choice we might do well to reevaluate. Suppose – just suppose without a shred of evidence – that the human mind were to extend beyond and outside the determinate or random quantum nature of the world. Even so, and notwithstanding the important concept of human responsibility for our actions, we can, if we choose, reevaluate our ideas of guilt, punishment, blame.
Suppose that some sort of deity made people’s “free will, definition 2” out of some sort of god-goop that is above and outside the processes of this world. And then, for some reason, the deity wants to punish people for decisions that don’t suit the deity, decisions, perhaps, that the people make because the deity cut costs and used a batch of inferior grade god-goop. People might claim that such a “free will” mandates punishment and guilt. Yeah, if you are going to define free will as that, you may well say it does not exist. But, free will, the common human experience of making choices, a process of human consciousness, does exist.. and it is complicated.