2. Here are two frequently asked questions about free will (I should write a “FAQ” about this because the same objections arise repeatedly).
a. Doesn’t determinism preclude you from ever changing your mind? Answer: No, for changing your mind can occur via deterministic influences of the environment on your brain. Watching a lifelong smoker whom you love die of cancer, for example, may be a powerful impetus for you to quit smoking. Humans are evolved to reason (think of our brain as a computer, even though, dear readers, I am perfectly aware of the differences between brains and human-constructed computers), and we can process inputs into outputs which are generally adaptive. So you can change your output in light of different inputs. What I maintain is that you cannot by your own conscious will alone change your mind, for that presumes a “ghost you” that can affect how your brain processes information. Nor can you ever be able to truly choose either of two alternatives at a given moment in time.
b. Doesn’t determinism preclude us from reasoning about problems and arriving at conclusions? Answer: No, for the same reason given above. Our brains, as Daniel Dennett has told us repeatedly in his books on compatibilism (I disagree with his compatibilism but agree with much of the other stuff in his “pro-free-will” books) are very complex meat computers that have evolved to process a variety of inputs before giving an output—a decision. And those brains have evolved to arrive, in general, at outputs that are good for our well being: “good” decisions. Some people have better onboard computers than others, and those people are called “smarter” or “deeper thinkers”, although they are that way through no effort of their own. So, yes, you can reason and arrive at rational conclusions, which is exactly what computers do when they arrive at outputs after absorbing a lot of information (think chess-playing computers).
I’ve found that a lot of objections to free will that aren’t very cogent can be overcome by simply thinking of our brains as complex computation machines, evolved to help their possessor’s well-being (i.e. reproduction or the proxies of reproduction).
3. Here is a Baby Hili dialogue in which she ponders free will (these “Baby Hili” dialogues don’t appear on this website, but can be found in the Hili Dialogues Tumblr Site curated by Miranda Hale (go to “archive” and look back, for example, from August through December of 2012; Hili was born in the spring or early summer of that year). And don’t forget that all the Hilis, young and old, are posted on Twitter, where you can follow the Queen’s feed. Hili is of course concerned that not enough people are following her.
This dialogue shows that Hili was already reading my website as a youngster:
I can tell you with near-certainty which of those two brands of milk Hili would elect if given a choice. And that’s based only on my crude observation of her behavior, not on feline brain scans.