The Problem of Free Will

Continuing to Answer the Free Will Dilemma:

I have addressed the question of whether or not beliefs about an agent’s autonomy can provoke a behavioural difference and have concluded that they cannot because they do not carry any motivational efficacy in that they are unrelated to considerations of individual actions and their consequences. However, this is still unsatisfactory as it has not resolved the spur which prompted this discussion in the first place, namely, the stark difference observed in between Buddhist thought and Schopenhauerian thought. This difference was the attitude each of these philosophies took towards free willing. Although both agree that causality is master in the world of appearances, there seems to remain some element of assumed human freedom in Buddhism in its prescription of a path to follow and guidelines of conduct to adhere to and wholesome effort to exert. My problem with this has been that it is implicit in such a philosophy that a human has the ability to choose freely, thus contradicting its earlier commitment to causality as the conditioning force of all appearance. However, I realize now that this was simply a misunderstanding of the subtle point of free will arguments. In my coarser mind, it seemed to me that a human must be either free from or enslaved by causality. The subtler point is to see that a human can be completely enslaved by causality and still retain the ability to choose. It is just that these choices will be produced by motives whose efficacy is determined by the agent’s underlying beliefs and judgements about the world. The shift that is occurring in my thinking is the transportation of the subject of inquiry from the ability to choose to the motive behind the choice.

If the human is to be looked at as a complicated computer which reads the world and infers patterns and relations which it then uses in order to determine courses of action, then it doesn’t seem to figure into the argument at all whether or not there is an autonomous being residing within the computer and issuing directives and imperial orders freely and arbitrarily. In fact, the more one considers this subject the more one will come to realize that there is in fact no room for any self to be found anywhere within the whole realm of existence. It is this attachment to the view of a self that leads to such philosophical problems like the free will argument which, if considered apart from such contexts, resolves itself into no problem at all.

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