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Anyone who has frequented my blog in the past or who is cognisant of my writing will know that I deny Libertarian Free Will (LFW) – just search my categories to the right for more information.

This question was sent to me by a friend, and I think it is a really interesting line of argument:



If free will means a capacity to make choices completely free of your biological inheritance and all of your experiences as they have interacted then how could there be any difference from one person to another?

 1.    If there is a difference:

 ·        what could it be?

·        how did it come about?

·        then where is the responsibility?

 2.    If there is no difference:

 ·        what explains the different ways persons use their free will?

·        randomness?

·        then where is the responsibility?

Now, if you are someone who grants libertarian free will (as this ability to choose otherwise in a given situation) and you think that this kind of free will gets you moral responsibility, then you cannot get away from the fact that it comes in many different quantities, for want of a better willl

If you are religious, and need LFW to get you a judgemental god (indeed, the philpapers survey shows a very strong correlation between those who believe in LFW and those who believe in God), then this presents a real thorn in the side of such belief. Belief in an all-loving God is belief, surely, in a god who is fair. But loading certain people up with more ability to exercise free will (especially since it is often used as a theodicy to answer the problem of evil – there is evil in the world as a necesary corrollary of free will) presents a real issue for fairness. We are supposed to be able to freely come to love God; but it turns out that that freeness is freer for some than for others. This might well be as a result of genetics, biology or environment. Someone could have a clinical issue, a genetic predisposition or an environmental constraint (heck, even prison) which can restrict them from free access to God’s love, or have some other such moral ramification.

In the same way that certain people seem to be loaded up with more evidence for God than others (supposedly) – think Doubting Thomas, who, as a disciple, was given first rate access to Jesus and still doubted the resurrection until being able to touch Jesus’ hand – it seems that certain people have access to an unfair amount of free will (given a belief that it exsts in this form).

God is unfair.

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Jonathan MS Pearce

A TIPPLING PHILOSOPHER Jonathan MS Pearce is a philosopher, author, columnist, and public speaker with an interest in writing about almost anything, from skepticism to science, politics, and morality,...