Quoted from here.
I think if you read here and here, you have a pretty good summary of my viewpoints. I let it to Stephen to explain why he does not agree with me.
1. Antecedent conditions, coupled with the laws of nature, entail what I do.
2. No one can change the facts of the past, or the laws of nature.
3. Therefore, no one can do, other than what she/he does, because no one can change the facts of the past, present or future or the laws of nature.
I suppose this is what you see as the core of a determinism that excludes the possibility of free will. Still I think it does not suffice: in a compatibilist view there is still no problem. What people do is determined, but people also determine what happens: this ‘human determining’ runs via reflection, anticipating possible future paths, knowledge, motives, etc etc. It is only when you define free will as the possibility that with your brain given in a certain state, different paths can be taken and that these somehow correspond to your will, that above point rule out free will.
I must note I have sever problems with phrases like ‘changing the present/past/future’: change from what to what. I can change the colour of a wall by painting it, but I have no idea what changing the present/past/future could even mean.
1. Laws of nature are descriptive, not prescriptive. They are a subclass of all the true propositions that describe the world.
2. Therefore, if at some time I did other, than what I in fact did, then the laws of nature (descriptive, not prescriptive) would have been different. In doing x or y, I generate “laws”: Law x, or Law y—bearing in mind that, like Gresham’s Law, laws of nature are descriptive, not prescriptive, and are a subclass of all true propositions.
3. Given that the laws of nature are descriptive and not prescriptive, no natural “law” can compel me to do anything, because natural laws are not actually laws: descriptions are not prescriptions.
4. It is true that I cannot change any (descriptive) “laws” of nature, such as E=MC2. Nor can I change the past, future, or for that matter, the present. However, no account of free will requires that I be able to change the past, present or future. Nor does any such account require that I be able to change true propositions that describe the world.
Right. The idea that we are ‘compelled’ by the laws of nature to do something looses all its power if you see what the laws of nature really are: descriptions of how things happen. Laws of nature do not make facts true, facts make laws of nature true. Laws of nature force nothing, so they also do not force me to do anything. Facts about me make laws of nature true.
However, you have not broken the complete spell of determinism with this idea. Determinism says that given the state of the universe at a certain time, that for every time afterwards there is only one possible state. This definition is not affected by changing the view of laws of nature from prescriptions to descriptions.
And except your further use of ‘change the present/past/future’ I agree with your train of thought.
5. “Free will” only requires that I be able to make the past, present and future be what they were, are and will be—not change the past, present, or future. In the present moment, when I lift my hand, I do not change the present. I make it be, what it actually is.
6. Since the “laws” of nature describe but do not prescribe events, including human acts, what we have is a neo-Humean regularity theory of nature—there happen to be certain regularities in nature, which the “laws” of nature describe but do not prescribe.
7. Were these regularities absent, free will would be impossible, because I would not be able to plan ahead: anything could happen. Creatures with evaluative, planning brains would never have evolved; indeed it’s doubtful that life could exist at all.
8. From this it follows that free will requires natural regularities that are described, but not prescribed, by the “laws” of nature.
9. “Free will” depends on what we call causal determinism, though these deterministic regularities are described, but not prescribed, by “laws” of nature. In fact there are no natural laws, in the prescriptive sense. Since these “laws” describe the world but do not prescribe my actions, the alleged incompatibility of free will and causal determinism is a pseudo-problem.
But you said you were a libertarian, so I am awaiting your followup…