by Patrick Appel
A reader writes:
Free will is the age-old question that keeps sophomores up all night. But Searle is not the best voice on this question, as he is ultimately a dualist, trying to bring in something from outside the physical world, but without evidence.
Daniel Dennett's Elbow Room is an oldie but a goodie on this topic, at least in part making the same argument that you do - we all live our lives as if we have free will, and we can't tell that we don't, so that's good enough.
Further, a big part of this question is what do we actually want when we ask for free will? Not randomness, I think, which takes quantum mechanics out of the picture. We want our decisions to be based on real preferences, which are determined by what? Well, by rules for what we prefer, of course. If we postulate some dualistic outside 'soul' or other driving force, we just push the question back a level - what are the rules by which the soul makes choices? Again, we don't want randomness, we want real preference. So we just can't get away from a rules-based, deterministic system. It might be chaotic, there might be a huge number of rules and inputs to those rules, so many that we can never be fully 'predictable,' but ultimately we WANT there to be rules. Searle usually seems to miss this point.
Another reader seconds: