There are several ways to dismantle the fallacy of “no free will”, or “the illusion of free will”. Frankly, it’s exasperating that this ridiculous idea gets any traction at all, given how obviously irrational and impossible it is. As soon as you assert the notion, you make a claim to truth; but of course if there is no free will, then by the exact same deterministic logic (man’s thoughts are just molecules and particles conforming to the categorical governance of physical law) man cannot actually know anything, which means he cannot know truth, which means he cannot believe anything to be true, which means he cannot make any assertion at all about anything. And even if we accept that man thinks and man makes assertions (which is impossible if there is no such thing as free will…for free will is merely the volitional exercise of one’s knowledge, which is the very definition of “to assert”) there is no way to claim that one assertion, like “there is no such thing as free will” is true while another is false.
There. It took me, a stay-at-home-dad sitting on the couch wearing a hoodie and Carolina Panthers pajama bottoms, one paragraph to dismantle an idea held by physicists from Stephen Hawking to Sam Harris. This ought to tell you something.
These people are being willfully stupid. They are choosing to believe their deterministic bullshit rather than admit that physics is an abstract description, not a recipe for ontological causality. Why? Because they, like so many, prefer power to truth. If they can claim to be the few mathematical geniuses who understand the Language of the Universe, which is just their version of the Word of God, then they can claim their own Priesthood Class. They can exist as the Chosen/Called Ones who are God Incarnate to the rest of us. They can stand in the stead of God and dictate to everyone else, both governments and denizens, their moral obligations, both intellectually and behaviorally; which, pragmatically speaking, means they can tell everyone else what to do with their money.
And I hope you are picking up on the passive-aggression, because I’m laying it on pretty thick.
But let’s, just for fun, because my coffee is not yet cold, elucidate my paragraph above.
The denial of free will is rooted in the argument of determinism. That is, since we are all just a bunch of atoms and molecules interacting and combining according to very arcane and abstruse mathematical rules, our very thoughts, being a function of our brains, are merely the pre-determined side effects of these rules. (And since mathematical rules/laws of physics are absolute and absolutely infinite, everything is these rules; there are no distinctions between the rules and the objects which are said to act and interact according to these rules because everything is a direct and utter function of the laws of physics…in which case, how is it possible to claim the laws of physics actually govern anything? To say they govern themselves is pointless redundancy. )
And this completely destroys the deterministic argument against free will. Because what this means is that there is no such thing as truth. All ideas are equally valid, since according to deterministic protocol all ideas, being a function of brains governed by the inexorable laws of physics, are a function of the same mathematical rules. This being the case, it is impossible to make the claim “there is no such thing as free will, is true” or “there is such a thing as free will, is false” since both ideas are a function of brains governed by the exact same rules. And this is why they must and do appeal to a “superior enlightenment” based upon their elevated mathematical prowess. There is no rational explanation for why we must believe them, any more than there is a rational explanation for why the laity must submit to pastoral authority since both the pastors and the laity are, according to doctrine, fallen creatures and utterly prone to sin and delusion by their very nature.
But the magic wand of Divine Authority is waved, and as John Immel, a philosopher I admire says, “Alakazaam, POOF!”, we all must just accept that “God” has chosen them and thus it is our moral obligation to agree with them…to bend over and say, “thank you, sir, may I have another”.
To make the claim, “there is no such thing as free will” is to presuppose a person can actually know truth. But, again, according to the very argument against free will, itself, there is no such thing as a true thing versus a false thing since every idea is the product of the same deterministic rules. When people are not actually free to learn, because their minds are entirely governed by the laws of physics, then by definition they cannot actually know anything. To learn is to presuppose a difference between knowing and not knowing, and to presuppose a difference between a good idea (rational, or true) and a bad one (irrational, or false). If there is no such thing as free will (the individual application of perceived knowledge…between a true thing/good thing and a false thing/bad thing, either based upon contextual circumstance or upon foundational philosophical assumptions), and all beliefs and actions are merely a function of brains which are all equally and absolutely governed by mathematical rules, then there can be no difference. There can be no real ideas, which means there can be no real thought. Which means there can be no thought at all. Which means there can be no consciousness. Which means that people like Stephen Hawking and Sam Harris cannot claim that free will is an illusion, as though this is some truth that they can actually know, and know as true, and of which they should seek to convince others, as though making the point is anything but a colossal waste of time. Because you can’t convince people out of an idea that they don’t actually believe, and this because they don’t believe anything, because their contrary thoughts are merely the effects of the same deterministic forces which produced yours.
As soon as one makes the assertion, “there is no such thing as free will”, they have destroyed the argument. And because of this fallacy, and the sheer stupidity and rank rational inconsistency and destructiveness of the underlying apologetics, I strongly urge you to reject it.