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Free Will

Is there room for free will as well? Most materialists are determinists and think not. In their view, we experience ourselves as acting freely, although our actions are determined. Searle suspends judgment on free will and considers the intentionality involved. Let us look at an example of intentional action.

Suppose I am thinking about going for a walk. There is a gap between deliberation and decision—the process of forming a prior intention. Let’s say I form the prior intention to go for a walk. There is now another gap. I could decide to stay put, although I’ve formed an intention to go for a walk. Suppose I go. I’m walking and, in doing so, I have an intention in action. This intention also leaves room for a gap, since I could stop at any time. How can we explain the gaps? Are they only apparent, or could it be that we exercise free will within them? We know from physics that the quantum world is indeterminate. In a determinate world, God could predict all future events. God could also run the clock backward and tell what happened in the past. All that God would need is a state in time and the laws of nature; all future and past history could then be traced. That is impossible according to quantum mechanics—even for God. Events are unpredictable, other than statistically, and the picture of a determinate universe given by Newton and Laplace is false. In Searle’s view, human freedom could be consistent with physics if quantum indeterminacy scaled up in an organized form to support it. Free will could be organized indeterminacy. But even if we lack free will, we couldn’t live as if we did. Suppose you are a determinist going to see a movie. You think there is no free will and you’re just going to see whatever movie you are determined to see. Try saying to yourself, “I’m just going to wait and see what happens.” If you don’t decide, you’re not going to see a movie. Even if you said, “I’m just going to see what happens” and it worked, you were pushed by gears of determinism; you still decided to not choose what to do, whether that very decision was illusory or not. We might be unable to prove free will, but we cannot help but to act as if we have it.

Just as many philosophers have seen the notion of emergence as key to the problem of consciousness, many have seen it as explanatorily void. They claim that emergence philosophers, such as Searle, add nothing to our understanding of consciousness by saying that it is an emergent phenomenon.

After all, what is the difference between saying that consciousness is caused by the brain and saying that consciousness is causally emergent? We already knew that the brain system causes consciousness, and this is sufficient. It is unclear why a future explanation of consciousness should involve “emergence” as a technical term. It is unclear why it would be insufficient to stick with the simpler vocabulary of causation.

In Searle’s view, to say liquidity is a system feature implies that it is an emergent feature in the classical sense of emergence that Searle relies on. Analogously, to say that consciousness is a system feature also implies, for Searle, that consciousness is a classically emergent feature. Classically emergent system features are system fea?tures that are explicable in terms of their components. But if they are so explicable, why should we not stick with the system feature vocabulary—what is the value of emergence? This is something that Searle would need to articulate further, the critics say.

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