The problem of free will is that to the extent that our acts are uncaused, they are irrational, but that if they are wholly caused (ergo wholly rational), then they are not free, but rather are straightforward functions of their causal inputs – in which case, they do not actually exist as entities disparate from those inputs.
It would seem that if we are somewhat free, we are to that extent irrational. There’s the rub.
Nothing can be a bit irrational. A thing cannot happen in a world, cannot fit into it, unless it makes perfect sense in terms of that world, mutatis mutandis. It may not make perfect sense to us – as when, e.g., a schizophrenic under the sway of his delusions declares himself to be Napoleon – but that is only because it is in the nature of things that we cannot understand all the reasons that motivate the schizophrenic’s behavior, and all their organic and historic sources. If we could, we’d see the sense in them – we’d see how it could come to pass that he could be so deluded in his thoughts and acts.
A defect of rationality then is a defect of actuality, so that whatever is at all actual is rational to the full extent of its actuality, and vice versa. The schizophrenic might have behaved more rationally, and had he done so, his ontological power – his actuality – would have been greater: capable of generating more goodness.
Nevertheless, the crazed acts of the schizophrenic are coherently and intelligibly tied to their causal antecedents, exhaustively and with no gaps. The constitution of a coherent world can allow for no causal loose ends.
The world is not as much or as good as it might have been: but it is truly a world.
In a world with no causal loose ends, how can any act be free? Simple: Decisions are irrational until they have been made.
What could we mean, after all, in saying that a thing that has not yet happened – that, NB, *does not exist* – is rational or intelligible? Until it has happened, it is not anything at all! So a decision that has not been effected is not intelligible. It is not rational. It is not yet caused, because it is not yet. Only what is actual can have been caused.
Thus only the decisions we have already made can be said to have been caused, for it is only after the fact that we can look back and interpret the fact. The decisions now being made, and that will be made, are imponderable, because they do not yet exist to be pondered.
Does this introduce randomness into decisions? Ex ante, yes (for until a thing exists, it cannot be orderly); ex post, no. In the act of deciding there is always an element of risk, of danger; this could not be possible if the character of the act were not to some degree causally (ergo morally) obscure to us as we enacted it: unintelligible. We can’t tally all the causal and moral meanings of our acts until we see how they have worked out. So our acts are all inherently unintelligible as enacted, at least a little bit.
We never know – we cannot possibly know – what we are going to do before we have done it, or therefore even as we do it.
Ex ante, then, our acts are all a bit uncaused, a bit sui generis. We effect, not the forms that we choose to implement, but the choice. Ex post – and only ex post – may we see how our acts all made sense, somehow or other.
This would account for the opacity of the future, which would amount to its utter unintelligibility. It would allow for the complete coherence, rationality and intelligibility of the world as so far constituted, while allowing also for the bit of wild origination we feel as the most fundamental aspect of our own living acts from one moment to the next, for the danger of temptation and for moral hazard.
What is it like to be uncaused? It is like this moment, right now.