Alrenous recently argued that Free Will is Analytically Impossible because we cannot do other than what we want to do, and we can’t control – can’t change – what we want (unless we uncontrollably want to, etc.). So, it’s our wants that run us, not we ourselves.
Is there a difference between what we want to do and what we will to do, on this account? Apparently not. If so, then all that Alrenous has done is kick the question of free will down the road a bit: the will is subsumed in desire, as its mere outworking or byproduct; so that the question goes back a step in the order of operations, from whether the will is free to whether its animating desire is free. But then that leaves quite open the question whether the whole system of will cum desire is free.
If we take it as true that we do really act, then some part of our volitional procedures must be free. Otherwise, it would not be we who acted, but our causal inputs. But in that case – the case where we didn’t actually do anything – we wouldn’t actually exist. Only those things that have causal effects on other things can be truly said to exist actually. Or, more simply, only what acts can be actual. What has no effect on the world is not an actual aspect thereof.
To say that we don’t act then, is to say that we don’t actually exist. But this is to contradict experience per se. It is furthermore to insist that when we say that we don’t actually act, we don’t actually say that we don’t actually act; for, speech is a sort of those human acts – of all the human acts – that Alrenous has ruled out of actual existence.
The notion that we don’t really act contradicts all our experience of what being is like, and it contradicts itself. So it is both empirically and analytically false.
Where does this leave us?
With the opposite notion: that we do really act; that our wanting and so our willing is free; that it is, truly, ours, and not that of some other; and that it is not merely a determinate logical function of its causal antecedents.
Alrenous ends by saying, “Not being in logical/causal chains is impossible.” True enough, at least for beings that are not eternal. But note that until an occasion even of contingent temporal creaturely becoming has completed its act of existence – has, that is to say, made its decision about what it will do, and thus be – it is not yet actual, for it is not yet done becoming; and so, as not yet fully being in the first place, is therefore not yet fully being in a logical/causal chain. Only completed facts, that have made all their decisions, can have any properties at all, such as those that arise from their causal loci – their relations to their causal antecedents and subsequents. A thing can’t be caused until it is, for it can’t be anything at all until it is.
If in the moment of decision anything is actually occurring, then until that moment is complete, it is not bound to its causal antecedents determinately. If, that is to say, there are really occasions of becoming in the world, so that the world does have a real actual active history rather than being a static block, then those occasions cannot – metaphysically cannot – be utterly bound by their antecedent factors, for the simple reason that until they have come completely into actual existence, they cannot have any properties whatsoever in respect to any entity other than themselves.
So, Alrenous is right that it is impossible for contingent entities to exist other than as integral with their causal antecedents and subsequents – other than, i.e., in some world. But it is impossible for such entities to become in the first place except insofar as they are not – are, i.e., not yet – integral with any world.
Freedom, then, is the sine qua non of becoming actual – of acting. No freedom, no becoming; and, then, no becoming, no being. But, being; so, becoming; so, freedom.