I have currently found myself more and more consumed with a certain question within the philosophical discourse on “the problem of free will” that I think does not gets asked. See, whenever I picks up a book or papers by authors like Robert Kane, William James, or even Aristotle, I come across all sorts of arguments trying to validate the “feeling” of free will we all seem to possess when we make decisions. Of course, the feeling I am speaking of is not, prima facie, supposed to be anything controversial in itself. If anything, it has served as the starting point of the controversy that has spanned back at least 2,500 years.
But it is exactly that feeling that I wish to call into question. I have seen plenty of arguments from those listed above, and many others, promoting views that invoke quantum randomness, emergent properties, unmoved movers, noumenal selves, and a host of other queer metaphysical concepts that get us no closer to a common-sense theory of that ever-elusive freedom “to choose to do to otherwise.” And all of the innovative counter-arguments notwithstanding, what if it is that base assumption that really needs to be called into question? Put differently, what if that feeling of freedom that we can articulate so clearly and distinctly when we pull it to the limits of abstraction becomes much more murky and muddled once we try to apply it to the everyday decisions we all face in life? What if “Jones can choose either X or Y at Time T” doesn’t stay so neat and clean when put in terms of “Jones can choose either to feed his child or let her starve” or “Mr. Anderson can either accept that humanity is plugged into the matrix or not to.” It is my contention that it is the very notion of “choose to do otherwise” that needs to be called into question and analyzed, and to conduct this analysis properly an existential lens is what is needed.