One of the best explanations on this site is this one:
JBP – Free Will
And there are many others.
A series with Trick Slattery demonstrates how easy it is to misinterpret what someone is saying when the paradigms in use are fundamentally different.
It started in 2017 and continues through 2018, and this Post gives a link to the earlier ones, and is followed by this one.
And an enquiry into the nature of the possibility of free will, and its likelihood in our existence has been with me for over 50 years, and in that time many different paradigms have been explored and transcended.
In my younger days I knew a lot (with absolute certainty), now I know only one thing with something approaching absolute certainty – the idea that I must be a something, even if I can be absolutely certain about nothing of the nature of that something – I can and do have degrees of confidence about such questions (and their accompanying degrees of uncertainty).
Having tried out many different paradigms of understanding, I can see that each comes with degrees of utility in particular contexts, and with dangers in other contexts.
Just as a surfer or a rally driver finds delight in achieving that balance of control on the edge of chaos, so I keep exploring conceptual and strategic spaces, alert for both dangers, and for mitigation strategies to remove the worst of those dangers; and just being present to the delights of the journey.
Each time I have encountered a new paradigm that seemed to resolve the uncertainties and risks of the previous paradigm, an in depth exploration of the boundaries of that paradigm has revealed new levels of uncertainties and new domains of risk.
Having been through that process many times, it now seems probable that the sequence is potentially infinite.
For all the many uncertainties and dangers of life, every cell alive today, in you, in me, in every blade of grass, every fish, every bacterium, would, if it could (which of course it can’t as it isn’t that complex) from its own perspective, consider itself to have been alive for some 4 billion years. Complex multicellular entities like ourselves are made of vast collections of cells, and each and every one of those cells seems very likely to be part of an unbroken lineage of dividing cells (where each of the two could be thought of as the original), going back to the very first cell on this planet. That is important to free will in a roundabout way, in the sense of the possibility of living for a very long time. I really does seem to be possible, every cell alive right now seems to have managed to do it.
It really does seem possible to extend self interest out into the indefinite future.
Combine that with the presence of exponential trends in computational and technological capability, and the possible benefits present in an indefinite future make any sort of delayed gratification worth the effort. If one is sufficiently numerate, sufficiently able to see trends (and recursive meta trends) in systems; then such a possibility does seem to be worth whatever is required to instantiate it. And the achievement of it does seem to place ethical limits on the means. The means do influence the ends, and the end alone cannot justify any means. So it is a very complex systemic space we find ourselves in, even if most only have a very low resolution image of it, if they have any image at all.
For many it seems that even a glimpse of the uncertainties present seems to drive them to a desire for order that forces them to deny their own existence as free entities. That does seem to be a very real syndrome, and it does seem to pose existential level risks to us all – as by definition it justifies any action, as ethics cannot have any real meaning within such a system. In a systemic sense, it is a particularly dangerous and devious mental
“virus”. Containing the risks of such infection, while respecting the individual so infected, poses real challenges, and it is something demanded of those who do respect freedom.