Not having a free will makes me think about a few other things too. What about feelings? Why do we have experienced feelings if we do not have a free will, what are their benefits. Why should I feel anger when I lack the free will to use it? Why are the emotions not connected directly to one’s behaviour? Remorse and guilt are very strange feelings if you do not have free will, are they not?
I agree. Our brain might be the most complex structure ever evolved, and one of the most costly organs to be maintained by our bodies. It is not reasonable to believe that such an organ has evolved, not to have more capabilities than simpler brains, but to delude us in that we have more capabilities which we haven’t. There is no ratio in such a thought, and I can not imagine how natural selection would favour such delusion.
Sam’s booklet Free Will gives a good overview of the arguments against “conscious will” or “free will” (which is the capacity to choose a course of action.)
Let me give my personal opinion about each.
1. “Either our wills are determined by prior causes and we are not responsible for them, or they are the product of chance and we are not responsible for them.” (p.5)
Everything a surfer does has fysical causes, and yet he must have a clear conception of the waves, the wind etc… and (really, not illusionary) choose his moves. A cause is something different from a choice, and they are, evidently so, not mutually exclusive.
2.“The physiologist Benjamin Libet famously used EEG to show that activity in the brain’s motor cortex can be detected some 300 milliseconds before a person feels that he has decided to move.” (p.8)
This and other experiments all show a sequence of: 1/ brain activity, 2/ consciousness and 3/ action.
It seems only natural, from a materialist point of view, that consciousness, or any course of action, can only be produced by neural activity, and therefor that neural activity will always precede our thoughts, and both unconscious and conscious actions. But this neural activity does not (as Binet himself suggested) prove that a final conscious decision has been made before we know (of course not!)
3. “Consider what it would take to actually have free will. You would need to be aware of all the factors that determine your thoughts and actions, and you would need to have complete control over those factors.” (p.13)
If “free will” is the capacity to choose a course of action, the only thing the agent needs to know are various possible courses, and a way to effectuate them. Modern knowledge of muscle physiology has not changed the number of possible movements we can make. I do not have to know in detail how my car works to drive it wherever I want.
4.“We know, in fact, that we sometimes feel responsible for events over which we have no causal influence. Given the right experimental manipulations, people can be led to believe that they consciously intended an action when they neither chose it nor had control over their movements.” (p.24)
A bit further Sam unwarrented changes this “sometimes” in “always”. We try indeed to make sense of confused situations, which is a very useful but sometimes erring capacity.
But we talk here about very cunningly misleading testing environments. You might create a situation in which I sometimes think I moved a cursor on the screen, while someone else did it, but you can not make me believe that I typed this text, while someone else did it.