One of the deep foundations of human experience seems to be that we have free choices. We punish those who make bad choices
on the assumption that they could have chosen otherwise. We try to cultivate personal responsibility in people, where such responsibility is only possible on the proviso that people can make free choices. The problem, however, is we don’t have any straight forward evidence for the existence of free choices. If the universe is governed by deterministic laws, it appears our actions are such that we don’t choose them. If the universe is not determined by such laws, this doesn’t give us evidence of free choice either, as it makes our controlled actions look like random physical events. Even in the political realm, we often talk as though social conditions are more responsible for the behaviours of individuals than free choices.
So do we have to hang up our hands and admit that free will doesn’t exist? Or is free will something quite distinct from the ability to make free choices?