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Monday, August 1, 2011

Free Will and Randomization

A thought just occured to me. If we are capable of utilizing a purely random process, such as quantum mechanics might offer, then we could presumably use it in our formulation of potential plans/intentions prior to conscious deliberation. The randomization need not be in the conscious selection of a course of action--in the making of a decision itself--but in the unconscious production of options. Thus, we might choose to do X (as opposed to Y and Z) according to our beliefs and desires, and yet we come to identify X, Y and Z as options--and, indeed, come to have them as options--by a process which was not completely determined by past events. This only requires neurological processes devoted to randomly generating and selecting possible intentions. So, in choosing X, we are choosing something that was not determined by our causal history, and we are still acting on our beliefs and desires. We still choose what our physiology, psychology, etc., determines is the best option.

So, if there is something like quantum indeterminacy, we could have evolved a way of utilizing it. And it therefore seems that we could act in accordance with our beliefs and desires while also having alternatives which were not determined by the past or by any physical laws.

Somebody else must have put forward an argument like this before. It seems too simple to have gone unnoticed. I haven't read much of the literature on free will, but still, I'm a little surprised I hadn't thought of this before.