Compatibilism is the position that freewill and physical determinism are compatible.
This is in opposition to the idea that since everything has a cause, any act or decision a person takes has already been predetermined by an antecedent cause, and that causal relationship is dictated by the laws of physics. Hence nobody has freewill since causality and physics determine what our actions are, and we don't have the freedom to do otherwise.
This position is problematic, since it means that we don't have moral responsibility for our actions.
Compatibilists argue that this is a false dilemma. The problem is not whether we are free to act against the laws of causality and physics, but whether we are free to act according to our own motivations or not. As long as we are not being coerced into acting by outside factors and are doing so solely according to our own desires and wishes, then we have freewill.
Incompatibilists, conversely, argue that people have freewill only if they are free to act against the laws of causality and determinism. That given the exact same initial conditions, a person with freewill can choose to take different courses of action. This is called metaphysical freewill, as opposed to compatibilist freewill.
Now consider the 2 following scenarios:
- A person is raised with a certain number of beliefs, and is sheltered from any other beliefs that contradict those they were raised with. That person's parents and community have indoctrinated them very well, and as an adult that person makes all of their decisions according to that belief system, even though they live in a open society that would have allowed them to do whatever they want. Per compatibilism, this person has freewill, since they are acting according to their own motivations regardless of how they got those motivations.
- A intelligent robot (one that passes the Turing test) is programmed with a set of rules of behavior. It is then left to function autonomously in its environment, without any further input or manipulation from its programmers. Since it is well programmed and doesn't have any bugs, it always functions according to its original programming, even though it is autonomous and not coerced by any outside agents. By analogy with the above example, the robot has freewill, since it is acting according to its own motivations (i.e. its own internal rules).
- From a compatibilist point of view, what is the difference between the person's motivations which they inherited from their parents' belief system and the robot's behavior rules inherited from its programmers?
- Would a compatibilist consider the robot to have free will - i.e. is my analogy correct ?
- Does the fact that humans can and do act against their original indoctrination, as opposed to robots who would always act according to their programs constitute an argument for metaphysical freewill?