In the freewill debate, a difference is made between metaphysical/libertarian free will, i.e. where an agent is free to choose among many possible outcomes, and the eventual outcome is caused by the agent, not by prior circumstances, and compatibilist freewill, where an agent is free as long as it is acting according to its own motivations, even if it is impossible for it to choose among multiple future possibilities.
Does the concept of "decision making" have any meaning independently of libertarian freewill?
If someone subscribes to compatibilism or to hard determinism, then saying that "Jane decided to have coffee instead of tea" doesn't really carry any meaning. The event of Jane drinking coffee instead of tea has the same status as the event of a rock rolling down one side of the mountain instead of the other. That she "decided" to have coffee is either epiphenomenal or completely meaningless.
Similarly, consider some software used by a bank that automatically approves or rejects applications for a loan: The software reviews a set of inputs (income, assets, credit score, employment history, etc...) and then either approves or rejects the loan application. If the outcome of the process is deterministic, then to say that the software "decided" to approve the application doesn't really mean anything other than that it performed a mechanical calculation based on the input variables. For there to have been a "real decision", there has to have been the possibility of there being a different outcome given the exact same input variables.
In the above scenario, even if there was a human agent involved, the reasoning is the same. If the agent has to abide by the results of the calculation, then they can say legitimately say that the decision wasn't theirs to make. The decision ultimately lay with whoever set the guidelines that the software's calculations are based on.
- What is the philosophical definition of "decision"?
- Does the concept "decision" have any meaning outside of the context of libertarian freewill? Is it a metaphysically loaded concept?
- If there is no libertarian freewill, then doesn't decision making amount to the same thing as calculating and data processing? Can this be construed as an argument against compatibilism (in particular that moral agency and determinism are compatible)?
- Are there any prominent philosophers who have analyzed the concept of decision making from a metaphysical point of view?