What is the freewill problem? And why is the free will problem (as far as I've read) considered a problem. What would be a good source to read up on this (to understand viewpoints that counter mine)?

Excerpts and My Reading

I've been investing time on this and I can't see what's going on here with the free will problem:

The classic problem of free will is to reconcile an element of freedom with the apparent determinism in a world of causes and effects, a world of events in a great causal chain.

I find the problem statement bizarre. Imagine someone saying we must reconcile "The Theory of Spontaneous Generation" with Francesco Redi's observation. There are other introductions like this

But are we really in charge of our actions? Is how we act truly up to us as things such as the past, the nature of the universe, even many of our own beliefs and feelings, are not? The problem of whether we are ever in control of how we act, and what this control involves, is what philosophers call the free will problem.

Firstly, let's recognize freewill is an effective tool in modelling human behavior (in economics). Now, even in the deterministic case, if I construct a boundary between your physical body (system 1) and the environment (system 2). You may evolve deterministically but the net time evolution must take into account your physical system and not just the environments.

We naturally think that action – what we ourselves do or refrain from doing – has a special moral significance. A vital part of ordinary morality centers on individual moral responsibility – on the idea that people can be accountable for how they live their lives. Now what we are immediately responsible for in our lives is our action.

Okay let's back up for a moment. Morals are essentially a computation of some sort. We perform these computations for evolutionary reasons. To oversimplify, imagine a society where murdering your neighbor was allowed. Would such a society sustain. No. Is the computation of asking how can we ensure system 1 (your physical body) does not harm other beings in system 2 a meaningful computation. Yes.

I seriously don't see why is this considered a problem.

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    As your linked resources explain, there are so called compatibilist solutions to the free will problem, some of which resolve the issue in the same way you do, leaving no problem. So you rather seem to ask for comments of your summary of your personal compatibilist stance.
    – tkruse
    May 23, 2022 at 1:38

2 Answers 2


The free will problem is a philosophic one, and it arises from our own perception of our own mind apparently making choices so the time, having been able to do otherwise of course, and a materialist reductionist world view that the actions performed by our bodies are the results of neuronal processes of the brain, which are themselves not mindful, not controlled by ourselves, and would thus prevent us from doing anything else than what we did.

While physical determinism as a paradigm caused this conflict historically to arise, the free will problem is technically not bound to determinism, and arises to the same degree for indeterministic (random) models of the universe. The main issue is reductionist materialism.

Your explanations that morality and free will are not incompatible are not new, they are merely variants of compatibilist resolutions of the free will problem as linked in your articles.

To understand the conflict between free will and determinism, it might help to first understand the problem between personal choices and predeterminism.

In predeterminism, it is not merely believed that events arise causally from past events, but that the past was additionally controlled (e.g. by gods) in a way to produce a specific future.

So maybe you chose to buy a Dodge car, and you think that you made this choice freely (because you like the color and design), but then you hear that Dodge ran subliminal TV advertising in a TV show that you liked watching, and all others who watched a certain tv show also bought Dodges like you.

So did you make the choice yourself, or did Dodge, and you can force them legally to return your original money and take back the used car? What else in your past might determine your actions? Which of your actions are you responsible for, and which are the results of your parents, your school, the media, the government?

Such examples of choice and predeterminism might help you to more easily understand the problem of free will and determinism.

I seriously don't see why is this considered a problem

Some problems are those where nobody has any explanation for an observation. Other problems are those where there are multiple explanations for an observation, but smart people cannot agree on which one is right. The free will problem is more of the latter kind. So to some, it is not a problem at all, because they shut their ears to what other people say.

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    2 points I didn't know unanimous consent was even a requirement in the field of philosophy. Also "So to some, it is not a problem at all, because they shut their ears to what other people say" seems more like a personal attack. May 23, 2022 at 3:54
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    Not unanimous consent maybe, but when a sufficient majority does not even consider something as unsolved, it stops being called a "problem".
    – tkruse
    May 23, 2022 at 4:00
  • If in a room full of people there are 2 opinions distributed, and anyone says "i don't see the problem, my side is right, done.", I consider that a personal attack on the other 50%
    – tkruse
    May 23, 2022 at 4:06
  • while I still mantain the choice is the outcome of both you and the environment. Can you recommend reading material? May 23, 2022 at 4:06
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    Also I suspect the tone is being misread. It's more like I'm frustrated that I cannot comprehend something. May 23, 2022 at 4:15

Determinism is not a problem. We are not living in a deterministic universe. We don't have to reconcile anything with determinism.

Causality is not a problem. Decisions, expressions of free will, are not caused, but they do start new causal chains.

Controlling your own actions is not a problem. There is no-one else controlling you. You cannot choose what you are, your experiences, genetics or preferences. But you can and you must choose what you do. You can and you must choose how you respond to changes in the environment.

Naturally you are responsible for what you do. There is no-one else to blame. Whatever you do, you do for your own reasons serving your own purposes.

The only people who have a problem with free will are physicalists, who believe that there is nothing outside physics. They cannot figure it out how to reduce mental processes into physical processes, they just believe that all our emotions, preferences, imagination, memories and decisions are inherently causal physical events.

Non-believers understand that information, knowledge and everything mental are not made of physical matter or energy, they have no measurable physical properties. Psychology and brain physiology are separate branches of science studying different things.

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    Although neuroscience progresses by the day furthering our understanding of the physics and biochemistry behind mental processes, dualists are just as close to understanding how an immaterial spirit can take input from material organs and be cause of material processes in a body as they were 2000 years ago, it is to say zero, no progress whatsoever. Because they don't know what a spirit could be, they literally don't know what they are talking about. This is nothing but a gap fallacy "you don't have a comprehensive explanation of everything yet, so my magical mumbo jumbo theory must be true"
    – armand
    May 23, 2022 at 8:33
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    Please note that I am not defending dualism or pushing any magical mumbo jumbo theory. Information is not physical matter or energy and there is nothing either of us could do about it. It is not a theory or a hypothesis or even a belief. It is a straight irrefutable fact. May 23, 2022 at 9:14
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    I was agreeing with you. Clearly, a building does not consist of bricks. A building is a designed structure with a purpose and various choices and tradeoffs. This is a different level than the building materials. People are more than materials, just as a building is. I don't know why people keep making this "it is physical" argument. Everything is physical, so what? Is a football game just physical?
    – Scott Rowe
    May 23, 2022 at 10:19
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    Physicalists tend to sweep under the rug all concepts like design, purpose, choice or tradeoff. Things that cannot be reduced to causal chains of events are a problem to them. May 23, 2022 at 10:39
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    "We are not living in a deterministic universe". Can you back this up with some references? To me, the answer to psychology.stackexchange.com/q/10982/7604 gives a strong defense to the determinist philosophical position. May 24, 2022 at 5:07

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