Are criminals the proof of free will? They are told the law, not to steal, for example, but they do it anyway. Free will is independence from other agencies, governments, people, entities, etc. Does the fact that they break the law show their free will?
No particular instance of human behavior can prove the existence of free will. There are a couple of reasons for this.
- Free will is a poorly defined concept.
- No matter what someone does, it is in some way determined by their circumstances.
Let's take your definition of free will: "Free will is independence from other agencies, governments, people, entities, etc." Is a person who commits a crime independent from other entities? They have some motivation to commit the crime, and some reason to believe it is the best current option. In different circumstances, they would act differently.
Someone is on their way to rob a bank. They notice a police officer in the bank lobby and decide to rob a bank some other day. Someone is on their way to rob a bank. They check their lottery numbers on the way and realize they are now very wealthy, so they decide not to rob a bank. Someone is on their way to rob a bank. They are hit by a car and go to a hospital instead. Whether or not a person commits a crime is dependent on how other people behave and the circumstances around them. Someone can always walk a causal chain back to explain why some person did exactly what they did.
So the question is, could they have done something else? And the existence of criminals doesn't shed any light on that question.
We might define free will as independence from the wills of others. You make the decisions concerning your behaviour alone, based solely on your preferences, knowledge, needs, desires and future plans.
In that case, any behaviour, criminal or lawful, is an act of free will.
However, there are other definitions for free will. Some define free will as an imaginary, impossible or even illogical thing. But there are no valid definitions that leave the question of the existence of free will unanswered.
There can be many definitions of free will. In your definition, free will is the ability to do whatever we want when we are provided with options. If that is the case then everyone will agree that we have free will. But going a little deeper, some people define free will as the ability to choose what we want. This is an area where the debate starts.
Man can do what he wants, but a man can’t want what he wants - Schopenhauer It means you can do what you want to do but you can't choose what you want. The desires in you are not chosen by you.
Free will cannot be proven by any type of observable human behaviour, including criminality.
This is because theories which support free will and theories which argue against free will both account for all those behaviours we observe.
Determinism (in which non-compatabilistic free will doesn't exist) allows for criminality, but libertarian free will also allows for criminality. It is therefore impossible to justify a claim that criminality proves one or the other.