The Emperor's Free Will
Free will has commonly been used in the philosophical community to justify and ground the concept of moral responsibility. I will attempt to argue that this connection is unjustified. I begin in section 2 by establishing a central postulate that free will needs to fulfill in order to be ethically relevant to this topic: Its freedom needs to be subjectively accessible. Placing my conceptualization of free will purely within the subjective domain puts me at odds both with the compatibilists and the incompatibilists, thus staking out a somewhat unusual position within this field. To intuitively demonstrate this position, I introduce the metaphor of the Subjective Prisoner, which will be a central reference point throughout the rest of the paper. In section 3, I explore the structure of our conscious minds through the concept of noticing to determine if this postulate can be fulfilled, and show that it, in fact, cannot—thereby establishing the impossibility of any sense of subjective freedom. Section 4 compares the resulting view to the compatibilist position on freedom and responsibility (in particular the so-called rationalist conception), and argues that the compatibilist use of the term ‘free will’ is an unhelpful misnomer, and that any practically helpful notion of responsibility is in fact grounded not in anything worth calling free will, but instead the tendency for regularity in the behavior of things in the world. As free will dies—or is revealed to be irrelevant—responsibility lives on just fine, revealing the falsity of their connection, and the most common motivation to advocate for the existence of free will dissipates.