It seems that Chisholm, in his argument for free-will,
drives himself into a corner trying to escape the problem of
determinism or, conversely, that of indeterminism; the truth of
either of these negates the libertarian position of an agent that
initiates causal chains but itself is uncaused. First, is it
coherent to state that something initiated a causal chain, but is
itself uncaused? Second, Chisholm seems to attempt an escape
from indeterminism into the "self" for the initial push in any
causal chain, but what is the connection between the "self" and
the first causal link?
The notion of an agent which itself is uncaused intiating a
causal chain is a difficult concept to grasp, and the difficulty
may lie in the fact that the concept itself borders on being
incoherent. If the initiating agent is itself uncaused, how did
the agent come to be in the position to itself initiate a causal
chain? Furthermore, if the intiating agent is uncaused, from
what origin is the agent derived? If these questions cannot be
answered then it seems that the libertarian position has a weak
foundation upon which to lay its argument.
On this view it seems that any action would be performed
with no relavance to the rest of the world, as there would be
nothing to "cause" the agent to act except for the whim of the
agent. This seems obviously false, as common sense would dictate
that actions are initiated for reasons (desires/ beliefs), though
internal, that have external causes. For example closing an open
window is an act which is intiated by an agent with a desire,
namely to close the window. Now, what is the purpose of closing
the window if it has no relevance in the world? In fact, it
does; the open window allowed for a cool draft that made the
agent physically uncomfortable and therefore making the agent
only part of the causal chain and not the uncaused initiator that
Chisholm would like to state that it is. From this it seems that
determinism is true and that free-will does not exist in the
libertarian sense.
Chisholm, in an attempt to distinguish between
random/ spontaneous actions and free actions, turns to the
concept of the "self". There is more than one problem with this
response. One is the relation between the "self" and the brain
functions. Unless a connection between the "self" and the brain
functions can be notably observed, random/ spontaneous actions
and free actions are indistinguishable. At this point in time it
is not possible to distinguish between the physical natures of
the statements "neuron C-25 is firing" and "an uncaused agent, or
"self", caused neuron C-25 to fire." There is no evidence to
persuade one to believe that an act is free rather than a random/
spontaneous act. In order to determine the relation between the
"self" and the brain fuctions, the nature of the "self" must
itself be determined, which leads to the second problem.
Bringing the concept of a "self" into the argument to avoid
indeterminism only takes the argument back one step in the causal
chain from the brain fuctions to the "self". What initiated the
"self" to initiate an act? The libertarian position holds that
only the will of the agent is accountable for the initiation of a
given action. If the "self" is an uncaused spontaneous entity,
then indeterminism seems to follow true. This also does not
grant free-will in the libertarian sense.
Another consideration is that if the "self" has no prior
cause, does this not suggest that the "self" merely "popped" into
existence? Assuming for a moment that it is the case that the
"self" simply "popped" into existence (assuming that if the
"self" does exist, that there exists more than one), why is that
elephants or three legged purple unicorns do not simply "pop"
into existence? If this were the case, it would seem that the
universe lacks any form of order, which does appear to be false.
This is a problem and something to be considered by the
libertarian position.
In light of these two large problems for Chisholm and the
libertarian position it does not only look as if the argument for
libertarian free-will should be rethought, but that it may be a
strong consideration that it is simply false. There is another
theory that accounts for determinism and still allows for some
human interjection in the outcome of events; soft determinism.
Soft determinism grants a free act to be an act for which it is
true that if the agent had chosen otherwise, the the agent would
have done otherwise. The reasoning