Rational and adaptive delusions: the evolution of free will

Evolution of Free Will

(free will as counterfactuals, showing why such a perception would be selected for, and why a meta-awareness of the illusory quality of ‘it could have been otherwise’ would NOT be selected for. E.g. Procedural programming.

The only way to truly determine if some has the choice to make a decision one way or another is to have them live the exact same life … and see whether or bot conscious decision-making has another part in what you.
—Joe Rogan

Is there not a choice there? Is there not a choice?

The basic premise is as follows: It’s been repeatedly demonstrated that strong, metaphysical formulations of free will appear to be incoherent. These formulations, when examined, appear to require of us a capacity to determine our actions that is itself neither determined nor random. Yet, an intuitive sense of freedom is manifest in our phenomenal experience of choice. When imagining the past, we feel “I could have done otherwise,” and in imaging the future we feel “I can do differently.” And so we’re off to the races to tell a story that resolves the apparent incoherence of free will and preserves our intuitions.

As good naturalists, however, we might want to take full stock of what our best sciences tell us, and see where that leaves us. Just as with projects in naturalistic metaethics, this might leave us in a very different starting place than we may anticipate.

Strong metaphysical free will can be formulated as the thesis that “we could have done otherwise” in the past, and that “we can do differently” in the future. We can approach this from a naturalistic perspective, and ask “why do we feel committed to these propositions?” Contemporary cognitive science and evolutionary biology may provide a compelling answer; one that has the virtue of being obvious in hindsight. Commitments to this form of free will fall out of the evolution of counter-factual thinking—the ability to imagine things other than they are. A compelling evolutionary story can be told as to why we developed such a capacity. From this, we can examine the implications of the evolution of counter-factual thinking for free will. It will emerge that the evolution of such a capacity can occur in way wholly orthogonal to the existence of genuine free will. As a corollary, it can be shown that organisms having developed this capacity to think they could do otherwise may be oriented by natural selection to reify this counterfactual thinking into ontological fact. An implication of this is that, if we have good reasons for believing in the truth of free will, they cannot come from our phenomenal experience of it. We may have to locate free will as a specie of adaptive illusion.