Free will is the philosophical idea that people have the ability to make decisions at least partially independent from outside influences, including the causal chain of events of the universe. I do not believe in free will and am therefore a determinist. I believe that free will would require a supernatural basis to work, and, even if one existed, it would still be impossible to prove the concept of free will without time travel. I believe that humans, like every other physical object in the universe, are part of a causal chain of events and cannot "will" any changes to the universe in the traditional sense of the word. However, I don't think that this means people are not responsible for their actions or that justice is negatively affected. On the contrary, I see determinism as invoking superior justice because it eliminates the logic behind retribution. In the future I'll explain my beliefs in more detail.
Piano player analogy
Without free will, we're robots
Without free will, there is no justice
This is a thought experiment is named so as to criticize a belief held by philosopher Jean Buridan who said that, when faced with a choice, a person should always choose the action that results in the greatest good. But, when the choices appear equal, the decision is deadlocked until it changes and a decision can be made. The thought experiment could be worded as follows:
- Imagine a hungry and thirsty ass standing equally distant between buckets of food and water. Since each is equally tantalizing, the animal will not be able to make a decision toward either, and will die of starvation and thirst.
The thought experiment is often applied to determinism suggesting that, without free will, we should expect a person will get caught between two equally alluring options, and become paralyzed with indecision.
To me, this thought experiment misses the whole point of determinism, which is the belief that agents don't make their own choices at all, but are ultimately the result of the laws of physics, and, in physics, there is no doubt that deadlocks occur. A magnet suspended in the air by another magnet with an aligned pole demonstrates a deadlock between the forces of gravity and magnetism, and no amount of free will on behalf of the magnet will change that. Of course, the human mind has many layers of complexity above these basic laws, and sensory input is always fluctuating, so it becomes effectively impossible for such a deadlock to occur.