Originally posted by darthmix
I agree that, if free will is an illusion, it's a necessary one.
Without free will there can be no self, and it's pretty much impossible to live your life as though you have no self, even if it's objectively true.
Premise: "Without free will there can be no self".
I would broaden this to read: "Without some degree of free will there can be no consciousness".
Then, given this premise, and given my own undeniable and direct apprehension of my own consciousness, I must conclude that free-will objectively exists.
However, a logical proof of the existence of free will is superfluous, since I experience my own free will directly and undeniably.
If "science" only includes mechanistic determinism and randomness as causal modes, it is clear that science (at least, in its contemporary version) is inaccurate, or incomplete, or both.
A familiarity with the history and philosophy of science can be liberating and illuminative: in the 19th century, for example, the model of a "clockwork universe" (mechanistically deterministic) was widely accepted. The basic models then accepted were regarded as fundamentally correct, and practical science was conceived of merely as the process of dotting the i's and crossing the t's.
In the 20th century the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics introduced acausality (ontological randomness) as a radical departure.
Chaos theory introduced another radical departure: the mathematical embodiments of many physical laws demonstrate a sensitive dependence on initial conditions; and the existence of both practical and theoretical limitations on the accuracy of measuring processes mean that even within the context of a deterministic universe, initial conditions cannot be specified with absolute accuracy. Since systems with sensitive dependence on initial conditions demonstrate rapid and large divergences in behavior, given two sets of initial conditions separated by arbitrarily small differences, this also implies that complex systems are intrinsically unpredictable.
It should be pointed out that neither of these ideas (acausality and chaos theory's concept of sensitive dependence on initial conditions) provide empirical or theoretical support for free will. Free will must be regarded as a qualitatively different causal agency than either mechanistic materialism or acausality. The point is that, even for those who regard science as the means to truth, the history of science suggests that fundamental modifications of the physical model of reality remain plausible. Therefore, conclusions drawn on the basis of the assumption that science has already discovered and acknowledged the foundational principles of reality, should be regarded as suspect even by the conventional-minded. Furthermore, the proper way to conduct science, according to science, is to begin with factual observations and fit theory to them, not to begin with theory and exclude observations which fail to demonstrate consistency with it. Anyone who fails to acknowledge that consciousness is an order of phenomena fundamentally different from physical systems which do not involve it, can safely be accused of hypocrisy and dogmatism.
Furthermore, quantum theory itself depends centrally on the concept of something it calls "the observer", and this must of logical necessity supercede the phenomenological elements it interacts with, since in the theory, the "observational act" is what collapses quantum superpositions into definite states and eliminates associated uncertainties. "The observer" is not a derivative aspect of a quantum system (since otherwise it would be superfluous), but is instead treated as one which acts independently on such systems. This is as close to the implication of the existence of free-willed conscious entities as quantum mechanics comes, but it's close enough to be highly suggestive.
My own philosophical views are considerably more radical: I do not believe that the concepts of mechanistic materialism or statistical probability stand up to logical scrutiny; and the very concepts of time and space are fundamentally flawed. To me, "science" represents an attempt by an insufficiently developed mind to impose order and predictability on phenomena of a fundamentally different metaphysical class -- one which must of necessity both incorporate the observer and recognize the central role of the observer in the creation of reality. Models which are local rather than global, or which invoke various kinds of infinite regress, or which attempt to reconcile strict randomness with order, will never reach the truth. I am also a solipsist.