I recently started to verbalize my ideas on what the “basics of reality” are, resulting from some years of rather casual thinking about the “basic questions of life”. In that process, I hit with the concept of free will, which is a challenging problem in my system.
Wherever one speaks of “free will” and means something that can come up with decisions out of no reason, this is not free will but chance. Because everything that happens for no reason is, per definition, chance. And you surely won’t reason for man being responsible for his actions because he made random decisions. So we cannot have attribute-less, reason-free, unqualified “free will”.
What there can be is decisions because of a reason, where the reason can be a logical conclusion, or the character of a person, which is either an inclination to good or bad. In confirmation of that view, in practice logical reasons and other influential factors can be assigned to every human decision.
Man can only be responsible if he knew that his own behavior is “morally untrue”, i.e. against the will of God. And, penalty is only a just action if man knew of the impending penalty for his morally untrue behavior. Else, a reason to obey (the fear of penalty) would have been inaccessible to the mind of the respective person. Also, knowing that ones own behavior is untrue will make the (hardware-based) conscience ring.
Now to uphold behavior against the will of God, man must employ self-deceit, namely, thinking that God is small. But self-deceit is a lie, so his conscience will ring, being a DNA-contributed “program”.
Emotion as the source of non-rational behavior in man must be involved in the free ill issue: only if man chooses an emotional (non-rational) decision though knowing that the opposite only would be true, this can be thought to be an act of the will, as it’s not guided by reason in any mechanical way. In Eden, the right option would have been an (in that situation) non-rational decision for God, out of positive emotion towards God. Today, emotional decisions to do evil in spite of knowing that it’s untrue are decisions of the (free) will.
Which means also, free will decisions can only be towards items one is emotional about (towards persons and animals and plants and things, e.g. “loving ones car”). And, free will decisions are only possible if logic and emotion point in different directions. Emotions are influenced by facts, but slowly, and only if a persona allows it.
It must be wrong to think that you can sort out an instance or subsystem in man that “is” the free will. Because that would be either separate from all other subsystems, so tat its decisions are chance, not free will. Or it would be a reasoning subsystem, so that its decisions are logic, not free will (and perhaps chance, where logic cannot come to an conclusion).
Rather, free will is a joint achievement of the whole system “man”, including brain, emotions, body, senses, etc.. It is not free in the sense that there would be an arbiter (the “heart”, or “person”), independent from everything, that emits decisions. Instead, free will is qualified with all attributes of the individual system “man”, and necessarily so because else it would be chance. But, free will is free because it cannot be guessed out, because it’s the result of a complex system (an emergence?), that is, being mad up in a feedback-rich process. There are multiple influence factors like emotions, simulations in thought, aims, experiences, memories, logic, values (“first principles”) etc.. To get to a decision, these (which together make up the “inner man”) are in chaotic interaction, like influence factors of weather, and it might be even in theory impossible to calculate the system behavior even when knowing the starting conditions most exactly, as thoughts are not exact in character, but can take on various degrees and forms in various contexts (“fuzziness”).
So after all, we have the whole man being involved in a decision, and it’s free because it cannot be guessed out before, but it’s qualified so that an educated guess will often be correct. If man is a self-referential information-based system, there is no meaning in saying he decides “as he wants”. Instead, he makes up his will by making a decision, because before the decision, there is nothing that knows or can known what man wants.
Now the interesting question is, can man influence “himself”, i.e. the content of his inner man that will eventually lead to a decision? Yes, if he happens to decide (because of some external event, perhaps) to submit himself to a situation that will change his character, or to an authority that he wants to obey.
The problem with this view is, does it reduce man to a machine? The answer could be, man is a machine that nobody can understand, and that lives on its own. Then, “personality” (including responsibility etc.) is a concept introduced to regulate the interactions (social interactions) of such machines. The interesting question is, then, if only man is such a machine (because he’s an image / model of God, not a real God) and God a “real person”, or if being a real person and being such a machine are identical things.
If you have a machine that understands the basic stuff about the objective reality, then this machine can be responsible. Because it understands that it must decide adequate decisions according to that understanding, which includes the will of God, the role of love, the mode of function of societies etc..
The chaotic mode of making up decisions should not let you get the impression, these decisions would be made by chance or by illogical means. It’s rather comparable to an unguided group decision process.(And in addition, in this process every “group member” learns from a decision for its behavior in the next decision process.) Free ill is therefore free as a group decision can be. In the internal decision process, group members are individual emotions, thoughts, memories etc..
Now, if there is no free will in the sense that everybody could decide in every situation “whatever he wants”, but he’s mostly bound by inclinations and stuff, what about responsibility? Ain’t it unjust to treat people as responsible for their actions? Yes, if responsibility is understood as being the justification for vengeance. But no, if it is assumed that, though somebody might not have been really able to avoid an evil deed, he’s able to change, or better, be changed by education. The concept of responsibility would then be an expression of the moral will of God, namely, to bring morally deviant individuals “back on track” by means of education (which even might include educational punishment). The difficulty here is, how would a concept of eternal punishment (“hell”) fit in?