David Edmunds and Nigel Warburton in Salon:
David Edmonds: One way to exercise my freedom would be to act unpredictably, perhaps not to have a typical introduction to a “Philosophy Bites” interview, or to cut it abruptly short mid-sentence. That’s the view of the famous philosopher and cognitive scientist, Daniel Dennett. He also believes that humans can have free will, even if the world is determinist, in other words, governed by causal laws, and he…
Nigel Warburton: The topic we’re focusing on is “Free Will Worth Wanting.” That seems a strange way in to free will. Usually, the free will debate is over whether we have free will, not whether we want it, or whether it’s worth wanting. How did you come at it from this point of view?
Daniel Dennett: I came to realize that many of the issues that philosophers love to talk about in the free will debates were irrelevant to anything important. There’s a bait-and-switch that goes on. I don’t think any topic is more anxiety provoking, or more genuinely interesting to everyday people, than free will But then philosophers replace the interesting issues with technical, metaphysical issues. Who cares? We can define lots of varieties of free will that you can’t have, or that are inconsistent with determinism. But so what? The question is, ‘Should you regret, or would you regret not having free will?’ Yes. Are there many senses of free will? Yes. Philosophers have tended to concentrate on varieties that are perhaps more tractable by their methods, but they’re not important.