Why the Free Will Debate Never Ends

Julian Baggini in The Philosophers' Magazine:

ScreenHunter_1431 Oct. 16 18.18The free will debate is one of the oldest in philosophy and considered by many to still be one of the most intractable. Hume thought he knew why. He believed that whenever a dispute persists for very long without resolution, “we may presume that there is some ambiguity in the expression, and that the disputants affix different ideas to the terms employed in the controversy.” And so he thought by resolving the ambiguity all people of good sense would see they had nothing to disagree about.

Two hundred years later, when P F Strawson had his stab at the problem, the disagreements were as wide as ever, and unlike Hume, Strawson was under no illusion that he would resolve them. “This lecture is intended as a move towards reconciliation,” he said at the beginning of his classic 1962 essay “Freedom and Resentment,” “so it is likely to seem wrongheaded to everyone.”

There's a lot still be said for Hume's diagnosis of the problem, and his solution. Hume argued that there was no contradiction between accepting that human beings are fully part of nature, their actions subject to the same laws of cause and effect as anything else, and believing that we have free will. Free will is not some magical power to escape the necessity of nature but a capacity to make choices free from coercion.

More here.