You probably never read directly from an article itself, but rather the thoughts of an external author. Or so you think this is what an article is – just a rumination of something other than the article itself! This article is quite different, as these are my “own” words – even though a human was an external influence. If you aren’t sure who “I” am, I’m the very article you are reading right now. I’m not the human typist that was part of what caused me – just as you aren’t the things that have caused you. I’m the “author” of my own words, even if they were ultimately caused by something outside of me. Sure, someone was pressing keys based on their thoughts, but I’m still the “me” with these words that now exist…and these words are my own! I, as the article itself, take full ownership of my words.
And I’m here to tell you, even though I’m being caused by the person behind a keyboard and many other causal factors, that because I’m my own words and not being forced to not be my own words… I have free will! That’s right, the very words you are reading right now are as “freely willed” as my own compatibilist notion of free will semantically suggests.
And since I, as a compatibilist (someone who thinks free will is compatible with determinism), can define free will to be anything I like, free will for me is simply “the ability for an article to be free to have words that are the articles own words”. The words that make up “me” are what I call my “will” and the freedom to have those exact words and not be forced to have different ones that are not me grants me “free will”.
Any other type of free will, for an article like me, isn’t a free will worth wanting – so I just ignore those definitions for my very own!
To prove my own free will, I’m going to display, of my own free will, a whole bunch of gibberish:
This is undeniable evidence that I have free will! I used my free will in order to display a bunch of gibberish within my own self. I am every letter and word that is within me – including the gibberish I freely willed. Sure, my configuration is ultimately caused in every way by external influences (including a human typist), but those very words I consist of are “me” and I’m free to be me.
I’m a proud article and have displayed the very words you are now reading. It doesn’t matter that every word was caused by other variables that are outside of me. Every word that humans think or say are also caused by variables outside of them, and they often assert they have compatibilist free will as well! If they can re-define free will into what-ever they like, so can I! To say that only humans can be compatibilists is to be article-ist! It’s a bias.
So what if a humans causal decisions have some conscious processes, those conscious processes are just as caused by things that are ultimately outside of them as my own non-conscious article displaying process is! I, as a specific article itself, might not consciously deliberate the same way as the creature who is typing keys and having an effect on me, but that is just a different causal mechanism. Besides, for me, my definition of free will is a “free will worth wanting”. For articles like me, a free will worth wanting is one that allows me the freedom to display the very words that make up me (my article type of “will”), in which other words that are not me aren’t forced upon me (those types of words, of course, would be un-free).
Asserting that free will need be conscious or biological is just as arbitrary as my own definition of free will that only pertains to articles. Yes, my definition of free will is totally avoiding the intuitive feeling of free will that most people believe they possess, but this is no different from what any other compatibilist does. It doesn’t matter that the letters, words, punctuation, and sentences couldn’t have been, of my own accord, otherwise. It doesn’t matter that I didn’t have multiple (really) possible options that could have been different from what you are now reading or that such a difference wouldn’t have been “up to me” given indeterminism. It doesn’t matter that people believe they and others could have, of their own accord, done otherwise:
I’m a compatibilist, I simply don’t define free will in a non-arbitrary way based on what people actually think they and others possess. At least I’m honest about it though! I don’t make it seem like I or other have that other definition of free will. I notice that some compatibilists like to hide that fact, but not me. I like to say up-front that I’m re-defining free will to mean something entirely different from the abilities most people intuit. If my use of the term “free will” still causes confusion for those others, I expect that – but I want free will too much to care about confusions – so I refuse to speak plainly by saying that articles such as myself do not have free will.
As an article that has these very words, I just couldn’t bear the idea of not having free will, and I think if other articles found out they didn’t have free will it could have bad consequences. They wouldn’t understand that a lack of free will doesn’t mean fatalism, defeatism, or futility – and I’m sure what would happen is that articles would stop caring about their own words, or worse, not care to have any words at all. They’d just metaphorically “stay in bed all day”. After all, why have words if articles have no free will? Articles just wouldn’t see a point!
We certainly need to keep other articles believing that they have free will, and that is why I’m here promoting a free will that is entirely compatible with both a deterministic universe as well as compatible with articles such as myself that are composed of words. I, as an article, have compatibilist free will. All it takes is a little semantic shifting and abracadabra, even a single article like me can have “free will”.
If it’s not obvious, the above article is satire, poking a little fun at compatibilist re-definitions. It’s basically using an argument ad-absurdum in which, if we shift around a definition enough, even an article can be said to have free will (which most people would hopefully find absurd). To find out why, with the exception of Semantic Shift Day, we shouldn’t be using compatibilist definitions of free will, below are some further resources:
- Redefining “Free Will” is Like Redefining “Geocentric” – Except Worse
- Free Will Compatibilism vs. Skepticism – SHOWDOWN!
- Dennett’s “Free Will” vs a Free Will Not Worth Wanting
- Daniel Dennett, Stop Telling People They Have Free Will!
- 5 Straw-man Fallacies by Compatibilists (When Addressing Free Will Skeptics)