Some people confuse where the “Burden of Proof” actually is with the free will debate. The Burden of Proof places the onus on the person making a claim to justify that claim with evidence. Some seem to think that because people experience a feeling of free will, that they don’t hold a Burden of Proof. This is not the case. The feeling of possessing free will is not evidence for the actual ability of free will. The only thing the feeling proves is that they have a feeling of free will. It does not prove the existence of free will anymore than the appearance that trains get smaller and eventually vanish at the horizon proves it actually does.
So who holds the Burden of Proof for the free will debate. The above infographic is here to help out. Basically, the person who claims that “Free Will Exists” is making a positive assertion that they hold the Burden of Proof for. But the Hard Determinist or Hard Incompatibilist often take on the Burden of Proof to “Prove a Negative”. That means they are willing to take on a burden to disprove the positive claim that free will exists. This can be done through a proof of impossibility, in other words, showing how free will is logically impossible as I do in the book Breaking the Free Will Illusion for the Betterment of Humankind. It also can be accomplished by giving evidence that point to free will not really existing. For example, the neuroscientific evidence is some scientific evidence that points to the fact that we don’t really have free will.
Someone who does not hold a belief in free will due to a lack of evidence does not hold a burden of proof either way. The default is not to believe in any existence claim until the Burden of Proof has been met by the person making the positive assertion.
If you find this (animated) infographic useful, please share it on your website, email, or social media with a link back. Spread the information around. And of course if someone claims they don’t hold the Burden of Proof for their “free will exists” position, point them here!
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