Wagering on Free Will

If you don’t think the evidence can decide the question on free will, you might run a wager style argument, as some studies have suggested that belief in free will encourages moral behavior (Vohs KD, et al. Psychol Sci. 2008). 

Ah, but you object that wager-style arguments cannot motivate belief because you think doxastic voluntarism is false. Well, give it a shot and try to believe on the basis of this wager. And if you succeed, you will have more than pragmatic reasons for holding your belief. As William James puts it, “[t]here are… cases where a fact cannot come at all unless a preliminary faith exists in its coming” (The Will to Believe, 1896).

Belief in free will may be just the sort of belief that verifies itself, if one is able to believe in it while admitting the evidence isn’t sufficient on its own to compel belief.  If one chooses to believe because one thinks it is not a possibility closed off by science, and assesses the merits of the belief from pragmatic concerns, then one has the sort of first-person experience of freedom that libertarians tout even in the face of Libet tests.

In other words, see if you can bring yourself to believe in free will by wagering on it, and thus experiencing direct evidence of doxastic voluntarism, i.e. direct control over your own beliefs.

Posted on August 3, 2017, in Free Will and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Hello Daniel!

    I will be honest, I am a new reader of yours, and eventhough I understand only a fraction of your posts, I am glad I found this blog.

    If I may be so brash and ask something of you, which would be look at an argument against theism? I suspect I know what is wrong with it, but I still lack the philosophical rigor (that you undoubtedly have), to formulate it. Would you be so kind and take a look at it? I would provide a link to the blogpost arguing for said argument

    Kind regards, Jonas

  2. Hey! Just dropping in… been a few years. Thinking about starting up again… cheers

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