After posting this, I thought it might be fun to go see what others have written on the topic. It was, indeed, fun and I ended up having some interesting conversations that pushed me to further thought.
I’ll quote myself from one of those conversations and link to a couple of other articles that I found the most stimulating. (There were more but I don’t want to bury folks in links. If you want to look further, click the Free Will tag and look in the archives for the last few years.)
A More Concise Formulation
One discovery is there’s a whole lot of Sam Harris freaks out there. The main response from that position is that a conscious act is the result of an unconscious act that happens first. That’s precisely what I’m disagreeing with. I think Harris frames up the problem in a way that preordains the result and that his framing is misguided.
The bold below is me quoting myself from a discussion on Medium with Reggie Paquette attached to his Free Will Doesn’t Exist. (Thanks, Reggie, for pushing me to think further.) The core of what I’m claiming is that our conscious choices have real agency!
I think free will got defined in a way that excluded determinism and this has clouded the discussion.
My point is that the process of making a conscious choice is embodied/physical/determined and to split it out as something non-physical is a mistake.
…don’t claim the choice lacked agency. The [conscious] choice is precisely the physical mechanism that has agency not some other ‘hidden’ process with an unnecessary conscious color-commentator riding shotgun as a secondary process.
Also, check out the Medium publication A Philosopher’s Stone.