They say that a person is free as long as he can choose to do what he wills.
(For more background, read this.)
This seems to make sense. But the problem is that the words don't mean what they seem to mean.
R. J. Rummel Professor Emeritus of Political Science from University of Hawaii explains:
What does it mean to say that we are free? One answer, proposed by Hobbes and Tolstoy and favored by the contemporary empiricist, is that we are free insofar as we may do as we wish without hindrance or constraint. If thus free the question about the will's freedom is meaningless, for freedom then refers to whether a person can do what he chooses, not to the choosing itself; it refers to the freedom of the action, not to the choice of act. A person's will could be enslaved by the passions, chained to Freudian complexes, bound to the body's needs, limited by heredity, and necessitated by environmental causes, and yet by this meaning of freedom, he could be totally free to do that which is determined.
Translation: Free will defined in this way is meaningless. In this definition, free will only means that I am "free" to do what I am compelled to do by my completely-determined will. This is a category mistake. It confuses the freedom to act with the freedom to choose. In this view, a brainwashed person is free.
Freedom thus defined may resolve simply and satisfactorily the determinism-free will controversy for some, but at the cost of ignoring its essence, for freedom as simply measuring a lack of constraint or opposition is not freedom as usually intuited by those posing the question. It violates common sense to call free a person who is determined in his course like an object thrown through the air and following its trajectory without opposition.
Translation: While this definition may allow people to win philosophical or theological arguments, in practical terms it is bankrupt. This "freedom" is not freedom. This is doubletalk worthy of Orwell's label of Newspeak. Inevitability is really choice. White is really black. Manipulation is really freedom.
For Kant, freedom is an independence of the will of motivations, character, and external causes. It is more than just the power to choose. Freedom is the power to fulfill our moral oughts (ought implies can), to will as reason directs, to be a first cause of events.
At the heart of this doublespeak is a reductionist view of the human will.
Calvin and Hobbes reduce the will to nothing more than a calculator, one that can perform only one operation: determining which of two numbers is greater.
In other words, this view of the will makes a human being no different from an animal in acting on desires. An animal "chooses" to act in response to its strongest desire. Yet humans seem to have the capacity to choose between desires on the basis of values.
This view of the will also does not allow for second-order desires: desires to have or not have a desire. As humans, we can want a piece of cake, but we can also want not to want the cake. We can choose to act on our second-order desire instead of being a slave to our first-order desire.
A robust view of free will does not require that people always can choose to act in a different way. It only requires that in some cases a person could have chosen a different course of action.
The compatibilist would argue that a person's choices are determined by his or her character. The answer is that, while character influences actions, actions also shape character. And at least some of our choices are free in a libertarian sense. If all a person's choices are determined, then in what sense is he or she a person?
If no choices are free in the libertarian sense, then most the Bible collapses into nonsense.
In Genesis 4:6–7, Yahweh says to Cain,
"Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it."
Is this just a piece of theater, or does Cain have a real choice?
Joshua's call to choose (Joshua 24) is pointless pilling on, if the people really are "not able to serve the Lord."
Paul explains to the Christians in Corinth (1 Corinthians 9:16–18):
When I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me. What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make use of my rights in preaching it.
He is saying that
- He has no choice whether to preach the gospel.
- He is compelled by God to do so.
- The only free act he can choose is to preach the gospel "free of charge," not to insist upon his rights to receive compensation from those to whom he preaches.
The compatibilist would turn this argument into gibberish.
If I were all powerful, I wouldn't make everyone believe in libertarian free will. But I would make people stop using the word choice to mean something that is entirely determined.
"Helping you become the person God created you to be"