Click through for the full version.
see the rest at: A Dialogue on Compatibilism – Existential Comics.
This edition of Existential Comics manages to summarize most of the free will debate. I especially like the discussion on libertarian free will on the second page. As a compatibilist myself, I’ve often said that libertarian free will is incoherent, and this comic explains why.
If we have an immaterial soul, then it still has a nature and is influenced by its experiences. (Everyone believes this, otherwise they wouldn’t worry about the schools their kids attend or the friends they hang out with.) The soul would still function according to some kind of rules. Those rules may be different than the physical universe’s rules, but they would still exist. Otherwise it’s hard to see how the mind could function. The only real difference is that an immaterial soul would preserve a mysterious core of self that we might not ever be able to understand. (Although if we did discover an immaterial soul, I hope we would never cease trying to understand it.)
But, if we remain the summation of our nature and experiences, then the situation for free will is identical whether or not we have an immaterial component to our self. If strict determinism is true (the domino scenario in the comic), then our actions are predetermined. If strict determinism is not true, either through quantum mechanics in brain synapses or some magic randomizer in the soul, our actions may not be predetermined, but they are still not free in the libertarian sense.
All of the metaphysical squabbling over free will is somewhat beside the point. The real issue is whether responsibility remains a coherent concept. Personally, I think the idea of holding people responsible for their actions remains an important societal function. Even if strict determinism is true, knowing that you will be held responsible for your decision will be part of the environment that influences that decision, which means that responsibility serves a purpose.
Note that responsibility doesn’t necessarily mean retributive justice, a straw man that many incompatibilists often like to attack. Many free will libertarians would agree that retributive justice is wrong and unnecessary under the turn-the-other-cheek and similar religious or philosophical doctrines. Most thoughtful people can agree that we can have moral responsibility tempered with mercy.