We Mormons are pretty naive about things like this, and I certainly include myself in this.  We throw around concepts like free agency willy-nilly without much understanding of what we are even talking about.  This post will be something of an example of this.  I know this will be terribly novice, please feel free to use small words to improve my thinking about this.  But I have been trying to figure out for myself what free will even is, or perhaps better – what is the phenomenon of choice?

A while ago Clark passed along some links to MIT course notes on free will here.  Some of my current understanding comes from this.  But here are some thoughts about what the phenomenon of choice means to me:

We have a limited ability to act in order to improve our situation.
We have motivation to act to improve our situation, even if it is based on partial information – or even random acts.
There is a lack of complete coercion forcing our choices.
We have some memory of past acts and their consequences.
We have a limited ability to deliberate prior to some acts.
We have the ability to choose what criteria to use for such deliberation.
Our choices are so complex that they may never be objectively the best choice among all possible alternatives.

So, the phenomenon of choice is the limited ability and motivation to select the criteria to deliberate among a partial set of possible options, and to act on the subjective results of such deliberation.

That may be terribly bad.  But dictionary definitions don’t seem much better – philosophically speaking.  But such definitions do not prove free will at all I think.   One could question that all of the above come from some prior cause.  Where do our abilities come from?  What are our deliberations based on?  I still feel there is something of a trump card that Mormonism has in the defense of real free will – and that is the eternal, uncreated intelligence of man.  This intelligence (whatever it may be) came before any claimed prior cause.  Whether it is the religious dogma of God’s creative acts, or the scientific claims of natural forces, nothing comes before the eternal intelligence.

That’s about all I got.

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