All sorts of unconscious phenomena enter into our considerations , decisions and choices. If you are waiting for the 9:47am bus and it fails to arrive - this event enters into your consciousness unbidden by you. You had no control over it. But now you are thinking “Oh no, I may be late.” At that moment a taxi approaches. Again: unbidden by you and more thoughts, also that you did not author, enter your mind. You now consider “should I hail the taxi?”. You deliberate. You try to create a good explanation.
Was your meeting to be at 10:30am or 11:30am? Maybe you’ve time enough for the next bus. But maybe you shouldn’t risk it and take the taxi.
Parts of this process are unconscious. Much indeed. But parts are conscious as you think and reason to form (create!) a good explanation of what to do next. You have choice before you. The world need not be one way or another. “Bus or taxi?” you must think quick. You must choose. The meeting is at 11:30am you recall in a few milliseconds. “I’ll just wait”. You’ve chosen by reason. Nothing has forced your hand. The decision was a free choice. And exercise of your free will.
Had a terrorist come behind you and pressed to your side a gun that you could see and said “Get that taxi” then new information would come. Now, I would say, when you obey this is different. Certainly you might object - but really you are doing OTHER THAN YOU WANT. Other than you desire. Other than you would have chosen. You are being COERCED. When there is coercion it is not the exercise of FREE WILL. It is something else. It is a decision under duress. Your creativity is being impeded. It is subservient to your survival and emotion and fear especially. You aren’t thinking clearly.
Now in the scenario of the late bus and you just wait peacefully for the next notice that this account has required: creativity, choice and free will. I don’t think we can easily remove any of those. Or if we can they simply “pop up” as another mystery. You may deny free will or even choice. But surely creativity is something you cannot deny. But what are we creating? Explanations. Why one explanation rather than another? We desire - surely. But why? Why desire anything? Do we just slavishly obey impulses or is there deliberation? What is this deliberation? An illusion? So it doesn’t matter if we deliberate? Surely it does matter if we take time to reflect. Surely we create better things? Make better decisions? And isn’t that decision to take time itself something that can be learned? And doesn’t it become a choice? And isn’t choosing to do so a free choice? You aren't being coerced?
What makes people unique? What is this thing? Is it creativity alone? There is something there - something fundamentally different about humans compared to other animals. Whatever it is seems to allow us to break free of our genes and our instincts. Cities, computers, our languages - in short our explanatory knowledge is not encoded in our genes. So that stuff we accomplish that is not encoded in our genes is being generated by our minds by a process we barely understand. We call it "creativity". But it's a thing we direct. We choose to direct our attention, and thus our creativity to this or that thing. And that conscious act of direction is an exercise of free will. What we're often creating is knowledge about how to solve our problems. But what knowledge to create isn't something that is in our genes and it's not "in" the laws of physics. But somehow it nonetheless is "in" the universe - it's part of reality. So when we choose to use this creativity of ours it is a parsimonious technique to simply call this an exercise of our free will.
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