Many people believe that they have freedom of will. That is, they believe that they are going through life making free decisions at every turn. They may see themselves as the captain of their ship, and therefore worthy of praise when they do good acts, and perhaps, deserving of blame when they act wrongly.
I don’t think praise and blame are great tools for shaping behavior. I do think they influence future behavior, however. Just not always in the way we might hope. I think better options exist. I may offer a post on those options in the future.
A free decision is one that could have been otherwise, at the exact moment when the decision was made. To use an example previously offered by Sam Harris, it’s like looking back on your life and thinking “You know, I could have been a firefighter, instead of a police officer.”
But in fact, if you could somehow rewind the state of the Universe to before you made that decision, you’d still make the same decision. And unless something in the setup (the state of the Universe at the time you made your decision) changed, you would continue to choose “police officer” rather than “firefighter” every time you ran this experiment.
While I don’t believe people have free will, many people do. In my view the widespread belief in free will brings great damage and suffering in the world.
If you wish to do so, please consider this short video by Gregg Caruso on “The Dark Side of Free Will”: