Is the properly basic belief that I have free will indefeasible? I’m thinking of the fact that a properly basic belief can be defeated but was wondering how far that goes. So can someone ever provide a defeater for the idea that we have free will. The thought came to me again when I was listening to a podcast by Glenn Andrew Peoples and he made a comment about how we should give up the idea of free will if a good enough theory (of mind) came along that denied free will. I disagree with Glenn on this but was wondering if you ever could be presented with defeaters for free will. I can sort of see an undercutting defeater might but not a rebutting defeater.
For those who may not be familiar with the issue, a properly basic belief is a belief that is held via non-doxastic justification, which is self-evident to the subject. For example, a properly basic belief is the belief that I am a mind or that there is an external reality beyond myself. The first question is whether or not free will is a properly basic belief–and I think not.
Suppose a scientist has placed an electrode in Jones’s brain so that he can read what Jones is going to do on any occasion and can cause him to do whatever the scientist desires. Now suppose the scientist wants Jones to Kill Smith, and Jones himself, in the absence of any influence from the scientist, is deliberating about the murder. If Jones decides not to kill Smith, the scientist will activate the electrode and cause the killing, but he does not need to do so because Jones carries out the act on his own. Here Jones was free but could not have acted otherwise.
What’s important here is what Jones knows. Does Jones know that he has free will? I don’t think so, at least not from this scenario. In each scenario Jones may believe that he has free will but as an external observer we can see that he clearly doesn’t.
I think one’s theory of mind is only secondary to the issue of free will. I’m not saying it’s not important but it’s not paramount. Whether one is an emergentist, materialist, substance dualist, form dualist, or whatever, the issue of free will has to be a consequent of our metaethics. In other words, the question of objective moral values/duties/prohibitions are antecedent to the question of free will.
By objective I mean that the truth value of such moral facts are true regardless of whether or not anyone recognizes them to be true. For instance, raping and torturing children for pleasure is wrong. Teenage girls being trafficked around the world for sex is abominable. One ought to love others. One ought not to rape and murder.
If one ought to do X one must be capable of X. So, if it is the case that ought implies can then we must at least affirm the principle of alternative possibilities. Suppose I’m standing in line at a buffet restaurant and I pick up my metal silverware and I accidentally slip and fall in to the person in front of me. I stab this person with my knife and fork and cause severe damage. Am I morally responsible for this? No. I was just another cog in a cause and effect series of events. However, if I acted this out purposively and intended to stab the person in front of me then the action seems to require justice. If there is such a thing a objective fairness/justice then an agent must be responsible for his actions. If I’m not morally responsible for anything then I don’t see a reason to affirm free will here. However, if moral responsibility obtains then I would have to be free.
So, I think free will is something we arrive at abductively, as an inference to the best explanation to the reality of objective morality.
- Free will is antecedently necessary to objective moral values, duties, and prohibitions.
- Objective moral values, duties, and prohibitions obtain.
- Therefore, free will exists.
Here, the use of abductive reasoning may seem fallacious at first take. This syllogism seems to commit the fallacy of affirming the consequent. The key point is the explanatory scope and power of the explanation. Abductive reasoning does not derive a certain conclusion (for one would then be guilty of affirming the consequent), but it makes an inference to the best explanation. Peirce’s example was whether anyone should believe in the existence of Napoleon. He claimed that the past may be inferred from the study of present effects, namely, artifacts and records. Peirce concluded, “Though we have not seen the man [Napoleon], yet we cannot explain what we have seen without the hypothesis of his existence.” Thus, arguments of the form:
- X is antecedently necessary to Y,
- Y exists,
- Therefore, X existed.
are logically valid by philosophers.
Its application to this case is that a particular abductive hypothesis can be firmly established if it can be shown that it represents the best or only explanation of the effects in question (objectivity of moral values, duties, and prohibitions). Whatever the best explanation is it cannot be contrived ad hoc or post hoc but must be related to the evidence and must follow from the evidence. Abduction allows for a powerful predictive capability. Abductive reasoning allows for the positing of the best explanation, which may lie beyond, external to, the data. The conclusion does not rest in any of the premises.
- Ultimate Responsibility: UR indicates that an acting agent is responsible for the outcome and origin of decisions made.
- Agent Causation: A person is the source and origin of choices.
- Principle of Alternative Possibilities: At crucial times, the ability to choose or refrain form choosing is genuinely available. 1 Cor 10.13 promises that God “will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it.” It follows that any Christian who does not in some circumstance endure but succumbs to temptation had it within his power to take the way of escape instead, i.e., he had the liberty of opposites in those circumstances.
- Reality of Will-Setting Moments: A person does not always have the ability to choose to the contrary–certain free choices result in the loss of freedom.
- Distinction Between Freedom of Responsibility and Freedom of Integrity: The Bible presents freedom as permission (FR) and as a power (FI). FR is the ability to be the originator of a decision, choice, or action. Because a human being is the agent or cause of an action he is responsible for the moral nature of that action and its consequences. For example, if a man hears someone in the lake calling for help, someone who cannot swim has a different level of responsibility from the one who simply chooses not to respond. FI is the ability to do what is right–ought implies can. 
In the end, I don’t think free will is a properly basic belief and I don’t think we should abandon it because we have a better theory of mind. If such a theory of a mind incorporates the metaethical parameters I’ve discussed here as to the reality of objective moral facts then, sure, go ahead, but I think the discussion has been slightly misplaced.
 See William Lane Craig, JP Moreland, Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2003), 270.
 Charles Sanders Peirce, “Abduction and Induction” in The Philosophy of Pierce, ed. J. Buchler (London: Routledge, 1956), 375.
 See Kenneth Keathley, Salvation and Sovereignty (Nashville, TN: B&H, 2010), 73.