The Free Will Puppet Test; An Answer to Compatibilist Obfuscations.

I just realized that there’s a simple way to address much of the confusion that arises when different people, especially academics, use and defend different versions of the term free will. It’s designed especially to tease out what Compatibilists truly believe about the notion, and I call it “The Puppet Test.”

The idea is to ask Compatibilists the following question;  “According to your definition of free will, do we have any more control over what we do than does a puppet?” That simple and straight-forward question should be able to cut through their usual obfuscation and sophistry, and pin them down to addressing the matter as historically defined, and as refuted by Determinists and Impossiblists, (those of us who believe free will is impossible regardless of whether or not the universe is deterministic, meaning governed by the law of cause and effect).

The question that then arises is what percentage of Compatibilists would thereby be forced to concede that, no, we don’t have any more control than does a puppet.

I think this Puppet Test should be considered THE quintessential element of any and every book and paper written on the subject. Failing to including and address it should then be seen as failing to, in any relevant sense, address the matter.

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4 Responses

  1. “The Puppet Test”. Very nice. A very complex puppet with “strings” stemming back to before the puppet even came into being, but certainly no more “control” than a puppet. I find compatibilism looking to bypass the really important questions surrounding what it means for us not to have the “free will” that the compatibilist definitions simply aren’t talking about. Not to mention those “compatibilist” notions of free will are not the free will most people think they possess – which, of course, is just used to confuse people.

  2. The funny thing is that I know compatibilists who would say that the puppet is acting of its own free will as long as no one was holding a gun to its head.

  3. And I think the main reason that free will is properly defined as an illusion is because when the strings are not visible, people conclude that there are no strings.

    A similar example could be used with a radio control toy car. If you don’t see the forces moving it, you may believe the car is acting on its own.

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