Calling all philosophers! [Cue Rodin’s The Thinker searchlight-figure cutting through the Gotham night.]
Suppose that C, as a brutely probabilistic matter, has a 50% chance of causing/producing E1 and an equal chance of causing/producing E2. Now suppose that condition K causes the E1-as-against-E2 probability to shift, say, to 80/20. And suppose that, with condition K holding, E1 happens. Because the causation is probabilistic, this event is not causally determined (or necessitated). However, that E1 happened (is what C caused/produced rather than E2) is partially explained by condition K holding. So that E1 happened (is what C caused) is not random (not causally random or causally unexplained).
If this is right, then, at least as a conceptual matter, events, including intentional action, might be non-determined yet also non-random. This is important if you think that intentional action could not be causally necessitated and also could not be causally random (on pain of not counting as intentional action or as an exercise of free will). However, if this third category of non-determined-yet-non-random events is coherent, then we have a basic metaphysical framework sufficient for conceptually (and, along with some other elements, perhaps empirically or as-an-actually-existing-thing) vindicating free will.
The idea that there is no such third category here seems to enjoy quite a bit of currency in philosophical circles (e.g., Nomy Arpaly) and also naturalist/physicalist/atheist popular intellectual circles (e.g., Yuval Harari). If I’m right here, the clear-headed naturalist should not be throwing out free will from conceptual jump street.
Does my proposal work? To what extent is it original?
(Irfan reminds me that Robert Nozick has a somewhat similar proposal in his book, Philosophical Explanations. I’m working through the relevant bits of that. So far, Nozick’s view seems sloppily in the same ballpark, but not clearly similar enough to be the same proposal.)
(I have two related thoughts that I am saving for later – hence ‘part one’ in the heading. One is around the idea of causal randomness being incompatible with free will. Why think this? The other builds on the above model, adding a copy-generation-and-selection mechanism, to create a model of how you could get causal sequences tuned to specific, initially-improbable outcomes without something akin to a miracle. These two thoughts turn out to be connected via the idea of mental, rationalizing causation being both at the heart of free will and a particular kind of functional or goal causation. But first things first.)