In the first part, I argued that non-determined events need not be random (where ‘random’ means that there is no causal explanation of why this rather than that alternative possibility is or would be realized given the fully-specified initial conditions). I conceded, for the sake of argument at least, that if intentional action (choice, decision) were
random, then intentional action would not be as we take it to essentially be (the concept of free will would have no application in the actual world). But this is not exactly obvious. I think this conditional statement deserves some unpacking and that, once we unpack it, it is vindicated (and clarified).
First things first: ‘random’, when applied to intentional actions, generally refers to the action not making much sense relative to the structure of reasons that the agent has. For example, I, like I suppose many, have a fleeting curiosity about what it would be like to jump off of a building and plummet to the ground. But I love my life and my desire to have this sort of experience is a mere whim. So if I did this (we don’t always act in accordance with our considered preference orderings) my action would be considered random. It is not explained by, and does not make sense relative to, my beliefs and considered preference orderings (and perhaps even in relation to the relative strength of my desires at the time of action). ‘Random’ in this sense concerns rationalization specifically, not causation. Any sense of ‘random’ associated with causally undetermined outcomes is causal. And I’ve suggested that the relevant sense of causal randomness is, specifically, the absence of a cause or explanation for why this as against that alternative possibility is realized from some fully-specified initial conditions.
If this is indeed the relevant sense of ‘random’, then, if an free, intentional action must be such that the agent determines which of more than one alternative possibility (in action or non-action) is realized, the putative incompatibility is explained in a clear way: if an action were random, there would be no cause or explanation – agential or otherwise – for why this as against that possible alternative (alternative action or non-action) would be realized. In this way, the putative incompatibility between an action being free and it being random is made precise and vindicated.
But an action being non-determined (unlike an action being determined) appears to be compatible with intentional action or free will in the robust alternative-possibilities sense. Or, if it is not, this is not for the same reason that causally random action would be incompatible with intentional or free action. In part three, I’ll apply the model from part one and show how it provides the right elements for the beginnings of an account of how free will works (and of how it is the sort of thing that we think it is). I’ll also apply the model to the biological system that intentional action (or free will) is a part of, showing how that model, plus some additional conditions, would provide the right elements for demystifying and explaining the sort of functional or goal causation that occurs in living systems.