Well, now Kip’s gone and done it! In his attempt to make my free-will-comes-in-degrees view sound silly (well, counterintuitive at least), he’s used the folk against me, claiming that “the average Joe on the street” would think it sounded awkward to ask, “How much free will do you have?”
I agree that question sounds awkward, certainly more awkward than the question, “Do you have free will?” (which sounds a bit strange too, I suppose). I’d say it’s because the question is phrased wrong or perhaps needs to be asked in context. (“How much intelligence do you have?” sounds a little funny too.) But maybe it's because the folk think free will doesn't come in degrees.
But what about these questions—do they sound awkward?
--Do adults have more free will than children?
--Does God have more free will than we do?
--Do we have more free will than dogs have?
--Do children attain more free will as they get older?
--Can you lose some of your free will if you get certain mental disorders? For instance, does a person with schizophrenia have less free will than a normal adult?
--Do you have less free will if you are overcome by emotion?
--Could an incredibly complex robot (like Data on Star Trek) have any free will?
--Do intelligent animals, like chimpanzees, have at least some free will?
--If you have more free will, are you more responsible for your actions?
--Do people become more responsible for their actions as they get older and have more free will?
What if we replace the “free will” talk with “act freely” talk? E.g., Do children act more freely as they get older?
What if we replace it with “up to” talk (the phrase that, in our surveys, seems to track “free will” most closely)? E.g., Are adults decisions more up to them than children’s?
What if we replace it with “morally responsible” talk?
I’m not sure. I guess I’ll try running a study, using the techniques linguists use to test grammatically (also one of the methods Knobe and Prinz use to test intuitions about consciousness): present people with sentences and ask them if they sound right or not (e.g., do they “sound natural” or “sound weird”).
I predict (from my armless armchair) that most folk would think most of the questions about free will sound OK (and would offer some interesting answers to them), though they may think the other formulations (e.g., act freely talk) sound more natural. But it's a prediction that would require testing.
But, now for a survey of gardeners:
--Do you think the answers to such questions would have any bearing on the philosophical debates?
--If so, what? If it came out as I predict, would it help support the claim that free will can be understood as something we possess to varying degrees rather than all or none?
--If not, why not? (Was van Inwagen right when he suggested that outside of philosophical discussions, no one uses the term “free will” except in expressions of the form “act of one’s own free will?)
--Do you have any predictions about what people would say about questions of the form above (or statements with similar form)?
--And most of all, do you have any statements you think would be helpful to test on the folk?