- Our biology. This sets a first level where a first approach to "what is possible" is determined.
- Our history. What you acquire through your life will set both a second level of approach to "whats possible," but also your knowledge of whats best for you and what you think gets you near that state. This is the most complex level to grind down.
- Our emotion. Your history and knowledge are not used holistically at all times. You just use a part of it at any given time. Your mood will determine what things you will pay attention to, and which will pass unnoticed.
Hard determinism can be true, and yet still only apply to immutable choice. In other words, if the choices are only A and B, then hard determinism holds reign over those choices. But are A and B always the only choices and cannot be changed? Or, are they accepted choices based on conditions and/or coercion? If something arbitrarily only allows you choice A and B, that is not an invalidation of free will, it’s a description of oppression.
Trying to shove determinism into a choice between A and B is an oppression. So how would actual real live determinism work?
Determinist are in a way existentialists. They make all the choices about them, according to their circumstances. They rarely stop to ask why their choices are so limited in the first place. Determinism isn’t true just because a choice was mitigated by preexisting conditions. It is true only if those preexisting conditions only allowed for certain choices to be made. Those choices only.
If you can prove that a different choice or set of choices could be made for the exact same circumstances, then determinism is not true.
"If the universe is predetermined, as it may be, then where would you get choices from, no matter how noticeably limited they seem?"
That's the question that determinism doesn't answer. Is the universe predetermined? And if it is, is that a condition that continued indefinitely?
We are conflating simple causality with hard determinism. Causality says that if this event occurs, then that event will follow. But the event that follows is partially dictated by forces external to the first event and probability. Any number of events could occurs, which would explain the seemingly random nature of the universe on a micro scale. However, determinism states that if this event occurs, then that event (and only that event) will follow. No other event was possible, even with the probability added by external forces.
I don't think determinism does solve anything. Even if it were true, which I doubt, it is just as explanation of what is already occurring, not some new revelation. And it certainly wouldn’t stop people from believing they have free will.
Life has a unique property: it has the ability to subvert or work around certain physical laws. Such as entropy. This is why we often refer to the byproducts of life's thinking properties as being "unnatural," at least as far as humans are concerned. I think that the universe as a whole is not so determined. I don’t think that every event that occurs in the universe had to occur in that one particular way. I think there are points in our reality when any particular event could have gone an equal number of ways. Not in every circumstance, but in enough to prove determinism false. I believe quantum mechanics is heading in a direction that confirms this.
However, at the same time, I don't think humans have free will for the most part. But it is not because of the properties of the universe as a whole, but because of that ability of ours to subvert nature. We remove free will from ourselves though social programming. A lot of it is also removed as a result of our genetic (parental) programming.
Being so thoroughly programmed as we are, I think we have a hard time imagining that the universe itself is not programmed. This also leads to certain Gods concept. We just can't imagine the universe is running on random. It's too hard for some people to wrap their heads around because everything about themselves says the universe is "designed," not random. But this is a position of bias and a hypocritical one as well. Because if you ask these same people if they also believe they have free will, the majority of them will say yes. Few "believers" stop to investigate the claim that: 1] the universe is random, 2] as living beings, we evolved to take full advantage of the randomness, and 3] that randomness now looks like a design to us, not because it is a design, but because like an abstract painting, we are seeing the design we want to see in the lines and circles.
So ultimately, I believe the majority opinion that "the universe is not free (designed by God), but we are free" is a negation contradiction of the actual truth which is "if the universe is not free, so do we." It wouldn't be the first time humanity held a majority view that turned out to be completely wrong.
And somewhere in there exists the hypothesis that if the universe is not determined, then at some point, even a self-imposed, genetically imposed removal of free will can in some instances be overruled by an act of will.
No, I don't believe in free will. Yes, I make my own destiny.