Need, or Want?
Can’t, or Won’t?
The buck stops here:
Do, or Don’t.
There has never been a conclusive proof of free will—but there has never been a conclusive refutation of it, either. Biologically speaking, my actions may well be predetermined by the initial state of my brain and the input I have received from my environment—but that state is too complex for any human brain to understand. Human behavior can often be accurately modeled in the aggregate—but no individual is completely predictable. Quantum effects tantalize us with an “explanation” of free choice, or at least a random element—but computers are built on the quantum effects of semiconductors and are viewed as wholly rational and predictable—yet computers are also notoriously difficult to understand in their totality, even one at a time.
So reliably distinguishing a desire from a necessity, or an aversion from an inability, is nearly impossible in oneself, and even harder when looking at others. Intent is unknowable, even in oneself.
Yet I still want to judge people’s negative actions more harshly if they had options, or less harshly if they were constrained—and I feel I can claim less credit for something positive if it came naturally.
Intent: a necessary fiction.