Since the original thread on fate vs. free will has been lost, I'll try to duplicate my contribution to the discussion here. Basically, I'm not sure that the concept of free will is actually meaningful in any special sense, if we define a free choice in the conventional sense, as follows: given a choice made by an individual under a certain set of circumstances, the choice could have been made differently by that individual, even under precisely the same set of circumstances. More simply put, free choices are not fixed or determined insofar as they could have been made differently. Let's consider for the sake of argument two ideal beings, one whose actions are fixed in the deterministic sense (D) and one who possesses free will (F). Let's further presume D and F live in independent parallel universes and that up to this particular point in time, D and F have lived absolutely identical lives in absolutely identical universes-- they have had the same experiences, memories and thoughts, had identical interactions with identical people, and made the same choices. (Note that D could not have made his choices any other way, whereas F just happens to have made his 'free' choices such that, to this present moment in time, they perfectly overlap with every decision D has made.) Now let's pick up the story in the present, when D and F are about to choose whether to eat chocolate or vanilla ice cream. Let's call the moment when D and F have made their respective decisions t0. Leading up to t0, we know that D and F both favor (say) chocolate to the same degree. That is, the sum total of their thought, actions, and experiences to this point have acted on both D and F such that they both experience the same inclination to choose chocolate. As a consequence of D's nature, D will inevitably choose the chocolate. However, given that F's choice is not fixed, we cannot predict what F will choose. For instance, if we could enact this scenario arbitrarily many times, we might find that D chooses chocolate 100% of the time whereas F chooses chocolate 70% of the time and vanilla 30% of the time. (Assume that F, like D, has already made up his mind that he will indeed eat one ice cream or the other.) We note that F's inclination to choose chocolate is expressed by his 70% likelihood of choosing chocolate over vanilla. But what accounts for the 30% of the time when F chooses vanilla? It CANNOT be that F has suddenly changed his mind on a whim, since if that were the case, D would have also changed his mind on a whim at the last instant and chosen vanilla (remember that D and F are identical up to t0). In fact, any meaningful explanation for why F sometimes chooses vanilla can be ruled out by the same logic. If by "meaningful explanation" we mean an explanation made sensible in terms of events, thoughts, feelings, etc. leading up to t0, then any meaningful explanation for why F chooses vanilla in a particular scenario must necessarily also apply to D. A free will advocate might say that at precisely t0, F has a spontaneous, non-deterministic thought that (in some scenarios) changes his mind and compels him to choose vanilla. But we have seen that this spontaneous thought cannot have any meaningful explanation; if it did, this meaningful explanation would also have applied to D. It therefore seems that there is no explanation other than that F's decision making has an inherent element of randomness to it, as if (for instance) some part of F's decision making depended on the outcome of quantum events in his brain. What good is F's free will if its agency is random and essentially meaningless? Now let's focus on D. A free will advocate might say that although we have been speaking of D as if he has a choice, he actually has no such choice since his decisions are already determined. I say this is nonsense, the result of a common misconception in the free will discussion. Let's first firmly establish what it means to "choose." From Merriam-Webster: choose 1 a. to select freely and after consideration <choose a career> 1 b. to decide on especially by vote; elect <chose her as captain> 2 a. to have a preference for <choose one car over another> 2 b. decide <chose to go by train> freely in a free manner: as a : of one's own accord <left home freely> b : with freedom from external control <a freely elected government> c : without restraint or reservation <spent freely on clothes> d : without hindrance <a gate swinging freely> <currencies are freely convertible> e : not strictly following a model, convention, or rule <freely translated> From dictionary.com: choose 1. To select from a number of possible alternatives; decide on and pick out. 2 a. To prefer above others <chooses the supermarket over the neighborhood grocery store> 2 b. To determine or decide <chose to fly rather than drive> I see nothing in the above definitions that implies that D has no choice over whether to choose chocolate or vanilla. He is selecting from a number of possible alternatives: chocolate or vanilla. After some consideration, he decides to act on his preference, and he selects the chocolate. This choice is made freely, since it is made of D's own accord and with freedom from external control (there is no one holding a gun to D's head telling him he'd better pick the chocolate). I believe the crux of the common misconception lies with this last point, namely that D's choice is indeed made freely. Now, D's decision is in some sense determined, i.e. by the laws of physics. But the agency through which the laws of physics determine D's choice is precisely D's brain itself, in other words, that which is responsible for his rationality and sense of identity. D's choice is determined, not externally but internally, in other words, D's choice is determined by D himself. It is not as if D exists outside of the laws of physics and that these laws impose their determination on him from the outside. Rather, it would be more correct to say that the laws of physics simply describe that agency through which D himself makes his own choices. This might make D's existential situation seem demeaning or puppet-like to some, but I see no reason for this sentiment. Even though the agency through which D makes his decisions is ultimately the same as everyone else's, D's distinct set of genetics, brain structure, and personal experience ensure that he is a unique and special guy whose agency (decision making) is essentially his and his alone, even if it is built upon the common ground of the laws of physics. So we are left with this simple proposition: D has indeed made his own free choice. The fact that he could not have chosen otherwise is irrelevant.