Now, instead of thinking of these causal factors (e.g., genes and environment) as factors that causally determine our actions, think of them as prerequisites or preconditions for free will. After all, in order to act freely, it seems that one needs a healthy brain, at the very least, as cases of severe brain injuries show.
Moreover, it seems that children born with Tay Sachs disease or microcephaly cannot be said to be acting freely (i.e., rationally choosing a course of action from various alternatives in full control) in any meaningful way.
If this is correct, then free will itself is causally determined. That is, whether one can act freely or not is causally determined by factors that are beyond one's control. More explicitly:
- The preconditions for free will (e.g., a healthy brain) are causally determined by factors over which we have no control (e.g., genes).
- If the preconditions for free will are causally determined by factors over which we have no control, then whether we have free will or not is not up to us.
- Therefore, whether we have free will or not is not up to us.
If it is, then the problem of moral responsibility remains. That is, even if we can act freely, our ability to act freely is itself causally determined by factors beyond our control. But if our free will is not free, are we ultimately responsible for what we do, even if we do it freely?