Thomas Pink: Critique of Hobbesian 'Free' Will
Dr. Thomas Pink explains the Hobbesian view of 'free' will as action driven causally by desires if that action is unobstructed by external constraints. Dr. Pink acknowledges that this Hobbesian view has a certain plausibility . . . but also a central problem:
Hobbesian freedom, remember, is no more than unobstructed desire. The only thing, according to Hobbes, that can remove our freedom, is some obstacle to satisfying our desires. Our freedom can never be taken away by our desires themselves. But common sense thinks of freedom quite differently. It sees freedom as something that can perfectly well be taken away from us, not merely by obstacles to our desires, but by our desires themselves. Consider drug addicts, for example. A drug addict is a person imprisoned, not by obstacles to desire satisfaction such as locked cell doors or chains, but by his own desires. A drug addict lacks the freedom not to take the drug to which he is addicted. And he lacks this freedom not to take the drug because his own desire to take it, and not any external constraint, is forcing him to act. The addict is acting exactly as he desires to act. But despite the lack of any obstacle to acting as he desires, he is still not acting freely. He is still not free to act otherwise. And it is his very own desires that have taken that freedom away. (Pink, Free Will: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004, page 68)An interesting objection to Hobbes: one's desires can obstruct one's freedom even though Hobbes defines the will as nothing more nor less than one's desires.
But, the Hobbesian might object, is the desire caused by drug addiction an entirely internal desire? Some might counter that the drug is introduced from outside the body. I'm not sure that this objection would be valid, however, for the Hobbesian view hasn't distinguished between imposed and unimposed desires. But even if one grants the distinction, what about unimposed desires that can tend to compel us against our will? On Hobbesian principles, this can't even be properly expressed, for the will is nothing more than desire, which would mean that our desire is compelling us against our desire -- or our will against our will. Moreover, we may find multiple, competing desires.
Are we legion? For we sound like many. And it's beginning to get a little crowded in here.