If you think we don't have free will, then by what is it constrained?
Limitations on what you can choose are not the point.
Within the options you have, in what way are you constrained to make the choice you did make?
When people say "free will is an illusion" they mean by "free will" a sort of "ghost" that is outside the physical world and makes choices that affect the physical world. We don't actually contain such a "ghost" although we feel like we do.
However, since the "I" who is making the choices is part of the physical world, this "I" is part of the "determining" that takes place in determinism.
To think that will is not free involves an idea of constraint by physical laws. However the "I" is part of the operation of physical laws - not constrained by physical laws, but rather a manifestation of physical laws.
To me free will is the determinism that follows where instinct leaves off. The more I read the more confused i am where that parting line is. I don't feel that it is an illusion, but a hard thing to delineate. Put another way, what drives you and what do you drive?
The (Abrahamic) theist view is that god created your soul (the soul probably being the most clever concept in all of theology). The fruit of knowledge is the parting line between what was imbued in you and the point where you are "on your own".
As an atheist, I think this supernatural origin of our consciousness is patently absurd. But still i think they have inadvertently stumbled upon something.There are parallels here in otherwise opposed world views.
Would not the divinely imparted bit be the DNA driven survival method of our species, and the stern pointing the way out of the garden bit be the free will part as we begin the training when we become self aware?
Or maybe people like Sam Harris (neuroscience) and company would approach this differently?
The discussion of how we can and do use free will is where the fun really begins.
Daniel Dennett wrote Freedom Evolves which is about why he thinks determinism and free will are compatible.
Free will is part of our lived experience. We do not live in a "block world" where the future exists alongside the present and past. We live in a world with present and past, where future is constantly changing into past.
When people look at the "block world" and say "there is no choice", to me they are moving a concept which is defined in the context of lived experience, and moving it out of context, to the "block world". Somehow they think the "block world" is more real, so that the free will in lived experience isn't "real" somehow.
But people DO make choices, and what seems inauthentic about the claim that we don't have free will, is that we aren't simply "being run" by physical laws. We also "run" things, by the medium of physical laws! And of course our decisions are made with input from our environment - that doesn't mean that our environment is "running us".
Our thoughts evolved on a substructure of physical laws. Our thoughts are enabled by physical laws. Physical laws are the medium by which thoughts and choices happen.
Sure, our environment influences our choices. Our choices are made in the context of our environment. For example, if you decide to walk to the post office, your environment and physical laws determine that you walk there rather than flying. Your felt need for exercise might make you decide to walk rather than drive. The weather influences whether or not you choose to walk.
We have limits on our knowledge of the environment, that also influence our choices. Maybe it will rain soon, but you don't know that, so you choose to walk to the post office.
We have our own human limitations that may prevent us from making the best possible choice. For example, in a chess game we can't necessarily make the best next move, because our brains may not be able to.
People are constrained in the sense that we have limitations, from other humans and from physical laws, on what we can do, that we don't like. You might rather make a beeline for the post office, but you can't because there's private property in the way.
But given these environmental factors and our human limitations and the limits of our knowledge, we make the best choice we can. There isn't a lack of freedom or any constraint preventing us from making the best choice we can, under the circumstances.
The issue I have with people asserting that we don't have free will because of determinism, is that there's an implication that we are somehow constrained from making the best choice we are able to. This is not true. We do have the ability to make that choice. Our choices are part of how the world changes in time.
I think you meant to type, "Yes, but I feel as though you haven't provided a distinction that examines why you think physical law isn't 'running us'." Not our "environment."
In Catholic schools teachers spoke of free will. College philosophy professors spoke of and tested on it and determinism. Several years later I decided that they provide job security for those professors. After several years in hardball politics I decided that free will and determinism are less important than who spends how much time in prison.
To that point, why do Christians (especially evangelicals) try to steer our free will, or your optional determinism if you want to call it that, towards the free will-less flock? Why does Islam want to extinguish free will entirely?
Because the religious want you to suborn your will to their Deity. Once you start utilizing free will towards free thought, reason might question the regnancy of theocratic admonitions. Many political movements have acquired the opprobrium of religious intimidation in this regard as individual free will is a threat to their control. In the realm of ideas they have IMHO poor arguments and even poorer evidence to persuade others. When Hitchens appealed to your innate free will (you have no choice but to have it) he is said resist those that would have you suppress and suspend it as the religious have already succeeded in doing to their devout minions. Oops, i seem to have stepped onto my soapbox and started to orate. But there you have it.
I recommend a reading of Sam Harris' book Free Will. Harris is a philosopher and a neuroscientist. The book is only 83 pages long, but it says a lot.
From a practical standpoint it certainly doesn't appear that we have free will at all. The fact that we have Weight Watchers and smoking cessation programs and AA seems to argue that our wills are anything but free.
People's decisions are often dominated by parts of their brains besides the "decider" part. There is voluntary and involuntary behavior.
Eating for example is somewhere between voluntary and involuntary.
In other words, each persons place on that continuum would be unique to them sort of like their DNA. Could you also say that some were more free than others in regards to eating? It seems that way to me. Free will, if it means anything, should be coupled to ones sense of self direction in some way and be able to steer behavior in this manner. Any less freedom and it would cease to be free in any meaningful sense, IMHO.