Volume 7, Issue 4, pages 79-84
In a recent series of papers and lectures, John Conway and Simon Kochen presented The Free Will Theorem. “It asserts, roughly, that if indeed we humans have free will, then elementary particles already have their own small share of this valuable commodity.” Perhaps the primary motivation of their papers was to place stringent constraints on quantum mechanical hidden variable theories, which they indeed do. Nevertheless, the notion of free will is crucial to the proof and they even speculate that the free will afforded to elementary particles is the ultimate explanation of our own free will. I don’t challenge the mathematics/logic of their proof but rather their premises. Free will and determinism are, for me, not nearly adequately clarified for them to form the bases of a theoretical proof. In addition, they take for granted supplemental concepts in quantum mechanics that are in need of further explanation. It’s also not clear to me what utility is afforded by the free will theorem, i.e., what, if anything, follows from it. Despite the cheeky subtitle of my essay, I do think that the explicit introduction of free will into discussions of hidden variables and other interpretations of quantum mechanics might help expose foibles in many of those deliberations. For this reason, I consider the Conway-Kochen free will theorem to be a positive contribution to the philosophy of quantum mechanics.