“I am not attached to the phrase “free will”, though I do take a certain amount of pride in knowing exactly which confusion it refers to, and even having saved the words as still meaning something. Most of the philosophical literature surrounding it—with certain exceptions such as your own work! - fails to drive at either psychology or reduction, and can be discarded without loss.”
Your modesty is breathtaking!
“Fear of being manipulated by an alien is common-sensically in a whole different class from fear of being deterministic within physics. You’ve got to worry about what else the alien might be planning for you; it’s a new player on the board, and a player who occupies an immensely superior position.”
Sure, they are not identical. But they are relevantly similar, because whether the-world-before-you-were-born or God/aliens/machine did the work, it wasn’t you and that’s what people want, they want to be doing whatever it is that the-world-before-you-were-born or God/aliens/machine did. At least, they want it to be the case that they are not vulnerable to the whims of these entities. If God/alien/machine might be saintly or malicious, and design my life accordingly, the thousand monkeys of natural selection banging away on their typewriters hardly makes people feel better about free will.
“Your entire life destiny is deterministic(ally branching) given the past, but it was not written before you were born.”
I didn’t say “written”, I said “fixed”. And it clearly is fixed. Given determinism, there is only one future, and that future is fixed/settled/decided/unchangeable—however you want to say it—given the laws of nature and initial state.
“So you can see why I might want to rescue even “free will” and not just the sensation of freedom; what people fear, when they fear they do not have free will, is not the awful truth.”
Well, this is an empirical claim, and data may one day decide it. It seems to me that your view is:
People think of free will as that power which prevents it from being the case that state A of the universe determines state C regardless of what person B, in between does.
While I think:
People think of free will as that power which prevents it from being the case that our destinies are fixed before we are born.
Regarding 1, I think non-specialists (and specialists) can make huge mistakes when thinking about free will. But I don’t think this is one of them. I don’t think anybody worries about it being the case that:
“If I stop typing this post right now, the post will still get typed, because, damn it, I don’t have free will! No matter what, the post will get typed. I could go take a shower, wash my hair, and drive to Maryland, but those keys will still be magically clicking away. And that terrifies me! I hope I have free will, so I can prevent that from happening.”
Nobody thinks that, just as nobody thinks “I have a desire to pick up an apple, I’m not sure exactly where it came from, but it sure is powerful (perhaps not so powerful as to leave no doubt in my mind about whether I will pick it up—if that detail concerns you), but powerful enough, and look, lo and behold, I am exercising my local control over the apple, to satisfy my desire, whereever it came from, and now I am picking it up! What should I call this marvelous, wonderful power? Let’s call it free will.” Nobody said that either.
The one thing people have said, since the Greeks, through the Middle Ages, through the Scientific Revolution, and onward is: if determinism is true, my life destiny is fixed before I am born, and if indeterminism is true, that doesn’t help. I sure I hope I have free will, so I can prevent this from being the case.
But I don’t have any data to support these assertions about what people think when they worry about free will and use the term. I don’t think anybody has that data, and the controversy may not be resolved until someone does (and perhaps not even then).