'Sentience' and 'Free Will'
By sentience I mean the state of 'being aware'. This does not depend on the content of that awareness but describes the fact that awareness exists. A simple analogy would be the word 'Space'….not in the sense of 'Outer Space' specifically but just space as in 'room' for 'something' to exist. Your table takes up space but that space would still be there if its contents were different. So sentience could be seen metaphorically as the 'space' within which ideas, perceptions, experiences, emotions etc. exist.
Incidentally I would suggest that John Searle and Roger Penrose have both presented good evidence suggesting that sentience can not truly exist as a 'simulation' for example in a computer. This would imply that there is no such thing as 'Artificial Sentience'.
If we have 'Free Will' then that would imply that our actions are not entirely determined by 'nature' and 'nurture' but that there is a third independent and undetermined factor. This would mean that a choice made with 'free will' can be a cause, which is not itself fully determined by external influences. In other words it would be a form of 'primary' causation. I would argue that if there is 'effect' there must be 'cause'. If that cause is a result of another prior cause then I would call that 'secondary' or 'dependent' causation. That being so we are led logically back to look for primary cause(s) to account for this. My contention is that not only does free will imply the existence of primary causation but that primary causation also implies the existence of free will. In other words I am arguing that they are one and the same. I would argue that this is self evident in the same sense that "I think therefore I am" is self evident. If primary causation does exist 'where' would it function? If free will is the free choice between options then is it not logical to assume that it would be found within sentient being as surely one must be able to be aware of options existing in order to choose freely between them!
I would go further and suggest that sentience implies the existence of free will as once there is an awareness of options there is the scope to choose between them.
It is important to distinguish freedom of choice from freedom of choices. Someone in a prison cell may not necessarily be able to choose to be outside of the prison cell but they are still able to choose between options of what they will do within the cell and also to use their will to move their 'mind's eye' for example through choosing to focus on memories of the time before they were in the cell. Any free choice between options whatever these options may be and however limited they are is absolute freedom in the sense that it is a primary cause and in the sense that the chooser 'could have done otherwise'. I am therefore suggesting that our very sentience as human beings is fundamental evidence that we do indeed have free will. If not for sentience there would be no meaning behind the concept of 'now' or 'the present' as all points in time would be equivalent without a 'cursor' to highlight the point of 'experience'. As 'the present' is made by us it is perhaps not unreasonable to imagine that the future is undefined and can be described in terms of potentiality for the very reason that through our choices we each have a role in shaping it!