What is Free Will?



There are many varied ways to argue about the existence of “Free Will” or what some refer to as choice. A classic rock band, named Rush, said it most profoundly in one of their popular songs; “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice”. Having the ability to avoid making a choice appears to be a very difficult concept indeed. I propose that free will exists and that we always have a choice. 


There are many definitions for the problem of free will. Some philosophers believe that free will is the ability to make choices for the outcome of our life and that our choices are not determined by events in our past. For example, a compatibilist believes in determinism while also believing that free will plays a part in this equation. An incompatibilist believes that determinism is false and that free will is possible; that free will and determinism are incompatible. Metaphysical libertinism states that choices can be made but only within a certain parameter of conditions. Other theories that include free will in some way are deliberative indeterminism, centered accounts, efforts of will theory, hard incompatibilism, soft determinism, and classical libertarianism. I can go on for many paragraphs regarding the numerous beliefs regarding how free will is defined by philosophers. However, I will choose to focus on determinism as it relates to the problem of free will.


There are others that suggest that there is only one course of events that is possible which is not consistent with free will. Those that believe that there is no such thing as free will are called determinists. A determinist believes that all actions and events are determined in advance and that there really is no choice to be made because everything is clear cut destiny. Determinism then is not just contained within our physical existence but with all reality and all time. This doctrine even extends to not only our future events but our past events as well. Essentially a determinist believes that if you change one thing from the past or the future, you change it all. Determinism has also been discussed amongst philosophers who have different views and I shall provide some definitions. Biological determinism is a belief that our actions are fixe by our genetics. Behavioral determinism states our actions are only reflexes that are conditioned by our environment. Cultural determinism is a belief that our culture determines who we become. Environmental determinism states that the environment determines our culture and what we become. Casual determination means that everything is causal based on our past conditions there making it impossible for anything else to happen. Logical determinism shows that our past, present or future are either false or true. Theological determinism is a belief that we have a preordained path that is being directed by a creator. Once again, even determinism has a tremendous amount of fractured beliefs, and I could discuss each facet for a very long time.


You can see from my rhetoric that there is an abundance of different ways to define free within a multitude of different beliefs. It should be obvious that with all these approaches to the free will dilemma, that I have to make a choice. If I did not have free will then I could not make a choice in this matter, so contrarily, I could not make a choice if I did not have all these options. It seems obvious that choices and options are inherently needed at the same time. A determinist would like for us to believe that everything in our life, every decision, every action, every feeling, absolutely everything about our lives has already been decided in advance. In this respect a determinist says that everything about us is totally and completely out of our control, even my choice to write the words that I am writing. Interestingly enough, a determinist has the free will to decide to believe in his own belief or to choose another belief.


I would argue that our free will starts before we are ever born into this world. The belief in reincarnation has long been held by most countries of the world; this belief is gaining acceptance in the western countries. Let’s assume for augments sake that reincarnation is an actual phenomenon and that we choose our life path before we return again. Before being reincarnated, we are provided the free will to choose what experience we want to have when we return. Once we are here on this earth plane, we are still given the blessing of free will. There are certain key experiences that are marked for us to take part in, our free will governs how fast we arrive at these experiences, how slow we arrive or if we arrive at all. We are then expected to learn and grow from these experiences and how free will affects this path. How could determinism possibly fit into an equation like this? There is also a prominent philosopher that aligns with this belief in a slightly different way. Thomas Aquinas believes that humans are preprogrammed for goals and are given the ability to choose what route or routes serve best to reach these goals. Essentially this philosopher is stating the same notion, giving it a different label than reincarnation, yet reaching the same conclusion.


free will is impossible to remove from human beings. Even if someone is chained to a floor and cannot move, they still have the free will to make choices, they still can decide and make choices about anything they want. There may be physical constraints that make some decisions impossible to act on even when a choice to get up is still entirely possible. In this particular situation, this person still has the free will to make something happen; their free will still causes neurons to fire and synapses to connect. Is this not free will? Doesn’t this person still have the ability to choose for this action to happen even when he is constrained? Hence, we can never truly remove free will from any equation or belief.

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