Free Will

Topics: Mind, Free will, Philosophy of life Pages: 6 (2079 words) Published: October 2, 2013


What is Free Will?

Denise Dale

What is Free Will?
Free will is the driving force of human existence and individuality. It directs human actions, thoughts and desires. Free will is what distinguishes humankind from all other creations of existence. Animals do not have free will. Plants and flowers do not have free will. Humans live their lives. Out of all that there is of existence that depends on air for life, only humans truly have free will.

As per the Merriam-Webster dictionary Free is defined as “not determined by anything beyond its own nature or being…choosing or capable of choosing for itself…determined by the choice of the actor or performer…made, done, or given voluntarily or spontaneously…capable of moving or turning in any direction…not restricted by or conforming to conventional forms.” The definition of Will is said to be “desire, wish…choice, willingness, consent…determination, insistence, persistence” while Free Will is defined as “voluntary choice or decision…freedom of humans to make choices.”

Free will is a “philosophical term of art for a particular sort of capacity of rational agents to choose a course of action from among various alternatives” (O’Connor, 2013). Philosophers have debated the question of free will for over two millennia. Just about every major philosopher has had something to say about it. Most suppose that the concept of free will is very closely connected to the concept of moral responsibility. Free will appears as the autonomy and dignity of a person, it is the value we accord to love and friendship. Free will carries many dimensions. Free choice is an activity that involves both our intellect and volitional abilities as both consist in judgment and active promise. True freedom of the will involves liberation from any tyranny of base desires and acquisition of desire for the good.

Free will is complex because it connects with many other larger theological issues. It intersects with philosophy, historical theology, and systematic theology. Humans are morally responsible, which requires that they be free. Such notions are uncomfortable because they call into question a fundamental basis of our laws and moral codes. This includes our criminal justice system. When people commit crimes, they are assumed to have chosen their actions freely and rationally. They are held responsible and sentenced accordingly.

In the 17th century, philosopher Rene Descartes argues that “the human soul freely chooses what it wants, making the brain act accordingly” (Koch, 2012). Can we truly act freely? This topic engages people in many ways that few other metaphysical questions do. It is the bedrock of any society’s notion of responsibility, praise and blame. Ultimately it is all about the degree of control a person exerts over their life. A person is free if under identical circumstance they could have acted otherwise. The ancient Greeks had “gnothi seauton (know thyself) inscribed above the entrance to the Temple of Apollo at Delphi” (Koch, 2012). Jesuits are known for close to a 500 year old spiritual tradition that emphasizes a twice-daily examination of conscience. They believe a constant internal interrogation sharpens your sensitivity to your actions, desires and motivations. (Koch, 2012) Medieval philosopher Scotus argued that “nothing other than the will is the total cause” of activity. We are further believed to not be capable of willing something in which we see no good or positive allowance. “Free will often emphasizes the importance of being able to do otherwise.” (plato.stanford, n.d.)

It is hard to create important theories about what it would be like without free will. However, “free will is the idea that we make choices and have thoughts independent of anything remotely resembling a physical process” (Mele, 2012). It is considered a “close cousin to the idea of the soul” (Mele, 2012). Further explained as a concept of autonomy “your...
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