Do we have control over our actions? If we do, what sort of control and to what extent? Free will is the power to act without the constraint of necessity or fate. It is the ability to act at one's own discretion. For centuries, people have wondered how freedom is possible in a world ruled by physical determinism. Reflections on free will have been confined to philosophy until half a century ago, when the topic started also to be seriously investigated by neuroscientists. Today, there are several irreconcilable positions about the existence of human free will.
No, people don't have free willShow moreShow less
We can run from it, but the truth is that our actions are predetermined by a higher force than our selves.
The main challenge to free will is determinism: the view that everything that happens (human decisions and actions included) is the consequence of sufficient conditions for its occurrence. Often people who say they believe in free will usually also believe that every event has a cause.
There are many types of determinism such as genetic, theological and causal. Causal determinism means that as a physical being in a physical universe the ways things interact are in accord with set physical laws. Theological determinism argues that everything is destined occur in a certain way because that is God’s will.
Hard determinism is the belief that all events are caused by past events and that nothing other than what does occur can occur. In the 18th century, hard determinist Baron D’Holbach said that everything is part of a chain – the inevitable result of what came before including everything we do. Therefore, people have no freedom and no choice. Every event is caused by a previous event and people can never do anything apart from what they did. Therefore, they are never free.
Although we can not pinpoint the exact factors that led us to an action, we could in theory isolate them if we knew enough about all the beliefs, desires and temperaments swirling around in our brains. Decisions are the result of a combination of mental processes that come together in a specific way so that whatever choice of action is made, the result is ‘fixed in stone.’
The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer said, and Einstein paraphrased, that “a human can very well do what he wants, but cannot will what he wants.”
[P1] Everything is a result of what came before.
[P2] Therefore, all action is predetermined by what came before it.
[P3] Therefore, there is no real free will.
Rejecting the premises
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