Free Will

free will

I don’t seem to choose my thoughts and feelings…

They seem to choose me– and take me along for the ride.

And so, I wonder…

Is it possible that free will is just a grand delusion?

Is it possible that free will is nothing more than my self-conscious brain playing tricks on itself?

Is it possible that free will is just a desperate attempt to make sense of an absurd existence? An emotional rejection of determinism? A conceited attempt to feel more special than I really am?

Then again, free will may be the most infinitely precious thing in the entire cosmos.

No matter how I ask the question about the meaning of my existence, the mere suggestion that life can mean something gives birth to an idea that’s as terrible as it is wonderful: a thing called FREEDOM.

I want to be more than a survivor in a dog-eat-dog world.

I want to be more than a sheepish, cowering herd animal.

I want to be more than a rat in some mad scientist’s maze.

I want to be more than just another link in the food chain.

I want to be more than just a bundle of primitive reflexes… primed to freeze, flee, or fight.

And so, I refuse to accept a universe so cruel that it would grant me such aspirations without also providing me the time and means for achieving them– or at least the chance to find meaning in the trying.

And so, I begin this quest for meaning by declaring such freedom to be not just a scientific possibility, but a moral necessity.

My first act of faith is to commit myself to FREEDOM.

And I commit myself to FREEDOM not on logical, but on moral grounds.

I commit myself to FREEDOM because I refuse to be a mere effect in an indifferent universe.

I commit myself to FREEDOM because, without it, all talk of character, virtue, ethics, and love is nonsense.

I commit myself to FREEDOM because rejecting it relinquishes my dignity and power.

I commit myself to FREEDOM because every attempt to escape from freedom causes me pain.

Author: Frank J Peter

A uniquely burdened and blessed citizen of the world thinking and acting out loud!

10 thoughts on “Free Will”

  1. I think free will is simply the fact that it is your own thoughts and feelings that determine your actions, rather than someone else’s. Some people expect free will to be absolutely free of eveything, but there are some things free will cannot be free of, like free of yourself, or free of cause and effect, etc. Free will only needs to be free of things like coercion and other forms of undue influence. It need not be free of all influences.

    1. I would argue that the ability to act otherwise in the face of coercion is the real measure of freedom.

      1. We always have “the ability to act otherwise” whenever choosing happens. An “ability” exists over time whether we ever choose to exercise it or not. For example, a person may have the ability to play the piano even if they choose not to play it right now. And, if we go out to eat in a resaurant, we have the ability to order any item on the menu (or even every item on the menu if we have the money), even though we will choose just one meal for dinner.

        When faced with multiple things that we “can” do, we compare our options and then choose the single thing that we “will” do. Whenever choosing happens there will always be the single thing that we “will” do, as well as one or more things that we “could have” done, but didn’t.

        Within determinism, the things we “could have” done are just as inevitable as the single thing that we “would” do. So, while determinism may safely claim that we “would not have done otherwise” it is a semantic error to claim that we “could not have done otherwise”. Conflating what “can happen” with what “will happen” creates a paradox, because there are always multiple things that “can” happen even if there is only one thing that “will” happen.

        As to coercion, it works because it creates a moral problem: “Is it better, and less harmful overall, if I comply with the orders of the guy holding the gun, or is it better if I am shot dead?”. In most cases it is better to remain alive. The exception would be if we are ordered to kill someone else, in which case it would be morally wrong to save ourselves by killing another. Banks and convenience stores will train their employees to hand over the cash rather than getting killed, probably to avoid getting sued by an employee who gets shot defending the cash.

    1. An interesting video on the nature of perception, GROG. Thanks a bunch for sharing.
      I accept that “free will” may be just one of many “hallucinations” that constitute “the self” as illustrated in the video.
      But no matter, because I am living as if free will does exist. I have no other choice! Ha! : )

      1. When we consider decisions we made in the past, it seems that it would have been impossible to have decided otherwise. It would have been easy to have made a different decision if we had had more/better information. GROG

    2. About the video, the correct term is “model”, rather than “hallucination”. The brain organizes sensory input into a model of reality. When the model is accurate enough to be useful, as it is when we navigate our bodies through a doorway, then it is called “reality”, because it is our only access to reality. It is only when the model is inaccurate enough to create a problem, as when we walk into a glass door thinking it was open, that it becomes appropriate to call it an “illusion”. And if we “hallucinate” a bridge where there is none, we are likely to fall off a cliff. But if our model is true, we will not step off the cliff. So, it is important to use the correct word. If everything is a hallucination, then we are truly lost. Fortunately, that is not the case, because under normal circumstances, the model is accurate enough to be called “real”.

      1. Agreed (and one reason I intentionally put “hallucination” in scare quotes). Thanks for making these critically important distinctions between an illusion, hallucination, and working model.

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