This post is taken from a post on Robert Neddo's blog about Free Will. I found it interesting and thought I take a stab at it for my intellectual entertainment.
A while back we had a debate on destiny as it relates to God. My belief is that there are predetermined consequences and rewards for living outside or inside the will of God. Therefore, when it’s all over, we are fully responsible for the decisions that we make. Thus, we are in complete control over out destiny. Having free will allows for the manifestation of that destiny.
Example: A young man wakes up at 5am every morning to practice so that he can become a track star. He practices after school and all day, every day during the summer. Upon graduating high school, he attends a major university that has a great reputation for developing Olympians. Eventually, this young man is invited to the Olympic Games and wins several gold medals. During an interview, he states that he worked his entire life to achieve the goal of winning a medal at the Olympics.
As a young man, he set the conditions and made the choices to achieve his goal. His parents didn’t push him into track. It was just something he wanted to do. It was his choice to make and he made it and did what was required of him to become successful.
Life, unfortunately, is much more complicated than that. We are the sum of our experiences, values, faith, education, family and morals. Boys who were raised with abusive fathers have a greater chance become abusive fathers. Over protected children become rebellious teens. People that go through a bad marriage become fearful of marriage. Those that were raised in homogeneous communities sometimes have a hard time relating to those from other ethnicities.
Our experience will often time dictate the choices that we make. Many of us were programmed with the importance of morals, values, God, culture, education, friendship and family by our parents. In essence, we are the results of what the people around us placed in us or failed to place in us. We then go on to live lives and make choices based on the indoctrination of our youth and the positive and the accumulation of negative experiences as adults. This is what makes defining free will very difficult. Because it seems impossible to exercise free will when we’re seeing and making choices based on the past.
There are several different definitions. Here are a few I found:
* freedom of self determination and action independent of external causes.
* the partial freedom of the agent, in acts of conscious choice, from the determining compulsion of heredity, environment and circumstance.
* The power of self-determination regarded as a special faculty
*Free will is the philosophical doctrine that holds that our choices are ultimately up to ourselves. The phrase "up to ourselves" is vague, and, just like free will itself, admits of a variety of interpretations.
Is There Such A Thing as Free Will?
Since we are the product of our past experiences and make decisions regarding the future based on our past, can we truly say that we have free will? In my example with the Olympian was a young man that was solely responsible for the conditions that allowed him to succeed and made the decisions without outside coercion. If a person sets the conditions and define the choices, would that not be an exercising of free will? It could be – but that’s not the reality of most people.
There are some that conclude that when we rely on the values, traditions and experiences of our youth, we are not operating with free will but what they consider determinism. Determinism is the philosophical proposition that every event, including human cognition and action, is causally determined by an unbroken chain of prior occurrences (source). So as long as we are connected in some way to our past, we can not possibly bring to bear free will.
Like those that believe in the literal interpretation of the bible, I find that this philosophy is too dogmatic for my taste. The way I see it, humans function within a range where absolute determinism is on end of the spectrum and absolute free will on the other. Where a person falls is determined by how conscious that person is about their life and the choices they make.
The more aware of the motivation and linkage to past experiences a person has and how those things impact their present condition and choices, the better they can control the circumstances of their lives going forward. The increased awareness of who you are and how you came to be will result in an increase of free will. It one thing to make decisions, but it is something different to make decisions while conscious of the motivations behind them.
David Hume argued that while it is possible that one does not freely arrive at one's set of desires and beliefs, the only meaningful interpretation of freedom relates to one's ability to translate those desires and beliefs into voluntary action. source
I want to get into the concept of God and free will but I’ll save that for another day. I’ll just let you guys chime in while I do some more reading.
1. What is your thought on free will?
2. Is an Omniscient (all knowing) God and free will compatible. (next topic)
3. What is your definition of free will?