What is Free Will?

R. K. McGregor Wright:

By the term free will I mean the belief that the human will has an inherent power to choose with equal ease between alternatives. This is commonly called 'the power of contrary choice' or 'the liberty of indifference'... Ultimately, the will is free from any necessary causation. In other words, it is autonomous from outside determination" (No Place for Sovereignty, pages 43-44).

This says that the will is able to resist influences and go against them. The will is free from anything outside of it that can program it or affect how it chooses.



Are choices really choices?  What is choice or free will? 


There are only four views on offer.  No more and no less.


#1 Experience shows we make choices.  This view says it is pointless to ask how free will works for it is a mystery. While all accept that programming is involved we do not feel it.  Whether you think your choice has a random element it does not feel random either.  Whether choice is programmed or not we should not feel free but we do.  That is why we should be very cautious with this view.


#2 Free will is random or undetermined.  This view in effect denies free will for it means that a good person can suddenly murder without explanation.  Free will and the idea that we need to explain how we choose go together.  Random free will can mean literally anything can happen or it can mean the randomness is contained.  Either way your action is not yours but just happens.  That is not free will.


#3 Free will is determined - that is it is programmed.  Those who say this idea fits the doctrine of free will are in fact redefining programmed will as free will.  It is just determinism under a different name.  The name is compatibilism.  It's a scam or just confused.


#4 Free will is determined but partly random.  This is not free will for programming and randomness do nothing to make an act really yours.  If it comes from causes or from random effects then it is not your act.  And what if the presumption that the determined and undetermined work together all the the time is wrong?   What if the murderer was free when he helped the old lady cross the road but not free when he stabbed her?  Partial free will is no good for insane killers are not responsible for their actions even if part of them knew what they were doing.  Part is not enough.


View 1 is the only one that believes in free will.  The others just use the words but are redefined Dualism is the doctrine that your mind or soul (not to be necessarily equated with your brain) is the real you.  All forms of free will however mysterious can only be adopted if you posit that this magical degrading doctrine of dualism is true.  Dualism downgrades the body by default and treats bodies like houses that some ghost lives in.


So free will if it is to mean more than just words is: Freedom from anything outside of you forcing you. It is freedom from stupidity and passion within you which can force you even better than an external force can. It is freedom from oneself in a sense that allows you to do something opposite to your character.  That in a sense is also freedom to be yourself.   It is freedom from how influence can control you without you even realising you are being played.  Positive freedom is freedom to act – it is active. Negative freedom is just the absence of coercion – it is passive.  The two are the same thing but just looked at from different angles.

Is there scientific evidence for free will?  No - science can only judge responses but not what is behind them.  There is no way to detect what makes you act for it is so complicated.




1. Determinism. This means that events follow a unique trajectory, just like a video tape – you stop the tape, rewind it and replay it. It will always repeat itself exactly.

2. Indeterminism. This means that events do not follow a unique trajectory. Each attempted replay would result in a totally different outcome.


Thanks whoever put that online!  It is good for putting the free will debate into a nutshell.


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