Choices vs. Free Will
Free Will, as it is stated, sounds very much like an ability to do what one wishes. This is not true by any means. We are allowed choices, but not without responsibility and or repercussions. We make choices based on outer and inner influences. I will discuss the aspects of free will in connection with; laws, morality, religion, physical and psychological reasons for actions, choices we make and the possible reasons behind the choices.
What is Free Will
Free Will as defined in The American Heritage College dictionary states, .3. The power, attributed esp. to human beings, of making free choices that are unconstrained by external circumstances or by an agency such as fate or divine will(The American).
Does free will exist? Is any decision we make truly unconstrained by external or for that matter internal constraints? Are we truly given free will by a divine power? No. Any choice, action or in-action is influenced by predetermined laws, cultural standards, and previous life events. If we have lived, we have been influenced continuously from birth. There is not one person who has not been affected in some way by their experiences.
Discussions on this subject have been dialoged in connection to moral responsibility for over 2000 years by most philosophers. You must consider the end and not just the means. The concept of free will is somewhat hazy. Yes, you can have the will to do whatever you choose, but this cannot stand alone. The right to decide what you do, and the actual right of doing are sometimes put in the same category. Wanting to do a thing is not a singular choice unaffected by your society, religious beliefs, or life experiences, therefore not free completely. Acting on a will is separate and holds even more responsibility.
The Influence Society Has on Free Will
If I am brought up to believe either by society or family in the traditional celebration of Christmas, my will to do this is directly affected by my personal experience. This cannot be considered a totally free choice. I have been pre-conditioned by persons around me, so my choice comes from outside influence. If one chooses not to celebrate, one is affected and effects the people around them who may disagree with my choice. If my family tradition is to eat hot dogs on Halloween and I decide to bring veggie burgers I will be judged as breaking a tradition. Free to choose, but with consequences.
Freedom in action also depends on upbringing and societal relations. Your action is allowed or considered right or wrong by views, laws and beliefs surrounding you. The common practice of female genital mutilation, for instance is widely accepted in other countries but unaccepted here in the United States. If you come from a society in which this is acceptable practice, once residing here, it will not be accepted and considered criminal. You are bound by laws, and societal beliefs in actions as well. If you are in the accepting country you are affected and your decisions and actions are influenced as such. When in Rome do as the Romans do, or be alienated! As proven you are not free in will.
How Does Free Will affect a Christian's Choice of Living?
According to many Christian faiths, we are given free will by God. The will to choose between what is considered right or wrong by God. According to Christian belief, our choices can lead us to an everlasting life with God or an eternal damnation. If our belief system is within the Christian faith, it is not likely that we will choose damnation. We will more than likely be forced(because of doctrine) into a decision to do right or be damned for eternity. This does not scream freedom to me. We all have a “will” or preference, but freedom is pretty much out of the question when put in those terms.
Morals and Ethics
Plato’s Crito, a set of dialogs between Socrates and Crito that occur during the imprisonment of Socrates, in summary, is a discussion between Socrates and Crito on the escape of Socrates. Socrates has been wrongfully imprisoned and Crito is offering a emotional plea to Socrates to escape. Crito is offering to help Socrates to escape and is desperate to do so. This may be Plato’s way of showing the importance of doing what is good even when being persuaded by a close and important friend. Crito’s weakness caused by his emotions doesn’t sway Socrates decision to remain in jail and not escape. Instead he dialogs with Crito and breaks down the possible and probable effects of him escaping. Socrates responds in a such a way that Crito has no choice but to agree with him. Socrates has no choice but to stay and receive his punishment of death. He explains to Crito that although he has been wrongfully convicted he is still bound by law to receive his punishment.
Morally speaking, if he chooses to escape he will be going against the decided law by his government. By doing this he will be considered a hypocrite, because of his strong opinions of what it is to do good put his friends and family in jeopardy financially Socrates is unable to freely choose to leave his confines because of the effects he can and will have on his friends and family and therefore, and in a sense continue to be a prisoner the rest of his life. He has been wrongfully convicted, but because of that conviction he is still bound.. He does not have free will to do what he chooses. He is constrained by law, internal circumstances and external circumstances. When one makes a decision and its’ outcome negatively affects people around us we are bound to do what is good to the majority, not only ourselves.
Bound by Laws
By law, Socrates is bound by the decision of his government even if wrongfully convicted. He is supported by his government, protected by his government, educated by his government and therefore must apply to their decisions. He must head to their judgment. To agree with one is to agree with all. He cannot rightfully accept the governments support, education and protection but not conviction. That being said he cannot escape, even when wrongfully convicted. He must serve his sentence or persuade his government that they have wrongfully convicted him.
Physically speaking, we can have a free will “if” we conform with in societies standards of what is correct. If I choose to walk naked down a sidewalk and then do summersaults across the street(not in the crosswalk), can I do this? Society and laws will not allow me to do this. I realize this is a farfetched idea, but it does illustrate the point that what we may or may not want to do is always subject to approval of some kind. Suppose I am a child and I want something off of the top of the refrigerator, no one is around and so I seem to be free to do what I want, for the moment. But still there is the problem of getting up to the top of the refrigerator, I am too short to reach. Physical limitations affect us all in one way or another, even if it is our will to do different.
Psychologically we are limited as well, I may desire to purchase a new car, and I certainly have the “freedom” to make such a decision. But first I must pass a few tests, I may need to have good credit, a well paying job and room for it in my driveway. Supposing I have passed these tests. I must consider the reasons I desire to purchase this new car. Is it because I saw the commercial and it has been promised that I will appear to be more successful, sexier, or environmentally friendly? Is my will or desire being fed by the media or social status. Many decisions made by us “free willed human beings” are inadvertently decided by what is accepted and perceived as needed in many cases by our media. As we drive down our streets, watch television in our homes and listen to the radio we are constantly being bombarded by advertisers telling us what we should consider desirable. Even as we sit in a classroom or church we cannot avoid the subtle advertisements on furniture, people’s clothing, and even our textbooks or bibles. So again when thinking of our psychological free will, it can hardly exist.
Determinism and Free Will
One cannot argue the point of the existence and or non existence of free will without discussing determinism. Determinism is the belief that our actions are predetermined by previous actions, even things that have occurred thousands of years ago. If I do A, then B, C and D will also occur. And I have done A because someone else has done Z. This theory seems to make sense, as you can examine in your own life and realize that decisions, events, and actions all occur because of a prior event. For example, I am a student, because I am a student I am assigned to write this paper, I write the paper. Why am I a student, because I desire knowledge and skills, why do I want more knowledge and skills? Because I wish to have a better understanding of the world around me. Why? Society says that is good.
My decision to go to school does not only affect myself. I am free to attend school if my family is not negatively affected, I have to keep a good grade point average, I have to be registered by the appropriate time, and do the work that is assigned in order to maintain good standing and continue to attend. Just because it is my will to attend school, it is anything but free.
In conclusion, I have shown, that in no way can the idea of free will either by definition as defined by American Heritage dictionary, or opinion be proven as true when analyzed. As the word free implies, “free” meaning no constraints or influence or ramification. We are not free from; influence from society, personal morality, governmental laws, ethics, physical constraints, cultural expectations or otherwise. Yes, we certainly do have “will” , and we have the ability to make choices, whether right or wrong. But these choices can always be measured by cause, cost, lawfulness, influence, and morals. Anything we do, say, wish, want, deserve, desire, are or has been influenced by our life experiences. There is no “free will”, only “will” and “choices”, as we know the old cliche’ “Nothing in life is free".
Study of free will and determinism
Howard Schneider from Parsippany, New Jersey on January 10, 2014:
Very interesting Hub, Kimberly. I believe that much of what we do is determined by circumstances. We do have the strength and free will to fight it but we must have the creativity and the independence of thought to do it.
Kimberly Lake (author) from California on February 19, 2012:
Tim Mitchell from Escondido, CA on February 19, 2012:
hello kimberly . . .when you find time it is available at project Gutenberg as an e-text
An interesting read , , , ,
Kimberly Lake (author) from California on February 19, 2012:
I will check out that book, I haven't read it. I really enjoyed writing and researching this paper. I love philosophy as a study, oh yeah and love to argue my point just ask anyone that knows me...(joking...a little) I love learning new information from others and hearing their views. Thanks so much for the comment and interest, I really appreciate it. This hub hasn't gotten as much attention as I hoped it would, but it is definitely the one I had the most fun writing and researching.
Tim Mitchell from Escondido, CA on February 18, 2012:
Hello Kimberly. Intriguing and leads to dialogue for sure. I understand and acknowledge your treatise, however I don't believe it. Just a little joke - smile.
Having read and studied 'The Will to Believe' by William James, I agree with you on many points. We are socialized beings, generally speaking, and to even arrive to a position to exercise free will, as you pointed out, is very limited.
For my'self' I have decided that I believe in very little, yet I acknowledge and accept much, which allows for change, in my view. Off subject, oops. Pondering over these past few moments I think your treatise leads me to recognize a difference between 'having free will' and the opportunity to 'exercise free will.'
Thank you for sharing and giving me an opportunity to pause a moment to wonder. Bookmarked for future study and shared.
Kimberly Lake (author) from California on February 01, 2012:
Yes our egos box us in don't they? Thanks for the comment. I appreciate you taking the time to read and respond to my Hub. I love feedback it helps me to expand my views even more when I read comments. Thanks so much :)
Rod Martin Jr from Cebu, Philippines on February 01, 2012:
Wonderful hub! Thanks!
We each have a current set of conditions which tend to constrain our actions, so long as we do not have the faith to move beyond them or banish them.
I have to agree, we have "free" will with constraints. If we choose poorly, we tend to box ourselves in, which further constrains our choices.
With humility (subduing of ego) we have far greater freedom. It sounds somewhat counterintuitive, but the evidence of it is quite profound, for here there be miracles.
Kimberly Lake (author) from California on January 31, 2012:
Freedom of choice is what we have, many think this is the same. As free will. Thanks. For your comment.
cebutouristspot from Cebu on January 31, 2012:
I agree with your definition of Free Will. Their are a lot of factor that will hamper one action. We do however have freedom of choice :)
Kimberly Lake (author) from California on January 31, 2012:
Thanks for your input. This one of my favorite hubs.
Brett C from Asia on January 31, 2012:
Voted up and AWESOME. This is an excellent arguement. Free will does not exist, as we are always controlled and influenced by expectations, laws, taxes, prices and many other issues.
Thanks for SHARING.
Johnny Love on March 22, 2011:
Beautiful. So many times I hear people speak of truth. The only truth I know is life and death, all else is belief. To me truth is saying I am right and you are wrong, truth is only truth in the mind of the one who speaks it. Today I am blessed to not have the need to be right or wrong. I can just be Johnny, and today that is enough.
Kimberly Lake (author) from California on September 23, 2010:
Thank you so much for the comment. Please share this hub with others if you would like. Have a wonderful day!
CaroleGayle from Chicagoland on September 23, 2010:
This is an excellent and thought-provoking article. I never really thought about free will not being free from the conditions around us.
Captain Jimmy from WV on July 22, 2010: