Free will

Free will

Overview
"To make my own decisions whether I am successful or not due to uncontrollable forces" -Troy Morrison
A pragmatic definition of free will

Free will is the ability of agents to make choice
Choice
Choice consists of the mental process of judging the merits of multiple options and selecting one of them. While a choice can be made between imagined options , often a choice is made between real options, and followed by the corresponding action...

s free from certain kinds of constraints. The existence of free will and its exact nature and definition have long been debated in philosophy
Philosophy
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

. Historically, the constraint of dominant concern has been the metaphysical
Metaphysics
Metaphysics is a branch of philosophy concerned with explaining the fundamental nature of being and the world, although the term is not easily defined. Traditionally, metaphysics attempts to answer two basic questions in the broadest possible terms:...

 constraint of determinism
Determinism
Determinism is the general philosophical thesis that states that for everything that happens there are conditions such that, given them, nothing else could happen. There are many versions of this thesis. Each of them rests upon various alleged connections, and interdependencies of things and...

.
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"To make my own decisions whether I am successful or not due to uncontrollable forces" -Troy Morrison
A pragmatic definition of free will

Free will is the ability of agents to make choice
Choice
Choice consists of the mental process of judging the merits of multiple options and selecting one of them. While a choice can be made between imagined options , often a choice is made between real options, and followed by the corresponding action...

s free from certain kinds of constraints. The existence of free will and its exact nature and definition have long been debated in philosophy
Philosophy
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

. Historically, the constraint of dominant concern has been the metaphysical
Metaphysics
Metaphysics is a branch of philosophy concerned with explaining the fundamental nature of being and the world, although the term is not easily defined. Traditionally, metaphysics attempts to answer two basic questions in the broadest possible terms:...

 constraint of determinism
Determinism
Determinism is the general philosophical thesis that states that for everything that happens there are conditions such that, given them, nothing else could happen. There are many versions of this thesis. Each of them rests upon various alleged connections, and interdependencies of things and...

. Two prominent opposing positions within that debate are metaphysical libertarianism
Libertarianism (metaphysics)
Libertarianism is one of the main philosophical positions related to the problems of free will and determinism, which are part of the larger domain of metaphysics. In particular, libertarianism, which is an incompatibilist position, argues that free will is logically incompatible with a...

, the claim that determinism is false and thus that free will exists (or is at least possible); and hard determinism
Hard determinism
Hard determinism, or Metaphysical determinism, defends the strongest version of Determinism: the world is a mechanism, and all events and choices have been determined by earlier conditions. Particularly, they accept Causal Determinism and Logical Determinism. Faced with the Standard argument...

, the claim that determinism is true and thus that free will does not exist.

Both of these positions, which agree that causal determination is the relevant factor in the question of free will, are classed as incompatibilists
Incompatibilism
Incompatibilism is the view that a deterministic universe is completely at odds with the notion that people have a free will. Strictly speaking, there is a dichotomy between determinism and free will where philosophers must choose one or the other...

. Those who deny that determinism is relevant are classified as compatibilists
Compatibilism
Compatibilism is the belief that free will and determinism are compatible ideas, and that it is possible to believe both without being logically inconsistent. It may, however, be more accurate to say that compatibilists define 'free will' in a way that allows it to co-exist with determinism...

, and offer various alternative explanations of what constraints are relevant, such as physical constraints (e.g. chains or imprisonment), social constraints (e.g. threat of punishment or censure), or psychological constraints (e.g. compulsions or phobias).

The principle of free will has religious
Religion
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...

, ethical
Ethics
Ethics, also known as moral philosophy, is a branch of philosophy that addresses questions about morality—that is, concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice, justice and crime, etc.Major branches of ethics include:...

, and scientific
Science
Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe...

 implications. For example, in the religious realm, free will implies that individual will
Will (philosophy)
Will, in philosophical discussions, consonant with a common English usage, refers to a property of the mind, and an attribute of acts intentionally performed. Actions made according to a person's will are called "willing" or "voluntary" and sometimes pejoratively "willful"...

 and choice
Choice
Choice consists of the mental process of judging the merits of multiple options and selecting one of them. While a choice can be made between imagined options , often a choice is made between real options, and followed by the corresponding action...

s can coexist with an omnipotent divinity
Divinity
Divinity and divine are broadly applied but loosely defined terms, used variously within different faiths and belief systems — and even by different individuals within a given faith — to refer to some transcendent or transcendental power or deity, or its attributes or manifestations in...

. In ethics, it may hold implications for whether individuals can be held morally accountable
Moral responsibility
Moral responsibility usually refers to the idea that a person has moral obligations in certain situations. Disobeying moral obligations, then, becomes grounds for justified punishment. Deciding what justifies punishment, if anything, is a principle concern of ethics.People who have moral...

 for their actions. In science, free will interacts with predictive accuracy for models involving freely behaving humans.

Incompatibilism




Incompatibilism is the position that free will and determinism are logically incompatible, and that the major question regarding whether or not people have free will is thus whether or not their actions are determined. "Hard determinists", such as Martin Luther
Martin Luther
Martin Luther was a German priest, professor of theology and iconic figure of the Protestant Reformation. He strongly disputed the claim that freedom from God's punishment for sin could be purchased with money. He confronted indulgence salesman Johann Tetzel with his Ninety-Five Theses in 1517...

 and d'Holbach
Baron d'Holbach
Paul-Henri Thiry, Baron d'Holbach was a French-German author, philosopher, encyclopedist and a prominent figure in the French Enlightenment. He was born Paul Heinrich Dietrich in Edesheim, near Landau in the Rhenish Palatinate, but lived and worked mainly in Paris, where he kept a salon...

, are those incompatibilists who accept determinism and reject free will. "Metaphysical libertarians
Libertarianism (metaphysics)
Libertarianism is one of the main philosophical positions related to the problems of free will and determinism, which are part of the larger domain of metaphysics. In particular, libertarianism, which is an incompatibilist position, argues that free will is logically incompatible with a...

", such as Thomas Reid
Thomas Reid
The Reverend Thomas Reid FRSE , was a religiously trained Scottish philosopher, and a contemporary of David Hume, was the founder of the Scottish School of Common Sense, and played an integral role in the Scottish Enlightenment...

, Peter van Inwagen
Peter van Inwagen
Peter van Inwagen is an American analytic philosopher and the John Cardinal O'Hara Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame. He previously taught at Syracuse University and earned his PhD from the University of Rochester under the direction of Richard Taylor and Keith Lehrer...

, and Robert Kane
Robert Kane (philosopher)
Robert Hilary Kane is an American philosopher. He is Distinguished Teaching Professor of Philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin, and is currently on phased retirement....

, are those incompatibilists who accept free will and deny determinism, holding the view that some form of indeterminism is true. Another view is that of hard incompatibilists, which state that free will is incompatible with both determinism
Determinism
Determinism is the general philosophical thesis that states that for everything that happens there are conditions such that, given them, nothing else could happen. There are many versions of this thesis. Each of them rests upon various alleged connections, and interdependencies of things and...

 and indeterminism
Indeterminism
Indeterminism is the concept that events are not caused, or not caused deterministically by prior events. It is the opposite of determinism and related to chance...

. This view is defended by Derk Pereboom.

Determinism is a broad term with a variety of meanings. Corresponding to each of these different meanings, there arises a different problem of free will.
  • Causal determinism states that future events are necessitated by past and present events combined with the laws of nature. Such determinism is sometimes illustrated by the thought experiment
    Thought experiment
    A thought experiment or Gedankenexperiment considers some hypothesis, theory, or principle for the purpose of thinking through its consequences...

     of Laplace's demon
    Laplace's demon
    In the history of science, Laplace's demon was the first published articulation of causal or scientific determinism by Pierre-Simon Laplace in 1814...

    . Imagine an entity that knows all facts about the past and the present, and knows all natural laws that govern the universe. If the laws of nature were determinate, then such an entity would be able to use this knowledge to foresee the future, down to the smallest detail.
  • Logical determinism is the notion that all proposition
    Proposition
    In logic and philosophy, the term proposition refers to either the "content" or "meaning" of a meaningful declarative sentence or the pattern of symbols, marks, or sounds that make up a meaningful declarative sentence...

    s, whether about the past, present or future, are either true or false. The problem of free will, in this context, is the problem of how choices can be free, given that what one does in the future is already determined as true or false in the present.
  • Theological determinism
    Theological determinism
    Theological determinism is a form of determinism which states that all events that happen are pre-ordained, or predestined to happen, by a monotheistic God. Theological determinism exists in a number of religions, including Judaism, Christianity and Islam....

    is the idea that there is a god who determines all that humans will do, either by knowing their actions in advance, via some form of omniscience
    Omniscience
    Omniscience omniscient point-of-view in writing) is the capacity to know everything infinitely, or at least everything that can be known about a character including thoughts, feelings, life and the universe, etc. In Latin, omnis means "all" and sciens means "knowing"...

     or by decreeing their actions in advance. The problem of free will, in this context, is the problem of how our actions can be free if there is a being who has determined them for us in advance.
  • Biological determinism
    Biological determinism
    Biological determination is the interpretation of humans and human life from a strictly biological point of view, and it is closely related to genetic determinism...

    is the idea that all behaviors, beliefs, and desires are fixed by our genetic endowment and our biochemical makeup, the latter of which is affected by both genes and environment.
  • Other forms of determinism include: cultural determinism
    Cultural determinism
    Cultural determinism is the belief that the culture in which we are raised determines who we are at emotional and behavioral levels. This supports the theory that environmental influences dominate who we are instead of biologically inherited traits....

    and psychological determinism
    Psychological determinism
    two forms of psychological determinism:* Orectic psychological determinism is the view that we must always act upon our greatest drive. This is often called psychological hedonism, and if the drive is specified for self-interest: psychological egoism....

    . Combinations and syntheses of determinist theses, e.g. bio-environmental determinism, are even more common.


Traditional arguments for incompatibilism are based on an "intuition pump
Intuition pump
An intuition pump is a thought experiment structured to elicit intuitive answers about a problem. The term was coined by Daniel Dennett. In Consciousness Explained, he uses the term pejoratively to describe John Searle's Chinese Room thought experiment, characterizing it as designed to elicit...

": if a person is like other mechanical things that are determined in their behavior such as a wind-up toy, a billiard ball, a puppet, or a robot, then people must not have free will. This argument has been rejected by compatibilists such as Daniel Dennett on the grounds that, even if humans have something in common with these things, it remains possible and plausible that we are different from such objects in important ways.

Another argument for incompatibilism is that of the "causal chain." Incompatibilism is key to the idealist theory of free will. Most incompatibilists reject the idea that freedom of action consists simply in "voluntary" behavior. They insist, rather, that free will means that man must be the "ultimate" or "originating" cause of his actions. He must be a causa sui
Causa sui
Causa sui denotes something which is generated within itself. This concept was central to the works of Baruch Spinoza, Sigmund Freud, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Ernest Becker, where it relates to the purpose that objects can assign to themselves...

, in the traditional phrase. To be responsible for one's choices is to be the first cause of those choices, where first cause means that there is no antecedent cause of that cause. The argument, then, is that if man has free will, then man is the ultimate cause of his actions. If determinism is true, then all of man's choices are caused by events and facts outside his control. So, if everything man does is caused by events and facts outside his control, then he cannot be the ultimate cause of his actions. Therefore, he cannot have free will. This argument has also been challenged by various compatibilist philosophers.

A third argument for incompatibilism was formulated by Carl Ginet
Carl Ginet
Carl Ginet is an American philosopher and Professor Emeritus at Cornell University. His work is primarily in action theory, moral responsibility, free will, and epistemology....

 in the 1960s and has received much attention in the modern literature. The simplified argument runs along these lines: if determinism is true, then we have no control over the events of the past that determined our present state and no control over the laws of nature. Since we can have no control over these matters, we also can have no control over the consequences of them. Since our present choices and acts, under determinism, are the necessary consequences of the past and the laws of nature, then we have no control over them and, hence, no free will. This is called the consequence argument. Peter van Inwagen remarks that C.D. Broad had a version of the consequence argument as early as the 1930s.

The difficulty of this argument for compatibilists lies in the fact that it entails the impossibility that one could have chosen other than one has. For example, if Jane is a compatibilist and she has just sat down on the sofa, then she is committed to the claim that she could have remained standing, if she had so desired. But it follows from the consequence argument that, if Jane had remained standing, she would have either generated a contradiction, violated the laws of nature or changed the past. Hence, compatibilists are committed to the existence of "incredible abilities", according to Ginet and van Inwagen. One response to this argument is that it equivocates on the notions of abilities and necessities, or that the free will evoked to make any given choice is really an illusion and the choice had been made all along, oblivious to its "decider". David Lewis
David Kellogg Lewis
David Kellogg Lewis was an American philosopher. Lewis taught briefly at UCLA and then at Princeton from 1970 until his death. He is also closely associated with Australia, whose philosophical community he visited almost annually for more than thirty years...

 suggests that compatibilists are only committed to the ability to do something otherwise if different circumstances had actually obtained in the past.

Metaphysical libertarianism


Metaphysical libertarianism
Libertarianism (metaphysics)
Libertarianism is one of the main philosophical positions related to the problems of free will and determinism, which are part of the larger domain of metaphysics. In particular, libertarianism, which is an incompatibilist position, argues that free will is logically incompatible with a...

 is one philosophical view point under that of incompatibilism. Libertarianism holds onto a concept of free will that requires the individual to be able to take more than one possible course of action under a given set of circumstances.

Accounts of libertarianism subdivide into non-physical theories and physical or naturalistic theories. Non-physical theories hold that a non-physical mind
Mind
The concept of mind is understood in many different ways by many different traditions, ranging from panpsychism and animism to traditional and organized religious views, as well as secular and materialist philosophies. Most agree that minds are constituted by conscious experience and intelligent...

, will, or soul
Soul
A soul in certain spiritual, philosophical, and psychological traditions is the incorporeal essence of a person or living thing or object. Many philosophical and spiritual systems teach that humans have souls, and others teach that all living things and even inanimate objects have souls. The...

 overrides physical causality
Causality
Causality is the relationship between an event and a second event , where the second event is understood as a consequence of the first....

, so that physical events in the brain that lead to the performance of actions do not have an entirely physical explanation (and consequently the world is not closed under physics). This view is called interactionist dualism. Some philosophers, such as William of Ockham
William of Ockham
William of Ockham was an English Franciscan friar and scholastic philosopher, who is believed to have been born in Ockham, a small village in Surrey. He is considered to be one of the major figures of medieval thought and was at the centre of the major intellectual and political controversies of...

 and Thomas Reid
Thomas Reid
The Reverend Thomas Reid FRSE , was a religiously trained Scottish philosopher, and a contemporary of David Hume, was the founder of the Scottish School of Common Sense, and played an integral role in the Scottish Enlightenment...

, argue that this mind, will, or soul, being nonphysical, cannot be known to empirical science, and that all beliefs about it are thus grounded in faith or revelation.

Explanations of libertarianism that do not involve dispensing with physicalism
Physicalism
Physicalism is a philosophical position holding that everything which exists is no more extensive than its physical properties; that is, that there are no kinds of things other than physical things...

 require physical indeterminism, such as probabilistic subatomic particle behavior – theory unknown to many of the early writers on free will. Physical determinism, under the assumption of physicalism, implies there is only one possible future and is therefore not compatible with libertarian free will. Some libertarian explanations involve invoking panpsychism
Panpsychism
In philosophy, panpsychism is the view that all matter has a mental aspect, or, alternatively, all objects have a unified center of experience or point of view...

, the theory that a quality of mind
Mind
The concept of mind is understood in many different ways by many different traditions, ranging from panpsychism and animism to traditional and organized religious views, as well as secular and materialist philosophies. Most agree that minds are constituted by conscious experience and intelligent...

 is associated with all particles, and pervades the entire universe, in both animate and inanimate entities. Other approaches do not require free will to be a fundamental constituent of the universe; ordinary randomness is appealed to as supplying the "elbow room" believed to be necessary by libertarians.

Free volition
Volition (psychology)
Volition or will is the cognitive process by which an individual decides on and commits to a particular course of action. It is defined as purposive striving, and is one of the primary human psychological functions...

 is regarded as a particular kind of complex, high-level process with an element of indeterminism. An example of this kind of approach has been developed by Robert Kane
Robert Kane (philosopher)
Robert Hilary Kane is an American philosopher. He is Distinguished Teaching Professor of Philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin, and is currently on phased retirement....

, where he hypothesises that,

"In each case, the indeterminism is functioning as a hindrance or obstacle to her realizing one of her purposes—a hindrance or obstacle in the form of resistance within her will which has to be overcome by effort".


Although at the time C. S. Lewis wrote Miracles, Quantum Mechanics
Quantum mechanics
Quantum mechanics, also known as quantum physics or quantum theory, is a branch of physics providing a mathematical description of much of the dual particle-like and wave-like behavior and interactions of energy and matter. It departs from classical mechanics primarily at the atomic and subatomic...

 (and physical indeterminism
Quantum indeterminacy
Quantum indeterminacy is the apparent necessary incompleteness in the description of a physical system, that has become one of the characteristics of the standard description of quantum physics...

) was only in the initial stages of acceptance, he stated the logical possibility that if the physical world was proved to be indeterministic this would provide an entry (interaction) point into the traditionally viewed closed system, where a scientifically described physically probable/improbable event could be philosophically described as an action of a non-physical entity on physical reality.

Free will as a mix of chance and determination


In 1884 William James
William James
William James was a pioneering American psychologist and philosopher who was trained as a physician. He wrote influential books on the young science of psychology, educational psychology, psychology of religious experience and mysticism, and on the philosophy of pragmatism...

 described a two-stage model of free will
Two-stage model of free will
A two-stage model of free will separates the free stage from the will stage.In the first stage, alternative possibilities for thought and action are generated, in part indeterministically....

: in the first stage the mind develops random alternative possibilities for action, and in the second an adequately determined will selects one option. A number of other thinkers have since refined this idea, including Henri Poincaré
Henri Poincaré
Jules Henri Poincaré was a French mathematician, theoretical physicist, engineer, and a philosopher of science...

, Arthur Holly Compton, Karl Popper
Karl Popper
Sir Karl Raimund Popper, CH FRS FBA was an Austro-British philosopher and a professor at the London School of Economics...

, Henry Margenau
Henry Margenau
Henry Margenau was a German-U.S. physicist, and philosopher of science.-Early life:Born Bielefeld, Germany, Margenau obtained his bachelor's degree from Midland Lutheran College, Nebraska before his M.Sc...

, Daniel Dennett
Daniel Dennett
Daniel Clement Dennett is an American philosopher, writer and cognitive scientist whose research centers on the philosophy of mind, philosophy of science and philosophy of biology, particularly as those fields relate to evolutionary biology and cognitive science. He is currently the Co-director of...

, Robert Kane
Robert Kane (philosopher)
Robert Hilary Kane is an American philosopher. He is Distinguished Teaching Professor of Philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin, and is currently on phased retirement....

, Alfred Mele
Alfred Mele
Alfred Remen Mele is an American philosopher. He has been the William H. and Lucyle T. Werkmeister Professor of Philosophy at Florida State University since 2000...

, and Martin Heisenberg
Martin Heisenberg
Martin Heisenberg is a German neurobiologist and geneticist. Before his retirement in 2008, he held the professorial chair for genetics and neurobiology at the Bio Centre of the University of Würzburg....

.

Each of these models tries to reconcile libertarian free will with the existence of irreducible chance
Randomness
Randomness has somewhat differing meanings as used in various fields. It also has common meanings which are connected to the notion of predictability of events....

 (today in the form of quantum indeterminacy
Quantum indeterminacy
Quantum indeterminacy is the apparent necessary incompleteness in the description of a physical system, that has become one of the characteristics of the standard description of quantum physics...

), which threatens to make an agent's decision random, thus denying the control needed for responsibility.

If a single event is caused by chance, then logically indeterminism
Indeterminism
Indeterminism is the concept that events are not caused, or not caused deterministically by prior events. It is the opposite of determinism and related to chance...

 would be "true." For centuries, philosophers have said this would undermine the very possibility of certain knowledge. Some go to the extreme of saying that real chance would make the whole state of the world totally independent of any earlier states.

The Stoic Chrysippus
Chrysippus
Chrysippus of Soli was a Greek Stoic philosopher. He was a native of Soli, Cilicia, but moved to Athens as a young man, where he became a pupil of Cleanthes in the Stoic school. When Cleanthes died, around 230 BC, Chrysippus became the third head of the school...

 said that a single uncaused cause could destroy the universe (cosmos),

"Everything that happens is followed by something else which depends on it by causal necessity. Likewise, everything that happens is preceded by something with which it is causally connected. For nothing exists or has come into being in the cosmos without a cause. The universe will be disrupted and disintegrate into pieces and cease to be a unity functioning as a single system, if any uncaused movement is introduced into it."


James said most philosophers have an "antipathy to chance." His contemporary John Fiske described the absurd decisions that would be made if chance were real,

"If volitions arise without cause, it necessarily follows that we cannot infer from them the character of the antecedent states of feeling. .. . The mother may strangle her first-born child, the miser may cast his long-treasured gold into the sea, the sculptor may break in pieces his lately-finished statue, in the presence of no other feelings than those which before led them to cherish, to hoard, and to create."

In modern times, J. J. C. Smart
J. J. C. Smart
John Jamieson Carswell "Jack" Smart AC is an Australian philosopher and academic who is currently Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at Monash University, Australia...

 has described the problem of admitting indeterminism,

"Indeterminism does not confer freedom on us: I would feel that my freedom was impaired if I thought that a quantum mechanical trigger in my brain might cause me to leap into the garden and eat a slug."


The challenge for two-stage models is to admit some indeterminism but not permit it to produce random actions, as determinists fear. And of course a model must limit determinism but not eliminate it as some libertarians think necessary.

Two-stage models limit the contribution of random chance to the generation of alternative possibilities for action. But note that, in recent years, compatibilist analytic philosophers following Harry Frankfurt
Harry Frankfurt
Harry Gordon Frankfurt is an American philosopher. He is professor emeritus of philosophy at Princeton University and has previously taught at Yale University and Rockefeller University. He obtained his B.A. in 1949 and Ph.D. in 1954 from...

 have denied the existence of alternative possibilities. They develop "Frankfurt-type examples" (thought experiments) in which they argue an agent is free even though no alternative possibilities exist, or the agent is prevented at the last moment by neuroscientific demons from "doing otherwise."

Compatibilism



Compatibilists maintain that determinism is compatible with free will. To illustrate their standpoint, compatibilists point to cases of someone's free will being denied, such as rape, murder, or theft. In these cases, free will is lacking not because the past is determining the future, but because the aggressor is choosing, through their own actions, the victim's desires. Compatibilists argue that determinism does not matter; what matters is that individuals' wills are the result of their own desires and are not overridden by some external force. To be a compatibilist, one need not endorse any particular conception of free will, but only deny that determinism is at odds with free will.

Free will as lack of physical restraint


Most "classical compatibilists", such as Thomas Hobbes
Thomas Hobbes
Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury , in some older texts Thomas Hobbs of Malmsbury, was an English philosopher, best known today for his work on political philosophy...

, claim that a person acts on their own only when the person wanted to do the act and the person could have done otherwise, if the person had decided to. Hobbes sometimes attributes such compatibilist freedom to each individual and not to some abstract notion of will, asserting, for example, that "no liberty can be inferred to the will, desire, or inclination, but the liberty of the man; which consisteth in this, that he finds no stop, in doing what he has the will, desire, or inclination to do." In articulating this crucial proviso, David Hume
David Hume
David Hume was a Scottish philosopher, historian, economist, and essayist, known especially for his philosophical empiricism and skepticism. He was one of the most important figures in the history of Western philosophy and the Scottish Enlightenment...

 writes, "this hypothetical liberty is universally allowed to belong to every one who is not a prisoner and in chains".

Free will as sociopolitical liberty


Another type of compatibilist might equate "free will" with what other philosophers call liberty
Liberty
Liberty is a moral and political principle, or Right, that identifies the condition in which human beings are able to govern themselves, to behave according to their own free will, and take responsibility for their actions...

. This can include some or all of the freedoms of negative liberty
Negative liberty
Negative liberty is defined as freedom from interference by other people, and is set in contrast to positive liberty, which is defined as an individual's freedom from inhibitions of the social structure within the society such as classism, sexism or racism and is primarily concerned with the...

 and positive liberty
Positive liberty
Positive liberty is defined as having the power and resources to fulfill one's own potential ; as opposed to negative liberty, which is freedom from external restraint...

.

Free will as a psychological state


"Modern compatibilists", such as Harry Frankfurt
Harry Frankfurt
Harry Gordon Frankfurt is an American philosopher. He is professor emeritus of philosophy at Princeton University and has previously taught at Yale University and Rockefeller University. He obtained his B.A. in 1949 and Ph.D. in 1954 from...

 and Daniel Dennett
Daniel Dennett
Daniel Clement Dennett is an American philosopher, writer and cognitive scientist whose research centers on the philosophy of mind, philosophy of science and philosophy of biology, particularly as those fields relate to evolutionary biology and cognitive science. He is currently the Co-director of...

, argue that there are cases where a coerced agent's choices are still free because such coercion coincides with the agent's personal intentions and desires. Frankfurt, in particular, argues for a version of compatibilism called the "hierarchical mesh". The idea is that an individual can have conflicting desires at a first-order level and also have a desire about the various first-order desires (a second-order desire) to the effect that one of the desires prevails over the others. A person's will is to be identified with their effective first-order desire, i.e., the one that they act on. So, for example, there are "wanton addicts", "unwilling addicts" and "willing addicts." All three groups may have the conflicting first-order desires to want to take the drug to which they are addicted and to not want to take it.

The first group, "wanton addicts", have no second-order desire not to take the drug. The second group, "unwilling addicts", have a second-order desire not to take the drug, while the third group, "willing addicts", have a second-order desire to take it. According to Frankfurt, the members of the first group are to be considered devoid of will and therefore no longer persons. The members of the second group freely desire not to take the drug, but their will is overcome by the addiction. Finally, the members of the third group willingly take the drug to which they are addicted. Frankfurt's theory can ramify to any number of levels. Critics of the theory point out that there is no certainty that conflicts will not arise even at the higher-order levels of desire and preference. Others argue that Frankfurt offers no adequate explanation of how the various levels in the hierarchy mesh together.

Free will as unpredictability


In Elbow Room, Dennett presents an argument for a compatibilist theory of free will, which he further elaborated in the book Freedom Evolves
Freedom Evolves
Freedom Evolves is a 2003 popular science and philosophy book by Daniel C. Dennett. Dennett describes the book as an installment of a life-long philosophical project, earlier parts of which were The Intentional Stance, Consciousness Explained and Elbow Room...

. The basic reasoning is that, if one excludes God, an infinitely powerful demon
Demon
call - 1347 531 7769 for more infoIn Ancient Near Eastern religions as well as in the Abrahamic traditions, including ancient and medieval Christian demonology, a demon is considered an "unclean spirit" which may cause demonic possession, to be addressed with an act of exorcism...

, and other such possibilities, then because of chaos
Chaos theory
Chaos theory is a field of study in mathematics, with applications in several disciplines including physics, economics, biology, and philosophy. Chaos theory studies the behavior of dynamical systems that are highly sensitive to initial conditions, an effect which is popularly referred to as the...

 and epistemic limits on the precision of our knowledge of the current state of the world, the future is ill-defined for all finite beings. The only well-defined things are "expectations". The ability to do "otherwise" only makes sense when dealing with these expectations, and not with some unknown and unknowable future.

According to Dennett, because individuals have the ability to act differently from what anyone expects, free will can exist. Incompatibilists claim the problem with this idea is that we may be mere "automata responding in predictable ways to stimuli in our environment". Therefore, all of our actions are controlled by forces outside ourselves, or by random chance. More sophisticated analyses of compatibilist free will have been offered, as have other critiques.

In the philosophy of decision theory
Decision theory
Decision theory in economics, psychology, philosophy, mathematics, and statistics is concerned with identifying the values, uncertainties and other issues relevant in a given decision, its rationality, and the resulting optimal decision...

, a fundamental question is: From the standpoint of statistical outcomes, to what extent do the choices of a conscious being have the ability to influence the future? Newcomb's paradox
Newcomb's paradox
Newcomb's paradox, also referred to as Newcomb's problem, is a thought experiment involving a game between two players, one of whom purports to be able to predict the future. Whether the problem is actually a paradox is disputed....

 and other philosophical problems pose questions about free will and predictable outcomes of choices.

Free will as a pragmatically useful concept


William James'
William James
William James was a pioneering American psychologist and philosopher who was trained as a physician. He wrote influential books on the young science of psychology, educational psychology, psychology of religious experience and mysticism, and on the philosophy of pragmatism...

 views were ambivalent. While he believed in free will on "ethical grounds," he did not believe that there was evidence for it on scientific grounds, nor did his own introspections support it. Moreover, he did not accept incompatibilism as formulated below; he did not believe that the indeterminism of human actions was a prerequisite of moral responsibility. In his work Pragmatism
Pragmatism
Pragmatism is a philosophical tradition centered on the linking of practice and theory. It describes a process where theory is extracted from practice, and applied back to practice to form what is called intelligent practice...

, he wrote that "instinct and utility between them can safely be trusted to carry on the social business of punishment and praise" regardless of metaphysical theories. He did believe that indeterminism is important as a "doctrine of relief"—it allows for the view that, although the world may be in many respects a bad place, it may, through individuals' actions, become a better one. Determinism, he argued, undermines meliorism
Meliorism
Meliorism is an idea in metaphysical thinking holding that progress is a real concept leading to an improvement of the world. It holds that humans can, through their interference with processes that would otherwise be natural, produce an outcome which is an improvement over the aforementioned...

—the idea that progress is a real concept leading to improvement in the world.

Other views



Some philosophers' views are difficult to categorize as either compatibilist or incompatibilist, hard determinist or libertarian. John Locke
John Locke
John Locke FRS , widely known as the Father of Liberalism, was an English philosopher and physician regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers. Considered one of the first of the British empiricists, following the tradition of Francis Bacon, he is equally important to social...

, for example, denied that the phrase "free will" made any sense (compare with theological noncognitivism
Theological noncognitivism
Theological noncognitivism is the argument that religious language, and specifically words like "god", are not cognitively meaningful. It is sometimes considered to be synonymous with Ignosticism.-Overview:...

, a similar stance on the existence of God). He also took the view that the truth of determinism was irrelevant. He believed that the defining feature of voluntary behavior was that individuals have the ability to postpone a decision long enough to reflect or deliberate upon the consequences of a choice: "...the will in truth, signifies nothing but a power, or ability, to prefer or choose". Similarly, David Hume discussed the possibility that the entire debate about free will is nothing more than a merely "verbal" issue. He also suggested that it might be accounted for by "a false sensation or seeming experience" (a velleity), which is associated with many of our actions when we perform them. On reflection, we realize that they were necessary and determined all along.

Arthur Schopenhauer
Arthur Schopenhauer
Arthur Schopenhauer was a German philosopher known for his pessimism and philosophical clarity. At age 25, he published his doctoral dissertation, On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason, which examined the four separate manifestations of reason in the phenomenal...

 put the puzzle of free will and moral responsibility in these terms:
Everyone believes himself a priori to be perfectly free, even in his individual actions, and thinks that at every moment he can commence another manner of life. ... But a posteriori, through experience, he finds to his astonishment that he is not free, but subjected to necessity, that in spite of all his resolutions and reflections he does not change his conduct, and that from the beginning of his life to the end of it, he must carry out the very character which he himself condemns...

In his On the Freedom of the Will
On the Freedom of the Will
On the Freedom of the Will was an essay presented to the Royal Norwegian Society of Sciences in 1839 by Arthur Schopenhauer as a response to the academic question that they had posed: "Is it possible to demonstrate human free will from self-consciousness?" It is one of the constituent essays of his...

, Schopenhauer stated, "You can do what you will, but in any given moment of your life you can will only one definite thing and absolutely nothing other than that one thing."

Rudolf Steiner
Rudolf Steiner
Rudolf Joseph Lorenz Steiner was an Austrian philosopher, social reformer, architect, and esotericist. He gained initial recognition as a literary critic and cultural philosopher...

, who collaborated in a complete edition of Arthur Schopenhauer's work, wrote The Philosophy of Freedom
Philosophy of Freedom
The Philosophy of Freedom, the fundamental philosophical work of the philosopher and esotericist Rudolf Steiner, focuses on the concept of free will...

, which focuses on the problem of free will. Steiner (1861–1925) initially divides this into the two aspects of freedom: freedom of thought and freedom of action. He argues that inner freedom is achieved when we bridge the gap between our sensory impressions, which reflect the outer appearance of the world, and our thoughts, which give us access to the inner nature of the world. Acknowledging the many influences on our choice, he points to the impact of our becoming aware of just these determinants. Outer freedom is attained by permeating our deeds with moral imagination. Steiner aims to show that these two aspects of inner and outer freedom are integral to one another, and that true freedom is only achieved when they are united.

The contemporary philosopher Galen Strawson
Galen Strawson
Galen John Strawson is a British philosopher and literary critic who works primarily on philosophy of mind, metaphysics , John Locke, David Hume and Kant. He was educated at the Dragon School, Oxford , from where he won a scholarship to Winchester College...

 agrees with Locke that the truth or falsity of determinism is irrelevant to the
problem. He argues that the notion of free will leads to an infinite regress and is therefore senseless.
According to Strawson, if one is responsible for what one does in a given situation, then one must be responsible for the way one is in certain mental respects. But it is impossible for one to be responsible for the way one is in any respect. This is because to be responsible in some situation "S", one must have been responsible for the way one was at "S−1". To be responsible for the way one was at "S−1", one must have been responsible for the way one was at "S−2", and so on. At some point in the chain, there must have been an act of origination of a new causal chain. But this is impossible. Man cannot create himself or his mental states ex nihilo
Ex nihilo
Ex nihilo is a Latin phrase meaning "out of nothing". It often appears in conjunction with the concept of creation, as in creatio ex nihilo, meaning "creation out of nothing"—chiefly in philosophical or theological contexts, but also occurs in other fields.In theology, the common phrase creatio ex...

. This argument entails that free will itself is absurd, but not that it is incompatible with determinism. Strawson calls his own view "pessimism" but it can be classified as hard incompatibilism.

Ted Honderich
Ted Honderich
Ted Honderich is a Canadian-born British philosopher, Grote Professor Emeritus of the Philosophy of Mind and Logic, University College London and Visiting Professor, University of Bath...

 holds the view that "determinism is true, compatibilism and incompatibilism are both false" and the real problem lies elsewhere. Honderich maintains that determinism is true because quantum phenomena are not events or things that can be located in space and time, but are abstract
Abstract object
An abstract object is an object which does not exist at any particular time or place, but rather exists as a type of thing . In philosophy, an important distinction is whether an object is considered abstract or concrete. Abstract objects are sometimes called abstracta An abstract object is an...

 entities. Further, even if they were micro-level events, they do not seem to have any relevance to how the world is at the macroscopic level. He maintains that incompatibilism is false because, even if determinism is true, incompatibilists have not, and cannot, provide an adequate account of origination. He rejects compatibilism because it, like incompatibilism, assumes a single, fundamental notion of freedom. There are really two notions of freedom: voluntary action and origination. Both notions are required to explain freedom of will and responsibility. Both determinism and indeterminism are threats to such freedom. To abandon these notions of freedom would be to abandon moral responsibility. On the one side, we have our intuitions; on the other, the scientific facts. The "new" problem is how to resolve this conflict.

Physics


Early scientific thought often portrayed the universe
Universe
The Universe is commonly defined as the totality of everything that exists, including all matter and energy, the planets, stars, galaxies, and the contents of intergalactic space. Definitions and usage vary and similar terms include the cosmos, the world and nature...

 as deterministic, and some thinkers claimed that the simple process of gathering sufficient information
Physical information
In physics, physical information refers generally to the information that is contained in a physical system. Its usage in quantum mechanics In physics, physical information refers generally to the information that is contained in a physical system. Its usage in quantum mechanics In physics,...

 would allow them to predict future events with perfect accuracy. Modern science, on the other hand, is a mixture of deterministic and stochastic
Stochastic
Stochastic refers to systems whose behaviour is intrinsically non-deterministic. A stochastic process is one whose behavior is non-deterministic, in that a system's subsequent state is determined both by the process's predictable actions and by a random element. However, according to M. Kac and E...

 theories. Quantum mechanics
Quantum mechanics
Quantum mechanics, also known as quantum physics or quantum theory, is a branch of physics providing a mathematical description of much of the dual particle-like and wave-like behavior and interactions of energy and matter. It departs from classical mechanics primarily at the atomic and subatomic...

 predicts events only in terms of probabilities, casting doubt on whether the universe is deterministic at all. Current physical theories cannot resolve the question of whether determinism is true of the world, being very far from a potential Theory of Everything
Theory of everything
A theory of everything is a putative theory of theoretical physics that fully explains and links together all known physical phenomena, and predicts the outcome of any experiment that could be carried out in principle....

, and open to many different interpretations
Interpretation of quantum mechanics
An interpretation of quantum mechanics is a set of statements which attempt to explain how quantum mechanics informs our understanding of nature. Although quantum mechanics has held up to rigorous and thorough experimental testing, many of these experiments are open to different interpretations...

.
Assuming that an indeterministic interpretation of quantum mechanics is correct, one may still object that such indeterminism is for all practical purposes confined to microscopic phenomena. This is not always the case: many macroscopic phenomena are based on quantum effects. For instance, some hardware random number generator
Hardware random number generator
In computing, a hardware random number generator is an apparatus that generates random numbers from a physical process. Such devices are often based on microscopic phenomena that generate a low-level, statistically random "noise" signal, such as thermal noise or the photoelectric effect or other...

s work by amplifying quantum effects into practically usable signals. A more significant question is whether the indeterminism of quantum mechanics allows for the traditional idea of free will (based on a perception of free will — see Experimental Psychology below for distinction). If a person's action is the result of complete quantum randomness, however, this in itself would mean that such traditional free will does not exist (because the action was not controllable by the physical being who claims to possess the free will).

Under the assumption of physicalism
Physicalism
Physicalism is a philosophical position holding that everything which exists is no more extensive than its physical properties; that is, that there are no kinds of things other than physical things...

 it has been argued that the laws of quantum mechanics provide a complete probabilistic account of the motion of particles, regardless of whether or not free will exists. Physicist Stephen Hawking
Stephen Hawking
Stephen William Hawking, CH, CBE, FRS, FRSA is an English theoretical physicist and cosmologist, whose scientific books and public appearances have made him an academic celebrity...

 describes such ideas in his 2010 book The Grand Design
The Grand Design (book)
The Grand Design is a popular-science book written by physicists Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow and published by Bantam Books in 2010. It argues that invoking God is not necessary to explain the origins of the universe, and that the Big Bang is a consequence of the laws of physics alone...

. Furthermore, according to Hawking, these findings from quantum mechanics suggest that humans are sorts of complicated biological machines; although our behavior is impossible to predict
Uncertainty principle
In quantum mechanics, the Heisenberg uncertainty principle states a fundamental limit on the accuracy with which certain pairs of physical properties of a particle, such as position and momentum, can be simultaneously known...

 perfectly in practice, "free will is just an illusion." In other words, he thinks that only compatibilistic (deterministic) free will
Compatibilism
Compatibilism is the belief that free will and determinism are compatible ideas, and that it is possible to believe both without being logically inconsistent. It may, however, be more accurate to say that compatibilists define 'free will' in a way that allows it to co-exist with determinism...

 is possible based on the data.

Erwin Schrödinger
Erwin Schrödinger
Erwin Rudolf Josef Alexander Schrödinger was an Austrian physicist and theoretical biologist who was one of the fathers of quantum mechanics, and is famed for a number of important contributions to physics, especially the Schrödinger equation, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1933...

, a nobel laureate in physics and one of the founders of quantum mechanics, came to a different conclusion than Hawking. Near the end of his essay titled "What Is Life?"
What is life?
What is Life and similar may refer to:* "What is Life", a song by George Harrison* What Is Life?, a book by Nobel laureate Erwin Schrödinger, in which he tries to answer the question in physical/chemical terms...

 he says that there is "incontrovertible direct experience" that we have free will. He also believes that the human body is wholly or at least partially determined, leading him to conclude that "...'I' -am the person, if any, who controls the 'motion of the atoms' according to the Laws of Nature." He explains this position on free will by appealing to a notion of self that is emergent from the entire collection of atoms in his body, along with certain convictions of conscious experience. However, he also qualifies the conclusion as "necessarily subjective" in its "philosophical implications." Contrasting the views of Hawking and Schrödinger, it is clear that even among eminent physicists there is not unanimity
Unanimity
Unanimity is agreement by all people in a given situation. When unanimous, everybody is of the same mind and acting together as one. Though unlike uniformity, it does not constitute absolute agreement. Many groups consider unanimous decisions a sign of agreement, solidarity, and unity...

 regarding free will.

Genetics


Like physicists, biologists
Biology
Biology is a natural science concerned with the study of life and living organisms, including their structure, function, growth, origin, evolution, distribution, and taxonomy. Biology is a vast subject containing many subdivisions, topics, and disciplines...

 have frequently addressed questions related to free will. One of the most heated debates in biology is that of "nature versus nurture
Nature versus nurture
The nature versus nurture debate concerns the relative importance of an individual's innate qualities versus personal experiences The nature versus nurture debate concerns the relative importance of an individual's innate qualities ("nature," i.e. nativism, or innatism) versus personal experiences...

", concerning the relative importance of genetics and biology as compared to culture and environment in human behavior. The view of many researchers is that many human behaviors can be explained in terms of humans' brains, genes, and evolutionary histories. This point of view raises the fear that such attribution makes it impossible to hold others responsible for their actions. Steven Pinker
Steven Pinker
Steven Arthur Pinker is a Canadian-American experimental psychologist, cognitive scientist, linguist and popular science author...

's view is that fear of determinism in the context of "genetics" and "evolution" is a mistake, that it is "a confusion of explanation with exculpation". Responsibility doesn't require behavior to be uncaused, as long as behavior responds to praise and blame. Moreover, it is not certain that environmental determination is any less threatening to free will than genetic determination.

Neuroscience


It has become possible to study the living brain
Human brain
The human brain has the same general structure as the brains of other mammals, but is over three times larger than the brain of a typical mammal with an equivalent body size. Estimates for the number of neurons in the human brain range from 80 to 120 billion...

, and researchers can now watch the brain's decision-making process at work. A seminal experiment in this field was conducted by Benjamin Libet
Benjamin Libet
Benjamin Libet April 12, 1916, Chicago, Illinois - July 23, 2007, Davis, California) was a pioneering scientist in the field of human consciousness. Libet was a researcher in the physiology department of the University of California, San Francisco...

 in the 1980s, in which he asked each subject to choose a random moment to flick her wrist while he measured the associated activity in her brain, in particular, the build-up of electrical signal called the readiness potential (after German Bereitschaftspotential
Bereitschaftspotential
In neurology, the Bereitschaftspotential or BP , also called the pre-motor potential or readiness potential , is a measure of activity in the motor cortex of the brain leading up to voluntary muscle movement. The BP is a manifestation of cortical contribution to the pre-motor planning of volitional...

). Although it was well known that the readiness potential caused and preceded the physical action, Libet asked whether it could be recorded before the conscious intention to move. To determine when subjects felt the intention to move, he asked them to watch the second hand of a clock. After making a movement, the volunteer reported the time on the clock when they first felt the conscious intention to move; this became known as Libet's W time.

Libet found that the unconscious brain activity of the readiness potential leading up to subjects' movements began approximately half a second before the subject was aware of a conscious intention to move.

More studies have since been conducted, including some that try to:
  • support Libet's original findings
  • suggest that the cancelling or "veto" of an action may first arise subconsciously as well
  • explain the underlying brain structures involved
  • suggest models that explain the relationship between conscious intention and action

Neurology and psychiatry


There are several brain-related conditions in which an individual's actions are not felt to be entirely under his or her control. Although the existence of such conditions does not directly refute the existence of free will, the study of such conditions, like the neuroscientific studies above, is valuable in developing models of how the brain may construct our experience of free will.

For example, people with Tourette syndrome
Tourette syndrome
Tourette syndrome is an inherited neuropsychiatric disorder with onset in childhood, characterized by multiple physical tics and at least one vocal tic; these tics characteristically wax and wane...

 and related tic disorder
Tic disorder
Tic disorders are defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders based on type and duration of tics...

s make involuntary movements and utterances, called tic
Tic
A tic is a sudden, repetitive, nonrhythmic, stereotyped motor movement or vocalization involving discrete muscle groups. Tics can be invisible to the observer, such as abdominal tensing or toe crunching. Common motor and phonic tics are, respectively, eye blinking and throat clearing...

s, despite the fact that they would prefer not to do so when it is socially inappropriate. Tics are described as semi-voluntary or "unvoluntary", because they are not strictly involuntary: they may be experienced as a voluntary response to an unwanted, premonitory urge. Tics are experienced as irresistible and must eventually be expressed. People with Tourette syndrome are sometimes able to suppress their tics for limited periods, but doing so often results in an explosion of tics afterward. The control exerted (from seconds to hours at a time) may merely postpone and exacerbate the ultimate expression of the tic.

In alien hand syndrome
Alien hand syndrome
Alien hand syndrome is a neurological disorder in which the afflicted person's hand appears to take on a mind of its own...

, the afflicted individual's limb will produce meaningful behaviors without the intention of the subject. The affected limb effectively demonstrates 'a will of its own.' The sense of agency
Sense of agency
The "sense of agency" refers to the subjective awareness that one is initiating, executing, and controlling one's own volitional actions in the world. It is the pre-reflective awareness or implicit sense that it is me who is presently executing bodily movement or thinking thoughts...

 does not emerge in conjunction with the overt appearance of the purposeful act even though the sense of ownership in relationship to the body part is maintained. This phenomenon corresponds with an impairment in the premotor mechanism manifested temporally by the appearance of the readiness potential (see section on the Neuroscience of Free Will above) recordable on the scalp several hundred milliseconds before the overt appearance of a spontaneous willed movement. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging
Functional magnetic resonance imaging
Functional magnetic resonance imaging or functional MRI is a type of specialized MRI scan used to measure the hemodynamic response related to neural activity in the brain or spinal cord of humans or other animals. It is one of the most recently developed forms of neuroimaging...

 with specialized multivariate analyses to study the temporal dimension in the activation of the cortical network associated with voluntary movement in human subjects, an anterior-to-posterior sequential activation process beginning in the supplementary motor area on the medial surface of the frontal lobe and progressing to the primary motor cortex and then to parietal cortex has been observed. The sense of agency
Sense of agency
The "sense of agency" refers to the subjective awareness that one is initiating, executing, and controlling one's own volitional actions in the world. It is the pre-reflective awareness or implicit sense that it is me who is presently executing bodily movement or thinking thoughts...

 thus appears to normally emerge in conjunction with this orderly sequential network activation incorporating premotor association cortices together with primary motor cortex. In particular, the supplementary motor complex on the medial surface of the frontal lobe appears to activate prior to primary motor cortex presumably in associated with a preparatory pre-movement process. In a recent study using functional magnetic resonance imaging
Functional magnetic resonance imaging
Functional magnetic resonance imaging or functional MRI is a type of specialized MRI scan used to measure the hemodynamic response related to neural activity in the brain or spinal cord of humans or other animals. It is one of the most recently developed forms of neuroimaging...

, alien movements were characterized by a relatively isolated activation of the primary motor cortex contralateral to the alien hand, while voluntary movements of the same body part included the concomitant activation of motor association cortex associated with the premotor process. The clinical definition requires "feeling that one limb is foreign or has a will of its own, together with observable involuntary motor activity" (emphasis in original). This syndrome is often a result of damage to the corpus callosum
Corpus callosum
The corpus callosum , also known as the colossal commissure, is a wide, flat bundle of neural fibers beneath the cortex in the eutherian brain at the longitudinal fissure. It connects the left and right cerebral hemispheres and facilitates interhemispheric communication...

, either when it is severed to treat intractable epilepsy
Epilepsy
Epilepsy is a common chronic neurological disorder characterized by seizures. These seizures are transient signs and/or symptoms of abnormal, excessive or hypersynchronous neuronal activity in the brain.About 50 million people worldwide have epilepsy, and nearly two out of every three new cases...

 or due to a stroke
Stroke
A stroke, previously known medically as a cerebrovascular accident , is the rapidly developing loss of brain function due to disturbance in the blood supply to the brain. This can be due to ischemia caused by blockage , or a hemorrhage...

. The standard neurological explanation is that the felt will reported by the speaking left hemisphere does not correspond with the actions performed by the non-speaking right hemisphere, thus suggesting that the two hemispheres may have independent senses of will.

Similarly, one of the most important ("first rank") diagnostic symptoms of schizophrenia
Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is a mental disorder characterized by a disintegration of thought processes and of emotional responsiveness. It most commonly manifests itself as auditory hallucinations, paranoid or bizarre delusions, or disorganized speech and thinking, and it is accompanied by significant social...

 is the delusion of being controlled by an external force. People with schizophrenia will sometimes report that, although they are acting in the world, they did not initiate, or will, the particular actions they performed. This is sometimes likened to being a robot controlled by someone else. Although the neural mechanisms of schizophrenia are not yet clear, one influential hypothesis is that there is a breakdown in brain systems that compare motor commands with the feedback received from the body (known as proprioception
Proprioception
Proprioception , from Latin proprius, meaning "one's own" and perception, is the sense of the relative position of neighbouring parts of the body and strength of effort being employed in movement...

), leading to attendant hallucinations and delusions of control.

Determinism and emergent behavior



In some generative philosophies
Emergence
In philosophy, systems theory, science, and art, emergence is the way complex systems and patterns arise out of a multiplicity of relatively simple interactions. Emergence is central to the theories of integrative levels and of complex systems....

 of cognitive science
Cognitive science
Cognitive science is the interdisciplinary scientific study of mind and its processes. It examines what cognition is, what it does and how it works. It includes research on how information is processed , represented, and transformed in behaviour, nervous system or machine...

s and evolutionary psychology
Evolutionary psychology
Evolutionary psychology is an approach in the social and natural sciences that examines psychological traits such as memory, perception, and language from a modern evolutionary perspective. It seeks to identify which human psychological traits are evolved adaptations, that is, the functional...

, free will is assumed not to exist. However, an illusion of free will is created, within this theoretical context, due to the generation of infinite or computationally complex behavior from the interaction of a finite set of rules and parameters. Thus, the unpredictability of the emerging behavior from deterministic processes leads to a perception of free will, even though free will as an ontological
Ontology
Ontology is the philosophical study of the nature of being, existence or reality as such, as well as the basic categories of being and their relations...

 entity is assumed not to exist. In this picture, even if the behavior could be computed ahead of time, no way of doing so will be simpler than just observing the outcome of the brain's own computations.

As an illustration, some strategy board games have rigorous rules in which no information (such as cards' face values) is hidden from either player and no random
Randomness
Randomness has somewhat differing meanings as used in various fields. It also has common meanings which are connected to the notion of predictability of events....

 events (such as dice rolling) occur in the game. Nevertheless, strategy games like chess
Chess
Chess is a two-player board game played on a chessboard, a square-checkered board with 64 squares arranged in an eight-by-eight grid. It is one of the world's most popular games, played by millions of people worldwide at home, in clubs, online, by correspondence, and in tournaments.Each player...

 and especially Go
Go (board game)
Go , is an ancient board game for two players that originated in China more than 2,000 years ago...

, with its simple deterministic rules, can have an extremely large number of unpredictable moves. By analogy, "emergentists" suggest that the experience of free will emerges from the interaction of finite rules and deterministic parameters that generate infinite and unpredictable behavior. Yet, if all these events were accounted for, and there were a known way to evaluate these events, the seemingly unpredictable behavior would become predictable.
Cellular automata and the generative sciences
Generative sciences
The generative science is a interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary science that explores the natural world and its complex behaviours as a generative process...

 can model emergent processes of social behavior on this philosophy.

Experimental psychology


Experimental psychology
Experimental psychology
Experimental psychology is a methodological approach, rather than a subject, and encompasses varied fields within psychology. Experimental psychologists have traditionally conducted research, published articles, and taught classes on neuroscience, developmental psychology, sensation, perception,...

's contributions to the free will debate have come primarily through social psychologist Daniel Wegner
Daniel Wegner
Daniel M. Wegner is an American social psychologist. He is a professor of psychology at Harvard University and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science...

's work on conscious will. In his book, The Illusion of Conscious Will Wegner summarizes what he believes is empirical evidence supporting the view that human perception of conscious control is an illusion. Wegner summarizes some empirical evidence that may suggest that the perception of conscious control is open to modification (or even manipulation). Wegner observes that one event is inferred to have caused a second event when two requirements are met:
  1. The first event immediately precedes the second event, and
  2. The first event is consistent with having caused the second event.

For example, if a person hears an explosion and sees a tree fall down that person is likely to infer that the explosion caused the tree to fall over. However, if the explosion occurs after the tree falls down (i.e., the first requirement is not met), or rather than an explosion, the person hears the ring of a telephone (i.e., the second requirement is not met), then that person is not likely to infer that either noise caused the tree to fall down.

Wegner has applied this principle to the inferences people make about their own conscious will. People typically experience a thought that is consistent with a behavior, and then they observe themselves performing this behavior. As a result, people infer that their thoughts must have caused the observed behavior. However, Wegner has been able to manipulate people's thoughts and behaviors so as to conform to or violate the two requirements for causal inference. Through such work, Wegner has been able to show that people will often experience conscious will over behaviors that they have in fact not caused, and conversely, that people can be led to experience a lack of will over behaviors that they did cause. For instance, priming
Priming (psychology)
Priming is an implicit memory effect in which exposure to a stimulus influences a response to a later stimulus. It can occur following perceptual, semantic, or conceptual stimulus repetition...

 subjects with information about an effect increases the probability that a person falsely believes to be the cause of it. The implication for such work is that the perception of conscious will (which he says might be more accurately labelled as 'the emotion of authorship') is not tethered to the execution of actual behaviors, but is inferred from various cues through an intricate mental process, authorship processing. Although many interpret this work as a blow against the argument for free will, both psychologists and philosophers have criticized Wegner's theories. Wegner has also asserted that his work informs only of the mechanism for perceptions of control, not for control itself.

Emily Pronin has argued that the subjective experience of free will is supported by the introspection illusion
Introspection illusion
The introspection illusion is a cognitive illusion in which people wrongly think they have direct insight into the origins of their mental states, while treating others' introspections as unreliable...

. This is the tendency for people to trust the reliability of their own introspections while distrusting the introspections of other people. The theory implies that people will more readily attribute free will to themselves rather than others. This prediction has been confirmed by three of Pronin and Kugler's experiments. When college students were asked about personal decisions in their own and their roommate's lives, they regarded their own choices as less predictable. Staff at a restaurant described their co-workers' lives as more determined (having fewer future possibilities) than their own lives. When weighing up the influence of different factors on behavior, students gave desires and intentions the strongest weight for their own behavior, but rated personality traits as most predictive of other people.

Psychologists have shown that reducing a person's belief in free will makes them less helpful and more aggressive. This may occur because the subject loses a sense of Self-efficacy
Self-efficacy
Self-efficacy is a term used in psychology, roughly corresponding to a person's belief in their own competence.It has been defined as the belief that one is capable of performing in a certain manner to attain certain set of goals. It is believed that our personalized ideas of self-efficacy affect...

.

Social Consequences


In recent years, free will belief in individuals has been analysed with respect to traits in social behaviour. In general the concept of free will researched to date in this context has been that of the incompatabilist, or more specifically, the libertarian, i.e. freedom from determinism.

Various social behavioural traits have been correlated with the belief in deterministic models of mind, some of which involved the experimental subjection of individuals to libertarian and deterministic perspectives. Kathleen Vohs has found that those whose belief in free will had been eroded were more likely to cheat. Roy Baumeister has observed that disbelief in free will increases aggression and reduces helpfulness. Tyler Stillman has found that belief in free will predicts better job performance.

Conversely, studies have been conducted indicating that peoples' belief in free will appears to be inconsistent. Emily Pronin and Matthew Kugler have found that people believe they have more free will than others.

Whether people naturally adhere to an incompatibilist model of free will has also been questioned in the research. Eddy Nahmias has found that incompatibilism is not intuitive - it was not adhered to, in that determinism does not negate belief in moral responsibility (based on an empirical study of people's responses to moral dilemmas under a deterministic model of reality). Edward Cokely has found that incompatibilism is intuitive - it was naturally adhered to, in that determinism does indeed negate belief in moral responsibility in general. Joshua Knobe and Shaun Nichols have proposed that incompatibilism may or may not be intuitive, and that it is dependent to some large degree upon the circumstances; whether or not the crime incites an emotional response - i.e. if it involves harming another human being. They found that belief in free will is a cultural universal, and that the majority of participants said that (a) our universe is indeterministic and (b) moral responsibility is not compatible with determinism.

Studies have also been conducting indicating there exists a correlation between one's likelihood of accepting a deterministic model of mind, and their personality type. For example, Adam Feltz and Edward Cokely have found that people of an extrovert personality type are more likely to dissociate belief in determinism from belief in moral responsibility.

Further studies have been conducted indicating that people react strongly to the way in which mental determinism is described, when reconciling it with moral responsibility. Eddy Nahmias has noted that when peoples actions are framed with respect to their beliefs and desires (rather than their neurological underpinnings) they are more likely to dissociate determinism from moral responsibility.

In Hindu philosophy


The six orthodox (astika) schools of thought in Hindu philosophy
Hindu philosophy
Hindu philosophy is divided into six schools of thought, or , which accept the Vedas as supreme revealed scriptures. Three other schools do not accept the Vedas as authoritative...

 do not agree with each other entirely on the question of free will. For the Samkhya
Samkhya
Samkhya, also Sankhya, Sāṃkhya, or Sāṅkhya is one of the six schools of Hindu philosophy and classical Indian philosophy. Sage Kapila is traditionally considered as the founder of the Samkhya school, although no historical verification is possible...

, for instance, matter is without any freedom, and soul lacks any ability to control the unfolding of matter. The only real freedom (kaivalya) consists in realizing the ultimate separateness of matter and self. For the Yoga
Yoga
Yoga is a physical, mental, and spiritual discipline, originating in ancient India. The goal of yoga, or of the person practicing yoga, is the attainment of a state of perfect spiritual insight and tranquility while meditating on Supersoul...

 school, only Ishvara
Ishvara
Ishvara is a philosophical concept in Hinduism, meaning controller or the Supreme controller in a theistic school of thought or the Supreme Being, or as an Ishta-deva of monistic thought.-Etymology:...

 is truly free, and its freedom is also distinct from all feelings, thoughts, actions, or wills, and is thus not at all a freedom of will. The metaphysics of the Nyaya
Nyaya
' is the name given to one of the six orthodox or astika schools of Hindu philosophy—specifically the school of logic...

 and Vaisheshika
Vaisheshika
Vaisheshika or ' is one of the six Hindu schools of philosophy of India. Historically, it has been closely associated with the Hindu school of logic, Nyaya....

 schools strongly suggest a belief in determinism, but do not seem to make explicit claims about determinism or free will.

A quotation from Swami Vivekananda
Swami Vivekananda
Swami Vivekananda , born Narendranath Dutta , was the chief disciple of the 19th century mystic Ramakrishna Paramahansa and the founder of the Ramakrishna Math and the Ramakrishna Mission...

, a Vedantist
Vedanta
Vedānta was originally a word used in Hindu philosophy as a synonym for that part of the Veda texts known also as the Upanishads. The name is a morphophonological form of Veda-anta = "Veda-end" = "the appendix to the Vedic hymns." It is also speculated that "Vedānta" means "the purpose or goal...

, offers a good example of the worry about free will in the Hindu tradition.

However, the preceding quote has often been misinterpreted as Vivekananda implying that everything is predetermined. What Vivekananda actually meant by lack of free will was that the will was not "free" because it was heavily influenced by the law of cause and effect—"The will is not free, it is a phenomenon bound by cause and effect, but there is something behind the will which is free." Vivekananda never said things were absolutely determined and placed emphasis on the power of conscious choice to alter one's past karma
Karma in Hinduism
Karma is a concept in Hinduism which explains causality through a system where beneficial effects are derived from past beneficial actions and harmful effects from past harmful actions, creating a system of actions and reactions throughout a soul's reincarnated lives forming a cycle of rebirth...

: "It is the coward and the fool who says this is his fate
Destiny
Destiny or fate refers to a predetermined course of events. It may be conceived as a predetermined future, whether in general or of an individual...

. But it is the strong man who stands up and says I will make my own fate."

Similarly, Vivekananda's teacher Ramakrishna Paramahansa, using an analogy said that man is like a cow tied to a pole with a rope—the karmic debts and human nature bind him and the amount of free will he has is analogous to the amount of freedom the rope allows; as one progresses spiritually, the rope becomes longer.

Mimamsa
Mimamsa
' , a Sanskrit word meaning "investigation" , is the name of an astika school of Hindu philosophy whose primary enquiry is into the nature of dharma based on close hermeneutics of the Vedas...

, Vedanta
Vedanta
Vedānta was originally a word used in Hindu philosophy as a synonym for that part of the Veda texts known also as the Upanishads. The name is a morphophonological form of Veda-anta = "Veda-end" = "the appendix to the Vedic hymns." It is also speculated that "Vedānta" means "the purpose or goal...

, and the more theistic versions of Hinduism
Hinduism
Hinduism is the predominant and indigenous religious tradition of the Indian Subcontinent. Hinduism is known to its followers as , amongst many other expressions...

 such as Shaivism
Shaivism
Shaivism is one of the four major sects of Hinduism, the others being Vaishnavism, Shaktism and Smartism. Followers of Shaivism, called "Shaivas," and also "Saivas" or "Saivites," revere Shiva as the Supreme Being. Shaivas believe that Shiva is All and in all, the creator, preserver, destroyer,...

 and Vaishnavism
Vaishnavism
Vaishnavism is a tradition of Hinduism, distinguished from other schools by its worship of Vishnu, or his associated Avatars such as Rama and Krishna, as the original and supreme God....

, have often emphasized the importance of free will. The doctrine of karma
Karma in Hinduism
Karma is a concept in Hinduism which explains causality through a system where beneficial effects are derived from past beneficial actions and harmful effects from past harmful actions, creating a system of actions and reactions throughout a soul's reincarnated lives forming a cycle of rebirth...

 requires both that we pay for our actions in the past, and that our actions in the present be free enough to allow us to deserve the future reward or punishment that we will receive for our present actions.

In Buddhist philosophy


Buddhism
Buddhism
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...

 accepts both freedom and determinism (or something similar to it), but rejects the idea of an agent, and thus the idea that freedom is a free will belonging to an agent. According to the Buddha
Gautama Buddha
Siddhārtha Gautama was a spiritual teacher from the Indian subcontinent, on whose teachings Buddhism was founded. In most Buddhist traditions, he is regarded as the Supreme Buddha Siddhārtha Gautama (Sanskrit: सिद्धार्थ गौतम; Pali: Siddhattha Gotama) was a spiritual teacher from the Indian...

, "There is free action, there is retribution, but I see no agent that passes out from one set of momentary elements into another one, except the [connection] of those elements." Buddhists believe in neither absolute free will, nor determinism. It preaches a middle doctrine, named pratitya-samutpada
Pratitya-samutpada
Dependent origination or dependent arising is a cardinal doctrine of Buddhism, and arguably the only thing that holds every Buddhist teaching together from Theravada to Dzogchen to the extinct schools. As a concept and a doctrine it has a general and a specific application, both being integral to...

in Sanskrit
Sanskrit
Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand...

, which is often translated as "inter-dependent arising". It is part of the theory of karma in Buddhism
Karma in Buddhism
Karma means "action" or "doing"; whatever one does, says, or thinks is a karma. In Buddhism, the term karma is used specifically for those actions which spring from the intention of an unenlightened being.These bring about a fruit or result Karma (Sanskrit, also karman, Pāli: Kamma) means...

. The concept of karma in Buddhism is different from the notion of karma in Hinduism. In Buddhism, the idea of karma is much less deterministic. The Buddhist notion of karma is primarily focused on the cause and effect of moral actions in this life, while in Hinduism the concept of karma is more often connected with determining one's destiny
Destiny
Destiny or fate refers to a predetermined course of events. It may be conceived as a predetermined future, whether in general or of an individual...

 in future lives.

In Buddhism it is taught that the idea of absolute freedom of choice (i.e. that any human being could be completely free to make any choice) is foolish, because it denies the reality of one's physical needs and circumstances. Equally incorrect is the idea that we have no choice in life or that our lives are pre-determined. To deny freedom would be to deny the efforts of Buddhists to make moral progress (through our capacity to freely choose compassionate action). Pubbekatahetuvada, the belief that all happiness and suffering arise from previous actions, is considered a wrong view according to Buddhist doctrines. Because Buddhists also reject agenthood, the traditional compatibilist strategies are closed to them as well. Instead, the Buddhist philosophical strategy is to examine the metaphysics of causality. Ancient India had many heated arguments about the nature of causality with Jains, Nyayists
Nyaya
' is the name given to one of the six orthodox or astika schools of Hindu philosophy—specifically the school of logic...

, Samkhyists
Samkhya
Samkhya, also Sankhya, Sāṃkhya, or Sāṅkhya is one of the six schools of Hindu philosophy and classical Indian philosophy. Sage Kapila is traditionally considered as the founder of the Samkhya school, although no historical verification is possible...

, Cārvāka
Carvaka
' , also known as ', is a system of Indian philosophy that assumes various forms of philosophical skepticism and religious indifference. It seems named after , the probable author of the and probably a follower of Brihaspati, who founded the ' philosophy.In overviews of Indian philosophy, Cārvāka...

ns, and Buddhists
Buddhism
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...

 all taking slightly different lines. In many ways, the Buddhist position is closer to a theory of "conditionality" than a theory of "causality", especially as it is expounded by Nagarjuna
Nagarjuna
Nāgārjuna was an important Buddhist teacher and philosopher. Along with his disciple Āryadeva, he is credited with founding the Mādhyamaka school of Mahāyāna Buddhism...

 in the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā
Mulamadhyamakakarika
The Mūlamadhyamakakārikā , or Fundamental Verses on the Middle Way, is a key text by Nagarjuna, one of the most important Buddhist philosophers.-Competing interpretations:...

.

Significant also is the concept of skillful (kusula) and unskillful (akusula) action(karma), where skillful actions tend to happier results, giving the actor more freedom in choosing subsequent actions. Unskillful actions have the reverse affect. This is depicted cosmologically in the 6 realms of rebirth, where a human who acts unskillfully could become an animal or lower being with relatively little ability to choose his or her actions, and thus to cultivate desirable results. To this end, Buddhists may reflect on the preciousness of human life (for the relative freedom from compulsiveness that it offers), and the limitations and compulsiveness of other forms of life. The Buddhist is urged then to use his or her life to enhance the ability to chose wisely.

In late Indian and Tibetan Buddhism, the enlightened state may be depicted by a dakini, or sky-goer, who is depicted as dancing in open space, free to move in any direction, without obstruction.

In other theology



The theological
Theology
Theology is the systematic and rational study of religion and its influences and of the nature of religious truths, or the learned profession acquired by completing specialized training in religious studies, usually at a university or school of divinity or seminary.-Definition:Augustine of Hippo...

 doctrine of divine foreknowledge is often alleged to be in conflict with free will, particularly in Reformed
Calvinism
Calvinism is a Protestant theological system and an approach to the Christian life...

 circles. For if God
God
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

 knows exactly what will happen, right down to every choice one makes, the status of choices as free is called into question. If God had timelessly true knowledge about one's choices, this would seem to constrain one's freedom. This problem is related to the Aristotelian
Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

 problem of the sea battle: tomorrow there will or will not be a sea battle. If there will be one, then it seems that it was true yesterday that there would be one. Then it would be necessary that the sea battle will occur. If there won't be one, then by similar reasoning, it is necessary that it won't occur. This means that the future, whatever it is, is completely fixed by past truths—true propositions about the future.

However, some philosophers follow William of Ockham
William of Ockham
William of Ockham was an English Franciscan friar and scholastic philosopher, who is believed to have been born in Ockham, a small village in Surrey. He is considered to be one of the major figures of medieval thought and was at the centre of the major intellectual and political controversies of...

 in holding that necessity and possibility are defined with respect to a given point in time and a given matrix of empirical circumstances, and so something that is merely possible from the perspective of one observer may be necessary from the perspective of an omniscient. Some philosophers follow Philo of Alexandria, a philosopher known for his homocentrism, in holding that free will is a feature of a human's soul, and thus that non-human animal
Animal
Animals are a major group of multicellular, eukaryotic organisms of the kingdom Animalia or Metazoa. Their body plan eventually becomes fixed as they develop, although some undergo a process of metamorphosis later on in their life. Most animals are motile, meaning they can move spontaneously and...

s lack free will.

Jewish
Judaism
Judaism ) is the "religion, philosophy, and way of life" of the Jewish people...

 philosophy
Jewish philosophy
Jewish philosophy , includes all philosophy carried out by Jews, or, in relation to the religion of Judaism. Jewish philosophy, until modern Enlightenment and Emancipation, was pre-occupied with attempts to reconcile coherent new ideas into the tradition of Rabbinic Judaism; thus organizing...

 stresses that free will is a product of the intrinsic human soul, using the word neshama (from the Hebrew root
Hebrew language
Hebrew is a Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family. Culturally, is it considered by Jews and other religious groups as the language of the Jewish people, though other Jewish languages had originated among diaspora Jews, and the Hebrew language is also used by non-Jewish groups, such...

 n.sh.m. or .נ.ש.מ meaning "breath"), but the ability to make a free choice is through Yechida (from Hebrew word "yachid", יחיד, singular), the part of the soul that is united with God, the only being that is not hindered by or dependent on cause and effect (thus, freedom of will does not belong to the realm of the physical reality, and inability of natural philosophy to account for it is expected).

In Islam
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

 the theological issue is not usually how to reconcile free will with God's foreknowledge, but with God's jabr, or divine commanding power. al-Ash'ari
Abu al-Hasan al-Ash'ari
Abū al-Hasan Alī ibn Ismā'īl al-Ash'arī was a Muslim Arab theologian and the founder of the Ash'ari school of early Islamic philosophy and Islamic theology.-Biography:...

 developed an "acquisition" or "dual-agency" form of compatibilism, in which human free will and divine jabr were both asserted, and which became a cornerstone of the dominant Ash'ari
Ash'ari
The Ashʿari theology is a school of early Muslim speculative theology founded by the theologian Abu al-Hasan al-Ash'ari...

 position. In Shia Islam, Ash'aris understanding of a higher balance toward predestination
Predestination
Predestination, in theology is the doctrine that all events have been willed by God. John Calvin interpreted biblical predestination to mean that God willed eternal damnation for some people and salvation for others...

 is challenged by most theologians. Free will, according to Islamic doctrine is the main factor for man's accountability in his/her actions throughout life. All actions taken by man's free will are said to be counted on the Day of Judgement because they are his/her own and not God's.

The philosopher Søren Kierkegaard
Søren Kierkegaard
Søren Aabye Kierkegaard was a Danish Christian philosopher, theologian and religious author. He was a critic of idealist intellectuals and philosophers of his time, such as Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling and Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel...

 claimed that divine omnipotence cannot be separated from divine goodness. As a truly omnipotent and good being, God could create beings with true freedom over God. Furthermore, God would voluntarily do so because "the greatest good ... which can be done for a being, greater than anything else that one can do for it, is to be truly free." Alvin Plantinga
Alvin Plantinga
Alvin Carl Plantinga is an American analytic philosopher and the emeritus John A. O'Brien Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame. He is known for his work in philosophy of religion, epistemology, metaphysics, and Christian apologetics...

's "free will defense
Plantinga's free will defense
Alvin Plantinga's version of the free will defense is an attempt to refute the logical problem of evil, the argument that to posit the existence of an omnipotent, omniscient, wholly good god in an evil world constitutes a logical contradiction...

" is a contemporary expansion of this theme, adding how God, free will, and evil
Problem of evil
In the philosophy of religion, the problem of evil is the question of how to explain evil if there exists a deity that is omnibenevolent, omnipotent, and omniscient . Some philosophers have claimed that the existences of such a god and of evil are logically incompatible or unlikely...

 are consistent.

What people believe


Roy Baumeister
Roy Baumeister
Roy F. Baumeister is Francis Eppes Professor of Psychology at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida. He is a social psychologist who is known for his work on the self, social rejection, belongingness, sexuality, self-control, self-esteem, self-defeating behaviors, motivation, and...

 and colleagues reviewed literature on the psychological effects of a belief (or disbelief) in free will. The first part of their analysis (which is all that we are concerned with here) was not meant to discover which types of free will actually exist. The researchers instead sought to identify what other people believe, how many people believed it, and the effects of those beliefs. Baumeister found that most people tend to believe in a sort of "naive compatibilistic free will".

The researchers also found that people consider acts more "free" when they involve a person opposing external forces, planning, or making random actions. Intriguingly, the last behaviour, "random" actions, may not be possible; when participants attempt to perform tasks in a random manner (such as generating random numbers), their behaviour betrays many patterns.

Effects of the belief itself


Baumeister and colleagues found that provoking disbelief in free will seems to cause various negative effects. The authors concluded, in their paper, that it is belief in determinism
Determinism
Determinism is the general philosophical thesis that states that for everything that happens there are conditions such that, given them, nothing else could happen. There are many versions of this thesis. Each of them rests upon various alleged connections, and interdependencies of things and...

 that causes those negative effects. This may not be a very justified conclusion, however. First of all, free will can at least refer to either libertarian (indeterministic) free will
Libertarianism (metaphysics)
Libertarianism is one of the main philosophical positions related to the problems of free will and determinism, which are part of the larger domain of metaphysics. In particular, libertarianism, which is an incompatibilist position, argues that free will is logically incompatible with a...

 or compatibilistic (deterministic) free will
Compatibilism
Compatibilism is the belief that free will and determinism are compatible ideas, and that it is possible to believe both without being logically inconsistent. It may, however, be more accurate to say that compatibilists define 'free will' in a way that allows it to co-exist with determinism...

. Having participants read articles that simply "disprove free will" is unlikely to increase their understanding of determinism, or the compatibilistic free will that it still permits.

In other words, "provoking disbelief in free will" probably causes a belief in fatalism
Fatalism
Fatalism is a philosophical doctrine emphasizing the subjugation of all events or actions to fate.Fatalism generally refers to several of the following ideas:...

. As discussed earlier in this article, compatibilistic free will is illustrated by statements like "my choices have causes, and an effect – so I affect my future", whereas fatalism is more like "my choices have causes, but no effect – I am powerless". Fatalism, then, may be what threatens people's sense of self-efficacy
Self-efficacy
Self-efficacy is a term used in psychology, roughly corresponding to a person's belief in their own competence.It has been defined as the belief that one is capable of performing in a certain manner to attain certain set of goals. It is believed that our personalized ideas of self-efficacy affect...

. Lay people should not confuse fatalism with determinism, and yet even professional philosophers occasionally confuse the two. It is thus likely that the negative consequences below can be accounted for by participants developing a belief in fatalism when experiments attack belief in "free will". To test the effects of belief in determinism, future studies would need to provide articles that do simply "attack free will", but instead focus on explaining determinism and compatibilism.

With that in mind, after researchers provoked volunteers to disbelieve in free will, participants lied, cheated, and stole more. For example, after participants read an article disproving free will, they were more likely to lie about their performance on a test where they would be rewarded with cash. Provoking a rejection of free will has also been associate with increased aggression and less helpful behaviour as well as mindless conformity. Disbelief in free will can even cause people to feel less guilt about transgressions against others. Baumeister and colleagues also note that volunteers disbelieving in free will are less capable of counterfactual thinking
Counterfactual thinking
Counterfactual thinking is a term of psychology that describes the tendency people have to imagine alternatives to reality. Humans are predisposed to think about how things could have turned out differently if only..., and also to imagine what if?....

. This is worrying because counterfactual thinking ("If I had done something different...") is an important part of learning from one's choices, including those that harmed others. Again, this cannot be taken to mean that belief in determinism is to blame; these are the results we would expect from increasing people's belief in fatalism.

See also


  • Argument from free will
    Argument from free will
    The argument from free will contends that omniscience and free will are incompatible, and that any conception of God that incorporates both properties is therefore inherently contradictory. The argument may focus on the incoherence of people having free will, or else God himself having free will...

     (the argument that free will and an omniscient God are incompatible)
  • Autonomy
    Autonomy
    Autonomy is a concept found in moral, political and bioethical philosophy. Within these contexts, it is the capacity of a rational individual to make an informed, un-coerced decision...

  • Best of all possible worlds
    Best of all possible worlds
    The phrase "the best of all possible worlds" was coined by the German polymath Gottfried Leibniz in his 1710 work Essais de Théodicée sur la bonté de Dieu, la liberté de l'homme et l'origine du mal...

  • Buridan's ass
    Buridan's ass
    Buridan's ass is an illustration of a paradox in philosophy in the conception of free will.It refers to a hypothetical situation wherein an ass is placed precisely midway between a stack of hay and a pail of water...

  • Dilemma of determinism
  • Existentialism
    Existentialism
    Existentialism is a term applied to a school of 19th- and 20th-century philosophers who, despite profound doctrinal differences, shared the belief that philosophical thinking begins with the human subject—not merely the thinking subject, but the acting, feeling, living human individual...

  • Fatalism
    Fatalism
    Fatalism is a philosophical doctrine emphasizing the subjugation of all events or actions to fate.Fatalism generally refers to several of the following ideas:...

  • Free will in antiquity
    Free will in antiquity
    Free will in antiquity was not discussed in the same terms as used in the modern free will debates, but historians of the problem have speculated who exactly was first to take positions as determinist, libertarian, and compatibilist in antiquity...

  • Free will in theology
    Free will in theology
    Free will in theology is an important part of the debate on free will in general. This article discusses the doctrine of free will as it has been, and is, interpreted within the various branches of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Zoroastrianism...

  • Free will theorem
    Free will theorem
    The free will theorem of John H. Conway and Simon B. Kochen states that, if we have a certain amount of "free will", then, subject to certain assumptions, so must some elementary particles. Conway and Kochen's paper was published in Foundations of Physics in 2006.-Axioms:The proof of the theorem...

  • Freethought
    Freethought
    Freethought is a philosophical viewpoint that holds that opinions should be formed on the basis of science, logic, and reason, and should not be influenced by authority, tradition, or other dogmas...

  • Indeterminism
    Indeterminism
    Indeterminism is the concept that events are not caused, or not caused deterministically by prior events. It is the opposite of determinism and related to chance...

  • Morality
    Morality
    Morality is the differentiation among intentions, decisions, and actions between those that are good and bad . A moral code is a system of morality and a moral is any one practice or teaching within a moral code...

  • Philosophical zombie
    Philosophical zombie
    A philosophical zombie or p-zombie in the philosophy of mind and perception is a hypothetical being that is indistinguishable from a normal human being except in that it lacks conscious experience, qualia, or sentience...

  • Prevenient grace
    Prevenient grace
    Prevenient grace is a Christian theological concept rooted in Augustinian theology. It is embraced primarily by Arminian Christians who are influenced by the theology of Jacob Arminius or John Wesley. Wesley typically referred to it in 18th century language as prevenient grace...

  • Ilya Prigogine
    Ilya Prigogine
    Ilya, Viscount Prigogine was a Russian-born naturalized Belgian physical chemist and Nobel Laureate noted for his work on dissipative structures, complex systems, and irreversibility.-Biography :...

     and the End of Certainty.
  • Problem of evil
    Problem of evil
    In the philosophy of religion, the problem of evil is the question of how to explain evil if there exists a deity that is omnibenevolent, omnipotent, and omniscient . Some philosophers have claimed that the existences of such a god and of evil are logically incompatible or unlikely...

     (for which human free will is offered as one explanation)
  • Problem of future contingents
  • Responsibility assumption
    Responsibility assumption
    Responsibility assumption is a doctrine in the personal growth field holding that each individual has substantial or total responsibility for the events and circumstances that befall them in their life...

  • Shoehorn
  • Voluntarism (metaphysics)


Further reading


  • Bischof, Michael H. (2004). Kann ein Konzept der Willensfreiheit auf das Prinzip der alternativen Möglichkeiten verzichten? Harry G. Frankfurts Kritik am Prinzip der alternativen Möglichkeiten (PAP). In: Zeitschrift für philosophische Forschung (ZphF), Heft 4.
  • Dennett, Daniel C.
    Daniel Dennett
    Daniel Clement Dennett is an American philosopher, writer and cognitive scientist whose research centers on the philosophy of mind, philosophy of science and philosophy of biology, particularly as those fields relate to evolutionary biology and cognitive science. He is currently the Co-director of...

     (2003). Freedom Evolves
    Freedom Evolves
    Freedom Evolves is a 2003 popular science and philosophy book by Daniel C. Dennett. Dennett describes the book as an installment of a life-long philosophical project, earlier parts of which were The Intentional Stance, Consciousness Explained and Elbow Room...

    . New York: Viking Press ISBN 0-670-03186-0
  • Epstein J.M.
    Joshua M. Epstein
    Joshua M. Epstein is Professor of Emergency Medicine at Johns Hopkins University, and a member of the External Faculty of the Santa Fe Institute.- Early life and Education:Epstein was born in New York City and grew up in Amherst....

     (1999). Agent Based Models and Generative Social Science. Complexity, IV (5).
  • Gazzaniga, M. & Steven, M.S. (2004) Free Will in the 21st Century: A Discussion of Neuroscience and Law, in Garland, B. (ed.) Neuroscience and the Law: Brain, Mind and the Scales of Justice, New York: Dana Press, ISBN 1-932594-04-3, pp51–70.
  • Harnad, Stevan
    Stevan Harnad
    Stevan Harnad is a cognitive scientist.- Career :Harnad was born in Budapest, Hungary. He did his undergraduate work at McGill University and his graduate work at Princeton University's Department of Psychology...

     (2009) The Explanatory Gap PhilPapers
  • Hofstadter, Douglas
    Douglas Hofstadter
    Douglas Richard Hofstadter is an American academic whose research focuses on consciousness, analogy-making, artistic creation, literary translation, and discovery in mathematics and physics...

    . (2007) I Am A Strange Loop. Basic Books. ISBN 978-0-465-03078-1
  • Kane, Robert (1998). The Significance of Free Will. New York: Oxford University Press ISBN 0-19-512656-4
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