Understanding Free Will

The words 'free will' indicate that a will is free from governing elements, while it is more useful to focus on what a will is allowed to do. The term ‘free will’ is commonly mistaken in that ‘free’ as an adjective can alter the concept ‘will'. Freedom of will has two requirements of which one is chance. The other is the willpower of the will itself. Chance is frequently defined as the contrary of necessity, and it's origin is from the Latin word candere or candens, which mean a fall, or fallings. The word as defined in the dictionary is the collapsing in the sense of decadence or corruption. Leucippus stated the first doctrine of determinism in 440B.C.E. an absolute necessity. Being of two logical options, necessity and chance, neither is compatible to moral responsibility, and free will delivers the ground for the typical disputes against free will. Nothing happens by chance, however everything has a reason and necessity. Opponents of ‘libertarian free will’ customarily implement this connotation to argue the idea of unpredictability in our decisions, which apparently would not assist us in a morally responsible manner.


The difficulty of moral responsibility is the intimate association with the free will problem; we need to be cautious to realize that responsibility and moral responsibility are two individual concepts. With a casual determination, occurring in an individual’s actions by previous events, including those that happened prior to our birth, the advocates of the doctrine of free will fail to see how the person can feel accountable for them. When the individual’s actions are directly caused by chance, they are random, and determinists do not see how the individual can feel responsible for them. This predicament forms the prevailing disagreement against free will. Determinists embrace the philosophical idea that each event or state of affairs, comprising every human action and decision, is the unavoidable and needed significance of the precursor states of affairs.

In spite of this simple logical argument, we as humans feel responsible for most of the actions we take. Even after twenty three philosophizing centuries, modern academics have not managed to move further than this core problem. The relation between free will and randomness is one of the issues they still deliberate on. Our freedom or random requirements have descriptions in several forms, including chance events, our impulsive actions, substitute possibilities, and hindsight. As individuals, we create new information.

Responsibility for human action

Our actions are a fundamental determination by our will, and it is up to the individual; the person is morally responsible. Modern theorists mandate that something in the mind of an individual, such as a unique element, provide the person with a command instigating his actions. The Cogito model determines that responsibility originates from an adequately determined will, selecting from randomly created alternative probabilities. Adequate determinism provide compatibilists the type of free will they require, to say what they feel they need to say. Such is the casual connection among reason, motives, character, feeling as well as values, and the actions they select from freely fashioned probabilities.

Free will is a requirement for responsibility, not responsibility a requirement for free will. Peter Strawson altered the subject of free will, in 1962, to moral responsibility, and since then a growing trend to associate liberty with moral responsibility exists. Ancient academics tried to prove that we as humans have the ability to control our decision and that the actions we take rest on ourselves. These actions are not predestine by logical necessity, arbitrary gods, fate, or natural causal determinism. However, to express the opinion today that free will comprehends the influence of a situation for moral responsibility, is to make a severe mistake in rational and conceptual analysis.

The distinction between free will and responsibility

According to John Martin Fischer, some philosophers make no distinction between moral responsibility and freedom of will. They start with the conception of moral responsibility and then trace back to the concept of liberty, depriving freedom as a lone standing factor. For these academics, freedom signifies the conditions involved in acting or deciding upon an action in such a manner as to be morally responsible. Kane said that free choices are the ones requiring effort. Doyle said freedom is a physical inquiry, based on the disputes about indeterminism and determinism. The will is partially a psychological examination, and responsibility is a causality inquiry. Questions regarding morals are not physical investigations. To confuse these is to associate ‘must’ with ‘is’. Moral responsibility is a crucial discipline of ethics, which can stand by itself, without the attempt to reject free will. A rough conclusion is that for an individual to be morally responsible for an action, the person needed some degree of freedom, at an appropriate time before the consequence for which he receives the responsibility. That level of freedom refers to free will.

How do we go from captured to being free individuals? In spite of their call to be more capable than scientists to construct conceptual accolades and assess the dynamism of disputes, expert philosophers have muddled the perceptions of free and will. Regardless of the clear forewarnings issued in John Locke’s Essay 'Concerning Human Understanding', published during the late 1600’s, that it would probably lead to confusion, Locke’s statement made it clear that the will is not free, but undetermined. Lucretius, an ancient philosopher, agreed with this statement. Locke was fond of the idea of Liberty and Freedom; however, he found it as unsuitable to label the 'Will' as free as it is the individual whom is free, and the will only a determination. Freedom requires several events or happenings, not causally determined by the instantaneously previous events, happenings that are changeable by any individual, and events comprising significant uncertainty. These unplanned events create alternate probabilities for action.

Randomness signifies the free portion in free will; it is the changeable chance happenings, which destruct the casual sequence of determinism. Eliminating chance, the actions we take are simply the results of happenings from our past. The randomness’s location must be in a time and place, which enhance free will and not decrease it to pure chance. Freedom also requires an adequately determined will that chooses or selects from those alternative possibilities, there is nothing uncertain about this choice. Adequate determinism signifies the will section in free will, requiring the actions we take be adequately determined through our values and our character. Therefore, no randomness should be the direct source for the actions we take. It means the randomness we experience in our thoughts, regarding alternative probabilities, have no direct impact on our operations. However, a random thought can result in a determined action, leaving us with the full responsibility of the action taken. It is important to admit indeterminism but not allow it to create random actions, as feared by determinists. Further, we need to limit determinism without eliminating it.

Linguistic philosophy

Theorists of language and logic are thrown into further disarray in the dispute that if indeterminism is true, then determinism is untrue, and logically this is accurate. In spite of the significant uncertainty, adequate determinism is present in the world; sufficiently enough to allow close to perfect forecasts of current events. Unpacking the concept of free will, we discover the freedom in our thoughts, and the determination in the acts we do willingly. In the Cogito model, two distinct notions emerge as free will. The free concept is the randomness and chance found in the Micro Mind and will is the Macro-Mind. These happen in a chronological order. We have free thoughts; they occur to us. We have willed actions; they transpire from us.

The nature of free will

Free will attempts to take responsibility for our introspective belief that we are in charge of the choices we make, and therefore our destiny, which we are free to create our thoughts and decisions. The decisions we make are more deliberate of nurture and nature than animals, as we are conscious of our capability to think, as well as of the results from our choices. We have the ability to take responsibility for our actions, providing significant variances that give escalation to the notion of free will.

With the elimination of free will, humankind will have no control over its goals and choices, with actions being determined by outside forces, making for a life which is bleak and unchallenging. An expressive notion of free will must be a justification for our understanding of freedom of choice. Still, it does not need to presume that our selections are unrestricted from precursor factors. It has to account for the supple, intentional control that we are familiar with in everyday life; we intentionally select goals and values, with possible tactics of action. As there are numerous definitions for free will, the possibility that numerous ambiguities, misconceptions and errors can lie in wait in them is probable. To bring these fallacies to light, it is important to return to the basics of this phenomenon by looking at the various elements involved. Significant questions that require answering shed light on the basic elements, such as who chooses? Choices unrestricted by what? What is the meaning of choosing otherwise? What type of choices? How do you make free will choices? To answer these questions let us look at them separately.

As choice is a deed, there has to be an initiator. The complete mental process involved in our minds makes the choice. Principally the aspect of the mind, which is mindful of the ‘self’, identifies and oversees free will choices. The conventional view of ‘I choose’ is deceptive as it creates the tendency to set up our perception and insight for indirectly accepting a contradiction concerning the body and the mind. It concludes that ‘I’ exists, a being separate from consciousness, meaning the brain or the mind. Nevertheless, there is no liberated ‘I’ as such; it is our sense of worth, our self-perception, our self-regard. This fact is critical to comprehending compatibilism: The ‘I’ that exercises and experiences free will is an essential characteristic of our mind.

We have the option to think or not, what we want to think about, how much time we want to focus on an issue, which options to take into account, and which option is the most suitable. Furthermore, we make choices of higher levels, including character traits, friends, lovers, careers, which are embracing our goals and values. Alternatively, we make choices with moral implications whether to lie or not. Free will choices include only conscious choices; free will refers to choices we are capable to influence and monitor, excluding unconscious and subconscious ones. The unaware choices we experience are not beyond free will or our control, they merely require indirect control. This is possible by changing our values, habits, and beliefs through conscious modifications of existing habits. Conscious thoughts have concealed inputs and elements, as well as awareness.

With more advancement in the human brain compared to the animal brain or machine, we have the ability to think abstractly, in the awareness of ourselves as well as our thinking, and it creates control and freedom in our decision process. It is important to understand the difference between understanding and knowledge. The human brain does not always have the capability to understand unknown phrases and formulas. Understanding indicates the incorporation of information with existing prevailing knowledge and its association to ourselves, and our senses. All knowledge, comprising abstract perceptions, requires integration with and relation to our primary experiences. To have control over the choices we make, and to take responsibility for them, we have to be capable to make them with understanding and awareness.

To think is a required necessity for exercising free will, but the capability to select the instigation of thought is not. The selection to think and focus is something we need to make up in our minds, which could be a conscious or subconscious process. Free will is beyond the resolution to think, it includes various diverse intellectual choices. However, how free are our choices? A common test for the freedom of will is the question if you could have chosen differently. The question may seem reasonable, but let us expand a little on the criteria. When would you have chosen differently? How could you have chosen differently? If the circumstances remained the same, including your will, you would have made the same choices. There is no absolute reason the belief that facing identical circumstances the choice we make would be different from the initial choice. This line of thought does not assist us in illuminating free will, furthermore, many individuals says that it they could go back in time, they would act differently, however, going back in time will deliver the same variables as the first time. The future and past is in our memories and imagination, the present it the only time that exist for real. The present creates the future through choices and parameters, according to the blind and aware choices we make.

To understand and define freedom of will, we need to obtain clarity on the subject, understanding that the notion, free, is constantly relative, to what something is free from, or to do. As example, an eagle is free to fly, while the captive is free from his captivator. Dependent on our focus, being the added constraint or ability, we employ either ‘free from’ or ‘free to’, where free describe the relation amongst the entities, requiring a context. Experiencing complete freedom to do anything denies identity. This is true for mental and material entities as well as abilities. Nothing is without cause, even if the cause is unknown to us. Now that we know free is relative, what type of freedom does our mind have? Our choices are not free standing from our values, knowledge, and awareness of our surroundings and ourselves. Furthermore, our choices cannot exceed the laws of nature, allowing us to do the impossible. In addition to our imagination, the capability to search new knowledge and envision the future, and most significantly by our consciousness and observing of our thoughts, provides us with the resources of our freedom. All these facts are what make us self determined. This is the root of truly understanding free will, is that it is not free from stimuluses, but free to make intellectual choices.

What is the meaning of intellectual choices?

It is the wise and clever choices we make, with intangible awareness as well as understanding; free will is our ability to make the choosing, not whether we essentially do them. Our cautious choices have foundations on evidence and values, as well as the expectation of their consequences. It is illogical to presume that free will choices have no fundamental precursor causes, made without reason, influenced by random factors. If this was the scenario, how could it signify personal responsibility? It is factual that we consciously measure the pros and cons of every free will choice that offers responsibility. Our choices are either explicit or implicit calculations. Consequently some of our choices have unforeseen results, but our intellect permits us to observe and alter our decisions as circumstances unfold and as our knowledge grows. There are a vast number of unidentified factors in our decision making process. Our free will, or intelligence, offers the freedom and ability to contradict and amend these influences. Any person that has the ability to reason abstractly, and possesses self-awareness, as well as the capability to deliberate and decide on their own, will have free will. To say that you could have chosen differently is not quite an illusion, as it is possible for us to choose differently. You consider numeral alternatives in your selection process, depending on your goals and circumstances. During the decision making process, we are aware of the alternatives, and could have chosen differently if we did not reject them.

Some individuals reject the reality of free will, and as confirmation they may rehearse a list of inherited and cultural factors, such as we are determined by our schools, Hershey Bars, instincts, government, media, addictions, and by chance. These and many more are true, and free will does not reject them, but accept and control them. The nature of free will will commonly override their influences. A factor that complicates the deliberation is the fact that free will, nurture and nature interacts in complicated means, altering our thoughts. Affecting our thoughts is our brain chemistry and structure. There is a continuous interaction between these two facets of mind/brain, and there are complicated interactions between our surroundings and our thoughts. Our thoughts assist us in selecting our environment and our environments influence our thoughts and choices.


Free will is not a choice from our genes, chemical factors or the wiring of our brains. It represents that we are free from our life experiences, influences from our surroundings, and prior opinions or conclusions. Free will provides the additional freedom, the further ability we possess, to fashion and assess options by envisioning and grasping their consequences. Free will is the capability to make sensible choices, with mindfulness and comprehending the conceivable and likely outcomes, and the actuality that we handle the choices correctly.


QR Code
QR Code understanding_free_will (generated for current page)