An unusual definition of Free Will

tibet

People are not their own causes. No one chooses where or when they were born. No one can pick their family or tribe, nor their genes or the circumstances they find themselves born into. They therefore did not ultimately create themselves.

For some people this means that none of us has free will. Yet this might be too hasty. It depends what you mean by free will. Not being your own cause doesn’t necessarily limit your freedom of will. It could simply be that you have freedom of will if your primary desires and impulses are in tune with what you want to want to do i.e. the things you really care about when in quiet, calm, reflective mode. The things you care about at such moments say a lot about the person you really are, regardless of how you became that person.

An animal, a small child and a mentally retarded person almost never reflect and thus have no free will. They simply have primary desires that they didn’t choose to have. Equally, reflective people are sometimes driven to act in ways that are antithetical to things they care about. At these moments their wills are not free. A drug addict who wants to take drugs but doesn’t want to want to take drugs is an example of this.

But when your impulses and the things you really care about are in agreement, then you have all the freedom of will it is possible to have. The way you act is also the way you want to act. No part of you is constraining any other part. On this view, free will simply amounts to your primary desires being in harmony with what your reflective self cares about. When this happens you have overcome any divisions within yourself.

When humans lost their animal spontaneity they became psychologically divided and an internal struggle ensued. But by bringing the animal and reflective self into line through simply accepting who you are, you can regain some of that lost unity.

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This entry was posted in General.

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