Free won’t


I have a habit of over-thinking things. I think things over not once but twice, and then again. Ideas for actions pop into my head and I mull them over for a while before either doing them or rejecting them. Everything must be double checked before I decide on a course of action.

If this strategy guaranteed me success then all the thinking would be worth it. But it doesn’t. In fact, things probably turn out pretty much as they otherwise would have done. The only difference is that I spent a lot of time agonising over a decision and smothering any spontaneity I might have. This agonising seems to me to be a classic example of the idea of ‘free won’t’.

Ideas for actions arise in my head from god knows where. I don’t choose them, they just happen to me. So, this can’t be free will since I have no control over what comes into my head. However, I do seem to be able to either accept or reject these proposed actions. This means that even if I don’t have free will (the ability to choose which ideas pop into my head) I do have free won’t (the ability to reject these proposals).

Of course, if you want to be picky you could claim that the machinery in my head that rejects or accepts propositions is as much beyond my control as the ideas that pop randomly into my head. Therefore, according to this bear-hug view that wraps up everything in its all-inclusive paws, I don’t really have free won’t either.

I partly agree with this but at the same time it seems to me that free will and free won’t are on two different levels and I have some access to the latter but none to the former.

In short, I have the ability to veto or accept the proposals that pop into my head but I can’t initiate those proposals. This is free won’t.


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