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Thinking About Free Will

Thinking About Free Will

You can’t escape cause and effect, but there is a way of viewing human agency that is motivating, plausible and humane.

We feel that we are free, the originators of our own choices, not just conduits through which the chain of cause and effect flows. But think about it a little more and this ‘voluntarist’ conception of free will starts to look untenable.

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All Your Choices Are in A Sense Inevitable

All Your Choices Are in A Sense Inevitable

 A lot of the time, you might feel as though you have freedom to act as you wish (a view known as ‘voluntarism’), but taking into account your history, personality, mood and other factors, there is in fact an inevitability to everything you do.

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There’s No Escaping the Chain of Cause and Effect

There’s No Escaping the Chain of Cause and Effect

Even quantum physics and the randomness of quantum causation cannot offer us an escape because the ability to act randomly is not the same as having free will.

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Having Voluntarist Free Will Would Mean Being Entirely Capricious

Having Voluntarist Free Will Would Mean Being Entirely Capricious

To act free of causes would be to act without reason. Such a freedom would be gratuitous, since the only grounds for our choice would be the power to choose itself.

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The Constraints upon Our Choices Allow for The Concept of Character

The Constraints upon Our Choices Allow for The Concept of Character

We would have no moral character if we did not strongly feel that there were things we simply could not do, and others we felt we must.

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Praise and Blame Don’t Depend on Absolute Freedom

Praise and Blame Don’t Depend on Absolute Freedom

To accept that one has done wrong and take responsibility for it is to resolve to try not to do it again and to put right anything that went wrong. We evidently do have the capacity to do this, and that is all that matters.

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It’s Useful to Feel You Could Have Done Things Differently, Even if It’s a Fiction

It’s Useful to Feel You Could Have Done Things Differently, Even if It’s a Fiction

It is only because we reflect on the things that could so easily have been done differently if conditions or our frame of mind had been slightly different that we learn to take responsibility and do better next time.

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Don’t Reject the Concept of Free Will, Rethink It

Don’t Reject the Concept of Free Will, Rethink It

The ‘compatibilist’ conception of free will acknowledges the causal necessity of the physical world, but it also recognises that, if no one ‘made me do it’, I acted freely.

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Achieve a Free Will Worth Having by Aligning Your First- and Second-Order Desires

Achieve a Free Will Worth Having by Aligning Your First- and Second-Order Desires

First-order desires include wanting cake or sex or to scratch yourself; second-order desires are your desires about these desires, such as wishing to resist the desire for cake. Free beings are ones who can act on their desires about their desires, and not just automatically on their desires.

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maliat

I love creating music, coffee, and film. Always strive for perfection.

Philosophical musings about free will.

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