Do We Have Free Will?
Start writing a post

Do We Have Free Will?

Actually, I don't think this question makes sense.

Do We Have Free Will?

Do we have free will?

A question that has been asked since we've had the ability to ask it. Many have tried to tackle the concept of free will. It probably seems pretentious of me to even try to tackle it. But here we are. I'd like to give it a shot, even though I'm no Aristotle.

Here goes.

Here's what I think: freedom is a concept we don’t fully understand, or maybe can't understand. Ergo, the question of “Is there free will?” is pretty much nonsense.

The Meriam-Webster definition of "freedom" is as follows:


1: the quality or state of being free: such as

a: the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action

b:liberation from slavery or restraint or from the power of another :independence"

and then it goes on with other conditions, but the first two are arguably the most important, the most commonly thought of when one thinks of "freedom", and the most refutable.

The idea that there can be an "absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action" is completely wrong. Every time we act, it's out of one of those things: "necessity" when we eat to survive, or even form strong relationships with others (as that helps our survival in more indirect ways). "coerce[ing]" is common too: other people are constantly influencing our actions. We don't make choices independent of outside influence, choices based completely on ourselves. We can't. Other people and events always have influence on our choices. How could they not?

And even if it was possible to make a choice entirely based on one's one feelings, one's will (one's feelings are determined by outside influence, too, though, so this isn't possible), who we are is determined by thousands of factors outside our own control (i.e. family, place of upbringing, education). So, in a sense, we lack freedom from the very beginning of our lives, since we don't choose any part of who we are at a basic level, although we do make choices along our lives that influence our personality to some degree.

As for acting free of "constraint" there are constant factors that constrain our choices. You could see the law of physics as a constraint. For instance, you can't choose to float around everywhere. There's gravity. (Ah, pesky gravity, always foiling my flying plans.)

The second part of the definition makes little-to-no sense as well. "Liberation from slavery or restraint or from the power of another"? I mean, if you're reading this article, you are probably lucky enough to be free from slavery. But "restraint" is also present. There are factors that restrain you from doing things. Sometimes these are good factors, such as morals. And, again, as I've already mentioned "the power of another"--others' influence--very commonly influences the actions of an individual.

So I've come to the conclusion that freedom might not exist, and thus, free will doesn't either. Or at least, not "freedom" as we understand it. It could be a concept we fabricated to comfort ourselves. For whatever reason, we like the idea of independence. Maybe it’s just human pride.

Or maybe freedom is an idea that's beyond us, an ideal that we always reach for. It seems like a good thing to reach for, because saying there is no free will is problematic: it makes people not accountable for their actions, which gets rid of morality pretty much (as that means there is no moral accountability), which is necessary for a functioning, healthy society.

So, what is my conclusion? That's a good question. I hope you asked that, I hope you wanted to know. Maybe by now you don't care since this is a pretty long article... but if you got this far, you might as well finish, right? ;)

If you want to know what my conclusion is, I guess I would say that freedom is a concept that is mostly beyond us, and the way we view free will is deeply flawed and doesn't make much logical sense. But ultimately, I think people should be held accountable for their actions all the same. We need to do that to keep everything running smoothly. And it does feel right, to hold people accountable, even if I can't explain why. Maybe there are some things that can't be explained, and maybe that's okay.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
the beatles
Wikipedia Commons

For as long as I can remember, I have been listening to The Beatles. Every year, my mom would appropriately blast “Birthday” on anyone’s birthday. I knew all of the words to “Back In The U.S.S.R” by the time I was 5 (Even though I had no idea what or where the U.S.S.R was). I grew up with John, Paul, George, and Ringo instead Justin, JC, Joey, Chris and Lance (I had to google N*SYNC to remember their names). The highlight of my short life was Paul McCartney in concert twice. I’m not someone to “fangirl” but those days I fangirled hard. The music of The Beatles has gotten me through everything. Their songs have brought me more joy, peace, and comfort. I can listen to them in any situation and find what I need. Here are the best lyrics from The Beatles for every and any occasion.

Keep Reading...Show less
Being Invisible The Best Super Power

The best superpower ever? Being invisible of course. Imagine just being able to go from seen to unseen on a dime. Who wouldn't want to have the opportunity to be invisible? Superman and Batman have nothing on being invisible with their superhero abilities. Here are some things that you could do while being invisible, because being invisible can benefit your social life too.

Keep Reading...Show less

19 Lessons I'll Never Forget from Growing Up In a Small Town

There have been many lessons learned.

houses under green sky
Photo by Alev Takil on Unsplash

Small towns certainly have their pros and cons. Many people who grow up in small towns find themselves counting the days until they get to escape their roots and plant new ones in bigger, "better" places. And that's fine. I'd be lying if I said I hadn't thought those same thoughts before too. We all have, but they say it's important to remember where you came from. When I think about where I come from, I can't help having an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for my roots. Being from a small town has taught me so many important lessons that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

Keep Reading...Show less
​a woman sitting at a table having a coffee

I can't say "thank you" enough to express how grateful I am for you coming into my life. You have made such a huge impact on my life. I would not be the person I am today without you and I know that you will keep inspiring me to become an even better version of myself.

Keep Reading...Show less
Student Life

Waitlisted for a College Class? Here's What to Do!

Dealing with the inevitable realities of college life.

college students waiting in a long line in the hallway

Course registration at college can be a big hassle and is almost never talked about. Classes you want to take fill up before you get a chance to register. You might change your mind about a class you want to take and must struggle to find another class to fit in the same time period. You also have to make sure no classes clash by time. Like I said, it's a big hassle.

This semester, I was waitlisted for two classes. Most people in this situation, especially first years, freak out because they don't know what to do. Here is what you should do when this happens.

Keep Reading...Show less

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Facebook Comments