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What Is Free Will? Essay

806 words - 4 pages

The notion of free will has long plagued the human mind in its quest for answers. Does one have free will, or does he not? What is free will to begin with? Many sources have different opinions on this subject. Some believe that free will is an available addition of the human experience. Others believe that free will is every bit an illusion, as the universe has created a constant line of events preceding a false assumption of choice that influence one’s decision. Yet, there is an intermediate between both the extremes of the idea of free will, which significantly acknowledges both the events that precede the moment of making a decision and that the notion of free will is still possible even with these preceding events.

Free will is a hard notion to define, even by most philosophical standards. For the sake of argument, the definition that going to be used for free will is the following: “The ability to make a decision based one’s desires, despite what events that have occurred prior to the point of making such a decision". Many philosophers would recognize this form of the definition as belonging to the compatibilist view on free will. Compatibilists are unique group of philosophical minds when it comes the possibility, or lack thereof, of free will as a part of the universe. Compatibilists accept the probability that both the notion of free will and ideology of determinism are compatible (hence their name) with one another. Determinism, as explained by authors James and Stuart Rachels of Problems with Philosophy, is "to say that a system is deterministic means that every that happens stems from a prior cause" (pg 97). To put it simply, a determinist believes that an event that will occur in the present time was in itself influenced by a series of events in past, much like a long row of domino that were set off the moment that time began. Now the compatibilist seems like he is contradictory with his belief system, accepting to both the hypothetical "temporal dominoes" of determinism and the ability to have free will. However, the compatibility nonetheless has found a theory that makes both work. The compatibilist theory, again described by Rachels, states that "to act freely, [one] must act according to [one's own] desires" (pg 116). In short, the theory can be summarized as the following argument:

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