Going Against the Will

What follows is my final paper for my Philosophy class - a paper on Free Will.

Going Against the Will

  • Once upon a time, there was nothing in existence to dictate the outcome of a thought or action, nothing to explain the discrepancies between different people, cultures, or beliefs, and nothing to determine whether disposition created morals or vice versa. Then, one day, out of nowhere, someone decided it was time to put words in front of inclinations and tell the world what it really means when the mind and body collide.

Do we have a choice?
Do we have a choice?
Are we responsible for our actions?
Are we responsible for our actions?
What if we had chosen differently....
What if we had chosen differently....
Possibilities and probabilities - a chaotic extreme of uncertainty....
Possibilities and probabilities - a chaotic extreme of uncertainty....
What is motivation?
What is motivation?

A Chaotic Extreme of Uncertainty

According to Determinism, this someone had no choice. This someone could not have chosen to do otherwise because there was a prior event that caused him to make the decision that he did. In other words, based on Determinism, this someone is not responsible for his own behavior that led the world to question whether Free Will is a gift or an illusion. Accordingly, Indeterminism states this someone could have done otherwise. This means, this someone made the choice to inform the world, and, by virtue of choice, could have chosen to do differently. The problem, then, becomes one not of whether the motive for revealing an illusion as truth was caused by external influences or through the choice of Free Will, but one of understanding the difference between Free Will and Fatalism.

When considering the problem of Free Will, too much emphasis is consistently placed on the idea of a Diving Being (or, a Perfect Observer) when, in fact, it is unknown whether this Divine Being even exists. If the concept of a Divine Being is removed from the Deterministic View, then the origin of the chain of events that led to life on earth falls into question. What caused life on earth if there were no Divine Being to create it? Many theories have attempted to solve this problem; however, the problem of Free Will still exists. If the existence of humans on earth were believed to be a chance occurrence due to the laws of Physics coming together at just the right time, then it would follow that all life forms, as well as all aspects of life, were caused by a prior event and would continue as such through infinity. Every single life form, choice, belief, decision, thought, and event throughout the existence of said life form could be explained through some prior chain of events, and not one life form could be held responsible for his own actions. In other words, it would be impossible for any event to not have a cause based on logic. The problem with this line of thinking is the ability of humans to change their mind, or to not use logic but follow their emotions or take risks, or succcumb to pressure from outside influences. If free actions are ones that are under the causal control of the individual's beliefs and desires, then how could Determinism also be true? My objection to the proposition of Free Will being compatible with Determnism is that, life built on logic alone could not survive in a world where possibility and probability exist at the same time.

If possibility and probability are important factors for life, perhaps Indeterminism holds the secrets of Free Will.  Indeterminism claims that a complete description of causal facts, of a single event, leaves room for several indeterminate future events more probable. Without the presence of a Divine Being, the concept of Free Will has no purpose other than to explain that the current choices, decisions, and beliefs of an individual are the culmination of the choices, decisions, and beliefs of the individual prior to a current event. However, could the individual have chosen, decided, or believed otherwise? If an individual indeed has the absolute freedom of choice, then any available option is within the realm of possibility. If the past doesn't affect the future, then it would follow that every time an individual was faced with a choice or decision, no matter how many times that individual has contemplated a similar or identical choice/decision, that individual would repeat the same thought process each time in order to conclude with an expectedly unknown result. Possibility and probability would rule over logic and nothing could be accepted as foreseeable. If everything was left to chance, and nothing was able to be anticipated, then life would be a chaotic extreme of uncertainty.

If neither Determinism nor Indeterminism are compatible with Free Will, could Fatalism, then, be the required variable to distinguish between conflicting wants and logical choices within all possible options and probabilities? With or without the involvement of a Divine Being, the future would already be set. All humans would have to do is exist as the pressure of multiple options, unknown probabilities, and conflicting desires would be gone and decisions based on logic would be meaningless. While a stress-free existence sounds appealing, the absence of tension leaves little room for emphasizing the conflicted desires of an individual as well as those of all humans living in a society of cohabitation and cooperation. If life were simply a matter of fate then how could it be compatible with Free Will? Say the someone in the example above chose to inform the world because it was his fate to do so. That does not exactly sound like Free Will. It sounds more like being compelled to act, or inclined to behave in a certain way. The only thing missing is motive.

Conflicted Motivation

According to Hume, the someone from the above example could have acted differently if he had different desires. This someone was not forced to reveal his thoughts to the world, neither was he coerced into believing he wanted nothing more than to share his ideas. In other words, the someone from the above example acted freely according to his own beliefs and desires. However, the question remains - what motivated this someone in his attempt to explain Free Will?

When it comes to Chisholm's suggestion that Imminent Causation explains how we act freely, I have to disagree, but I also disagree with the idea of explaining Free Will as Transient Causation as neither uses motivation as a determining factor. For example, if motive is required for an individual to perform an action, then what causes the individual to be motivated? Motivation cannot be explained by Determinism, Indeterminism, or Fatalism. Nor can it be explained through Transient Causation; which occurs when one event or action causes another, or Imminent Causation, which occurs when an individual causes an event or a brain state but nothing causes the individual to cause that event to happen. One could say that a person who pulls their hand away from the heat of a fire is motivated by the desire for survival, but wouldn't instinct be a better explanation? One could also say that when the brain communicates with the body to kick a football, the brain is motivating the body to comply with its own desire. How is that possible? Even though the brain and body are intimately attached, and cannot exist independently, basic bodily movement and function are more closely resultant of instinct, skill, and talent than from motivation. If basic bodily movement and function aren't caused by motivation, then what is?

At some point, when an individual is understood and accepted to be a viable human being, the brain and body begin to function as one; however, it isn't until several months after birth that a human baby learns to smile, laugh, or roll over. It is through these intentional actions that motivation can be understood. What motivates a baby to learn such seemingly simple actions? Why aren't these actions a function of instinct? If a baby can learn these actions before understanding the concept of motivation, then how is the baby motivated to learn these actions? The answer is not as simple as it looks. Not all babies learn new skills at the same time or in the same exact order. The only possible answer involves the use of Will in conjunction with motivation caused by thought.

Motivation can only be recognized as a thought process involving an energy of the mind, body, and spirit that is capable of controlling further and future thought as well as intentional actions and beliefs. What, then, is the source of human thought? Do thought patterns follow the laws of logic, or, occur by way of a chemical reaction in the brain? Perhaps all possible thoughts already exist and are simply waiting to be caught or to fall into the next closest brain. Maybe, just maybe, all thoughts originated alongside the beginning of time and are deeply embedded in the human brain until the right person comes along to discover its existence. Whichever the case, there is still the unresolved issue of conflicting desires.

Based on the example given above, this someone chose to examine the concept of Free Will due to his own beliefs and desires. However, what if this someone was torn between sharing his findings and keeping it to himself? Say this someone felt that everyone deserved to know there were more options than the standard view, but at the same time, feared the consequences of others knowing what he knew. How, then, would this someone choose between his conflicted desires? If this someone understood the capacity of the human brain to automatically choose within the individuals set of beliefs, then this someone would do just that. However, fi this someone did not understand the abilities of the human brain, then this someone would most likely struggle through the conflict with a desire not to go against his will.

There Is A Reason For Everything In Existence

If I had to choose a theory of mind that was most consistent with my views, I couldn't do it. There are bits and pieces from all the theories that we've studied that don't make sense. Then there are bits and pieces that do make sense but only when understood in conjunction with those of another. The way I feel is that the human brain is so much more capable than we humans like to give it credit for - is it possible that the human brain already contains everything there is to know about the world, the universe, and the origin of mankind? If the human brain already holds all possible information about life, then why are humans still questioning and searching for answers?

Perhaps the answers are there, patiently waiting to be found and used, like a newborn baby waiting patiently to smile for the first time, to crawl, eat solid foods, or to walk and talk. Human adults, unlike the newborn baby, no longer listen to the signals of unknown origin within their bodies and brains. Human adults have learned to ignore or redirect their impulses, inclinations, desires, wants, and needs in order to conform with the motivations and ideals of the society in which they live. In other words, through the advancement of humans, the capacity to follow the thoughts of the self has diminished to the point that it may be impossible to ever discover the remaining truths of and about the world around us.

My views about when actions are freely performed are most consistent with the Compatabilist view in that when actions are under the control of the beliefs and desires of the individual, through reason and without fear, then they are done freely. Anything else constitutes a lack of freedom and cannot be considered as anything other than obedience to a higher form of power - whatever that power may be. I believe that someday, the human race might actually be able to reveal everything the brain is capable of holding, if and only if, Free Will is universally understood as the human ability to reason and manipulate circumstances in order to create choices consistent within an individual set system of values or beliefs. It must be accepted that Free Will cannot exist as a universal code of adherence based on an authoritative realm of logic because logic leaves no room for mistakes, creativity, or advancement in anything where logic is not required; such as emotions, feelings, the five senses, and perception or opinion. There are some who might say these things aren't important. Nevertheless, we humans have the unlimited ability to utilize these things multiple times per day, which means they exist for a reason.

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Comments 10 comments

Rafini profile image

Rafini 5 years ago from Somewhere I can't get away from Author

Hi Spirit. Thanks for stopping by and giving me many what if's to contemplate! You know it, I like 'em!! (although I usually keep them to myself nowadays...until I can write them out. lol)


Spirit Whisperer profile image

Spirit Whisperer 5 years ago from Isle of Man

This is a very well thought out hub and you done so much work in your quest for truth. But what if the world and everything in it is simply a construct of mind? What if the body exists in mind and the brain receives its instructions from mind? What if the illusion created by mind is the ego's way of keeping us from the truth? What if the universe is an elaborate illusion created by mind and we collectively subscribe to a belief that holds us hypnotised as we keep coming back lifetime after lifetime until we realise that all that keeps us from God is the veil the ego has placed over our eyes? I know you like what ifs ! So I have given you a few to chew on. Enjoy as I have enjoyed your article.


Rafini profile image

Rafini 5 years ago from Somewhere I can't get away from Author

Thank you, tfn.


truthfornow profile image

truthfornow 5 years ago from New Orleans, LA

Well written and very interesting.


Rafini profile image

Rafini 5 years ago from Somewhere I can't get away from Author

Thanks Paradise - I believe in a Creator who gave us all Free Will, however, something I learned a long time ago constantly tells me that when attempting to explain a concept (such as Free Will) its best to leave out any offending references in order for it to apply to anyone.

If Free Will can be explained without alluding to it being a "gift from God" then we are one step closer to understanding the meaning of life. Don't get me wrong - I believe in God, I have to. I simply cannot accept that the universe we live in, as well as all forms of life, came into being by accident. There is way too much logic and precision involved for life to be understood as a matter of Possibilities within Probabilities.


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York

I'm not sure I was able to follow this all the way, but found it very interesting. I'm plumping for free will, with the sidebar that there WAS one original event, and an original Creator of that event. Everything else that followed was only pre-determined to the extent of physics, only inhibited by a limit of physical possibilities.


Rafini profile image

Rafini 5 years ago from Somewhere I can't get away from Author

Thanks Lynda.

It seems so obvious that Free Will and choices/decisions go hand in hand that it's difficult to believe there are some people who disagree with the concept. For the very reason you pointed out - without Free Will there can be no accountability.

As for there being a reason for all things in existence, I only point to the balancing act of Malaria & Sickle Cell Anemia; and humans that need oxygen but give out carbon dioxide & trees that need carbon dioxide but give out oxygen.


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 5 years ago from Alberta and Florida

I'm a believer in free will, and that we all make choices. To suggest otherwise is to absolve ourselves of all responsibility for the consequences of our decisions.

I'm not sure there is a reason for all things in existence. I accept some things just are, exist without explanation or reason, and that idea doesn't disturb me in the slightest.

Interesting hub. Rated up. Lynda


Rafini profile image

Rafini 5 years ago from Somewhere I can't get away from Author

Thank you Kafsoa for visiting and leaving a comment!


kafsoa profile image

kafsoa 5 years ago

Rated up and useful.

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