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No free will? Wanna bet?

Updated on October 4, 2010
Everyone does drawings like these. No free will, eh?
Everyone does drawings like these. No free will, eh? | Source

The theory that there’s no such thing as free will is based largely on the environmental factors of living. There are constraints on free will, says this theory, because the environment naturally provides the choices. This is a physical approach, and it has to be said that manifestations of free will, even it the extent of where you put your coffee cup, are limited by the facts that you drink coffee and only have so many places where putting your cup as working options.

The “no free will because of environment” argument, however, has its own limits. If you give a child a building block with any number of images or letters or numbers on each side, it has so many choices, no more, no less. That “proves” the lack of free will?

A language provides only so many choices of expression. Terminology and subject matter refine the choices, but the limitations of language, which are the main reason for its constant evolution, are another example of circumstantial lack of free will and efforts to escape from those circumstances.

The social environment is a third factor in “no free will”. Peer pressure, the sacred cow of psychology for decades, is believed to be a defining force. It’s actually a circumstance. People choose their associations if they can, and will actively avoid some associations. Hermits have been known for millennia, and antisocial people aren’t exactly uncommon.

Advertising is considered one of the primary forces in modern culture, the provider of environments. Actually it provides choices. For a long time now, the old motif of sales pitches has been out of date. People avoid sales pitches like diseases. The current wisdom in the industry is to provide value to engage clients, not to merely hit them with an environmental demand.

Brainwashing and indoctrination are the best examples of environmental programming. The Great Gerbil will be angry if you don’t provide 10% of your income to the Cult of the Great Gerbil. Your eternal soul’s future depends on the dictates of an E-Z-Bake concept, usually from some 5000 year old goatherd?

Or… Maybe not?

The evolution of free will

Free will is best defined as the attempt to create the chances to exercise free will. It’s an anti-dictates idea, a demand for personal space, in the sense of having the space to be a person.

By definition, the idea of free will has to go beyond limited circumstantial values to even be understood.

Consider a room.

There are five things in this room. Only so many things can be done with and to these things. They can only be combined in so many ways. That sort measure can’t possibly include free will. There is no freedom to choose the elements of decisions, therefore the free will is merely a set of options. The free will choices are confined to having nothing to do with any of the five elements, but the free will isn’t allowed to operate on its own.

If you put a rat in a maze, can the rat be said to have had any possible chance of exercising free will? Most rats, given a choice, are extremely wary, and stay out of complex, potentially dangerous environments. For all the rat knows, the maze is full of cats. Yet that’s the sort of measure used to define active free will in humans.

Free will evolves in terms of either reactive concepts, based on the environment, or proactive concepts, based on a self-generated environment. Everyone has their own personal dreamland, and it gets well stocked with a collection of ideas, images, and concepts.

As people develop, their idea of free will, and their unencumbered preferences, change. The free will, so far from being environmentally oppressed, becomes even more sensitive to any infringements on its preferences. This is with good reason, too, because the choices provided by any environment can be pretty dismal, even offensive.

The fallacy of measuring free will in terms of circumstances also manages to completely overlook the fact of internal forces. Apparently someone decided some decades ago that there’s no such thing as higher brain functions in humans, so a particularly sloppy sort of reasoning, in which material dictates mind, has been substituted.

The arts are supposed to be forms of free will, expression in the most personal sense. Is anyone forced to paint, play music, write, dance, or produce theatre? The higher logic of art, which includes voluntary expression of a range of aesthetics and complex ideas, apparently isn’t considered free will, but the result of letting a few humans loose with violins, paints, and mixed media.

Dazzling bit of logic. The “no free will” approach can say that these people learned or were trained with the restrictions and principles of their mediums, but that doesn’t quite explain Mozart, Van Gogh, or Tolstoy, does it? If it did, everybody would be a brilliant musician, a fantastic painter, and a great writer.

Here’s an equation for those who need one: No free will = drivel. The whole of any human’s existence is a personal quest for as much personal freedom as they can find. Environments can be changed. That’s been proven to everybody’s cost, but they can be changed for the better, too, and that’s the main game for those engaged in being a human.

To prove this to yourself:

  • Do you have a preferred way of living?
  • Are you prepared to change your environment to suit yourself?
  • Are you ready to ditch any circumstances you don’t like ASAP?
  • Do you think the environment around you could be drastically changed?

Sorry guys, but no free will would mean there’s no such thing as human emotions and aspirations, no extended logic, and no such thing as objectivity. The material constraints of free will simply define it, not disprove it.


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    • Paul Wallis profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Wallis 

      8 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Yuth, it thertainly didth. Really it didth.

    • 666divine profile image


      8 years ago from Toronto, Ontario

      ...and free will made ya do it!

    • Paul Wallis profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Wallis 

      8 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      This is one of the oldest, and toughest of all the classic philosophical debates. I consider myself lucky to have said what I wanted to say in one article.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      8 years ago from London, UK

      You have raised some iteresting points here, followed through with pros and cons, ending with an interesting summery


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