Sunday, October 16, 2011

Does Free Will Exist?

This is one of the hardest questions to answer: The notion of human free will. Does it exist? Do we have free will? Christopher Hitchens sarcastically says we have free will because we have no choice. I say we have free will, but, and this is a very big but, it is conditional. We do not have the free will to choose whether we are born male or female, how tall or how short we are, what race we are, what language, culture and geographic area of the world we are born into, how rich or how poor we are, and what year we are born. Not of this is willed by us. These decisions are made by forces and circumstances outside which we can control. As such, many of us might want to have been born as different people or at a different time all together.

Considering how conditional our experiences are, how can any of us say we have free will at all? Well, although we do not control the origin of our life circumstances, we do have control in how we react to them. And therein lies our free will. Even when you are forced to reckon with an instinct and personality that is not of your own choice either, your rational mind allows you to make decisions. Being human is being rational. We can control our rage, conquer our fears and forgo our selfishness. This of course doesn't mean that we always do.

So I essentially believe we have free will that is conditional to a sort of happenstance that we have no control over. The idea that god gives us free will is ridiculous because we we are given free will, that takes away the whole point. Meaning we didn't will to have free will, it was decided for us.

Lastly, our free will is constrained by what is physically and logically possible. If I am sitting at a bar and have a choice of 10 different beers on draft to choose from, then I am free to choose any one of them. But my choices (at least at that bar) are limited to what is available to me. Life is full of "you can't always get what you want" situations. And if I will to have powers like a super-hero, I obviously am out of luck due to the laws of physics.

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