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Free will

Free will is the ability of agents to make choices unimpeded by certain prevailing factors. Such prevailing factors that have been studied in the past have included metaphysical constraints (such as logical, nomological, or theological determinism),[1] physical constraints (such as chains or imprisonment), social constraints (such as threat of punishment or censure), and mental constraints (such as compulsions or phobias, neurological disorders, or genetic predispositions). The principle of free will has religious, legal, ethical, and scientific implications.[2] For example, in the religious realm, free will implies that individual will and choices can coexist with an omnipotent, omniscient divinity that raises certain injunctions or moral obligations for man. In the law, it affects considerations of punishment and rehabilitation. In ethics, it may hold implications for whether individuals can be held morally accountable for their actions. In science, neuroscientific findings regarding free will may suggest different ways of predicting human behavior.

A simplified taxonomy of philosophical positions regarding free will and determinism.

Though it is a commonly-held intuition that we have free will,[3] it has been widely debated throughout history not only whether that is true, but even how to define the concept of free will.[4] How exactly must the will be free, what exactly must the will be free from, in order for us to have free will?

Historically, the constraint of dominant concern has been determinism of some variety (such as logical, nomological, or theological), so the most prominent common positions are named for the relation they hold to exist between free will and determinism. Those who define free will as freedom from determinism are called incompatibilists, as they hold determinism to be incompatible with free will. The two main incompatibilist positions are metaphysical libertarianism, the claim that determinism is false and thus free will is at least possible; and hard determinism, the claim that determinism is true and thus free will is not possible. Hard incompatibilism posits that indeterminism is also incompatible with free will, and thus either way free will is not possible.

Those who define free will otherwise, without reference to determinism, are called compatibilists, because they hold determinism to be compatible with free will. Some compatibilists hold even that determinism is necessary for free will, arguing that choice involves preference for one course of action over another, a process that requires some sense of how choices will turn out.[5][6] Compatibilists thus consider the debate between libertarians and hard determinists over free will vs determinism a false dilemma.[7] Different compatibilists offer very different definitions of what free will even means, taking different types of constraints to be relevant to the issue; but because all agree that determinism is not the relevant concern, they are traditionally grouped together under this common name.


  • In Western philosophy 1
    • Incompatibilism 1.1
      • Hard determinism 1.1.1
      • Metaphysical libertarianism 1.1.2
        • Non-causal theories
        • Event-causal theories
        • Agent/substance-causal theories
      • Hard incompatibilism 1.1.3
      • Related philosophical issues 1.1.4
        • High level determinism and free will
          • Causal Determinism
          • Destiny and Fate
          • Logical Determinism
          • Omniscience
          • Predeterminism
          • Theological Determinism
        • The mind-body problem
    • Compatibilism 1.2
      • Free will as lack of physical restraint 1.2.1
      • Free will as a psychological state 1.2.2
      • Free will as unpredictability 1.2.3
      • Related philosophical issues 1.2.4
        • The physical mind
    • Other views 1.3
      • Two-stage models 1.3.1
      • Free will as an illusion 1.3.2
      • Free will as "moral imagination" 1.3.3
      • Free will as a pragmatically useful concept 1.3.4
      • Catholic teachings 1.3.5
  • Free will and views of causality 2
  • In science 3
    • Physics 3.1
    • Genetics 3.2
    • Neuroscience 3.3
    • Neurology and psychiatry 3.4
    • Determinism and emergent behavior 3.5
    • Experimental psychology 3.6
    • Believing in free will 3.7
      • What people believe 3.7.1
      • Among philosophers 3.7.2
      • Effects of the belief itself 3.7.3
  • In Eastern philosophy 4
    • In Hindu philosophy 4.1
    • In Buddhist philosophy 4.2
    • In Islamic philosophy 4.3
  • In other theology 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

In Western philosophy

The underlying issue is: Do we have some control over our actions, and if so, what sort of control, and to what extent?

On one hand, humans have a strong sense of freedom, which leads us to believe that we have free will.[8][9] On the other hand, an intuitive feeling of free will could be mistaken.[10][11] It is difficult to reconcile the intuitive evidence that conscious decisions are causally effective with the scientific view that the physical world can be explained to operate perfectly by physical law.[12]

The conflict between intuitively felt freedom and natural law arises when either causal closure or physical determinism (nomological determinism) is asserted. With causal closure, no physical event has a cause outside the physical domain, and with physical determinism, the future is determined entirely by preceding events (cause and effect). The need to reconcile freedom of will with a deterministic universe is known as the problem of free will or sometimes referred to as the dilemma of determinism.[13] This dilemma leads to a moral dilemma as well: How are we to assign responsibility for our actions if they are caused entirely by past events?[14][15]

The connection between autonomy (self-determination) and the ideal of developing one's own individual self was adopted within the psychology of Abraham Maslow, who saw the goal of human development as "self-actualization". For Maslow, the most developed person is the most autonomous, and autonomy is explicitly associated with not being dependent on others.[16] For others, true free will must involve self-realization, which is a maturing of the self that allows the dissolution of one's counter-productive obsessive, internal pre-occupations and assumptions, including unrecognized peer-pressure and the like, all of which reduce our actual choices, thus reduce our freedom.[17]

Classical compatibilists have addressed the dilemma of free will by arguing that free will holds as long as we are not externally constrained or coerced.[18] Modern compatibilists make a distinction between freedom of will and freedom of action, that is, separating freedom of choice from the freedom to enact it.[19] Given that humans all experience a sense of free will, some modern compatibilists think it is necessary to accommodate this intuition.[20][21] For example, some modern compatibilists in psychology have tried to revive traditionally accepted struggles of free will with the formation of character.[22] Compatibilist free will has also been attributed to our natural sense of agency, where one must believe they are an agent in order to function and develop a theory of mind.[23][24]

A different approach to the dilemma is that of incompatibilists, namely, that if the world is deterministic then, our feeling that we are free to choose an action is simply an illusion. Fundamental debate continues over whether the physical universe is in fact deterministic. Physical models offered at present are both deterministic and indeterministic, and are subject to interpretations of quantum mechanics - which themselves are being constrained by ongoing experimentation.[25] Yet even with physical indeterminism, arguments have been made against the feasibility of incompatibilist free will in that it is difficult to assign Origination (responsibility for "free" indeterministic choices).

Since the term "free will" (liberum arbitrium) was introduced by Christian philosophy (4th century CE) it has always meant (until the Enlightenment proposed its own meanings) lack of necessity in human will,[26] so that "the will is free" meant "the will does not have to be such as it is." This view was universally embraced by both incompatibilists and compatibilists.[27]

Despite our attempts to understand nature, a complete understanding of reality remains open to philosophical speculation. For example, the laws of physics (deterministic or not) have yet to resolve the hard problem of consciousness:[28] "Solving the hard problem of consciousness involves determining how physiological processes such as ions flowing across the nerve membrane cause us to have experiences."[29] According to some, "Intricately related to the hard problem of consciousness, the hard problem of free will represents the core problem of conscious free will: Does conscious volition impact the material world?"[10] Although incompatibilist metaphysical libertarianism generally represents the bulk of non-materialist constructions,[10] including the popular claim of being able to consciously veto an action or competing desire,[30][31] compatibilist theories have been developed based on a form of identity dualism in which "the experience of conscious free will is the first-person perspective of the neural correlates of choosing."[10] It is however apparent that, even disregarding the hard problem of consciousness, "consciousness plays a far smaller role in human life than Western culture has tended to believe."[32]

Free will here is predominately treated with respect to physical determinism in the strict sense of nomological determinism, although other forms of determinism are also relevant to free will.[33] For example, logical and theological determinism challenge metaphysical libertarianism with ideas of destiny and fate, and biological, cultural and psychological determinism feed the development of compatibilist models. Separate classes of compatibilism and incompatibilism may even be formed to represent these.[34]

Below are the classic arguments bearing upon the dilemma and its underpinnings.


Martin Luther was a hard determinist.

Incompatibilism is the position that free will and determinism are logically incompatible, and that the major question regarding whether or not people have free will is thus whether or not their actions are determined. "Hard determinists", such as d'Holbach, are those incompatibilists who accept determinism and reject free will. In contrast, "metaphysical libertarians", such as Thomas Reid, Peter van Inwagen, and Robert Kane, are those incompatibilists who accept free will and deny determinism, holding the view that some form of indeterminism is true.[35] Another view is that of hard incompatibilists, which state that free will is incompatible with both determinism and indeterminism.[36]

Traditional arguments for incompatibilism are based on an "intuition pump": if a person is like other mechanical things that are determined in their behavior such as a wind-up toy, a billiard ball, a puppet, or a robot, then people must not have free will.[35][37] This argument has been rejected by compatibilists such as Daniel Dennett on the grounds that, even if humans have something in common with these things, it remains possible and plausible that we are different from such objects in important ways.[38]

Another argument for incompatibilism is that of the "causal chain". Incompatibilism is key to the idealist theory of free will. Most incompatibilists reject the idea that freedom of action consists simply in "voluntary" behavior. They insist, rather, that free will means that man must be the "ultimate" or "originating" cause of his actions. He must be causa sui, in the traditional phrase. Being responsible for one's choices is the first cause of those choices, where first cause means that there is no antecedent cause of that cause. The argument, then, is that if man has free will, then man is the ultimate cause of his actions. If determinism is true, then all of man's choices are caused by events and facts outside his control. So, if everything man does is caused by events and facts outside his control, then he cannot be the ultimate cause of his actions. Therefore, he cannot have free will.[39][40][41] This argument has also been challenged by various compatibilist philosophers.[42][43]

A third argument for incompatibilism was formulated by Carl Ginet in the 1960s and has received much attention in the modern literature. The simplified argument runs along these lines: if determinism is true, then we have no control over the events of the past that determined our present state and no control over the laws of nature. Since we can have no control over these matters, we also can have no control over the consequences of them. Since our present choices and acts, under determinism, are the necessary consequences of the past and the laws of nature, then we have no control over them and, hence, no free will. This is called the consequence argument.[44][45] Peter van Inwagen remarks that C. D. Broad had a version of the consequence argument as early as the 1930s.[46]

The difficulty of this argument for some compatibilists lies in the fact that it entails the impossibility that one could have chosen other than one has. For example, if Jane is a compatibilist and she has just sat down on the sofa, then she is committed to the claim that she could have remained standing, if she had so desired. But it follows from the consequence argument that, if Jane had remained standing, she would have either generated a contradiction, violated the laws of nature or changed the past. Hence, compatibilists are committed to the existence of "incredible abilities", according to Ginet and van Inwagen. One response to this argument is that it equivocates on the notions of abilities and necessities, or that the free will evoked to make any given choice is really an illusion and the choice had been made all along, oblivious to its "decider".[45] David Lewis suggests that compatibilists are only committed to the ability to do something otherwise if different circumstances had actually obtained in the past.[47]

Using T, F for "true" and "false" and ? for undecided, there are exactly nine positions regarding determinism/free will that consist of any two of these three possibilities:[48]
Galen Strawson's table[48]
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Determinism D T F T F T F ? ? ?
Free will FW F T T F ? ? F T ?

Incompatibilism may occupy any of the nine positions except (5), (8) or (3), which last corresponds to soft determinism. Position (1) is hard determinism, and position (2) is libertarianism. The position (1) of hard determinism adds to the table the contention that D implies FW is untrue, and the position (2) of libertarianism adds the contention that FW implies D is untrue. Position (9) may be called hard incompatibilism if one interprets ? as meaning both concepts are of dubious value. Compatibilism itself may occupy any of the nine positions, that is, there is no logical contradiction between determinism and free will, and either or both may be true or false in principle. However, the most common meaning attached to compatibilism is that some form of determinism is true and yet we have some form of free will, position (3).[49]

A domino's movement is determined completely by laws of physics.

Alex Rosenberg makes an extrapolation of physical determinism as inferred on the macroscopic scale by the behaviour of a set of dominoes to neural activity in the brain where; "If the brain is nothing but a complex physical object whose states are as much governed by physical laws as any other physical object, then what goes on in our heads is as fixed and determined by prior events as what goes on when one domino topples another in a long row of them."[50] Physical determinism is currently disputed by prominent interpretations of quantum mechanics, and while not necessarily representative of intrinsic indeterminism in nature, fundamental limits of precision in measurement are inherent in the uncertainty principle.[51] The relevance of such prospective indeterminate activity to free will is however contested,[52] even when chaos theory is introduced to magnify the effects of such microscopic events.[31][53]

Below these positions are examined in more detail.[48]

Hard determinism

Determinism is a broad term with a variety of meanings.[54] Corresponding to each of these different meanings, there arises a different problem for free will.[55] Hard determinism is the claim that determinism is true, and that it is incompatible with free will, so free will does not exist. Although hard determinism generally refers to nomological determinism (see causal determinism below), it can include all forms of determinism that necessitate the future in its entirety.[56] Relevant forms of determinism include:

  • Causal determinism— the idea that everything is caused by prior conditions, making it impossible for anything else to happen.[57] In its most common form, nomological (or scientific) determinism, future events are necessitated by past and present events combined with the laws of nature. Such determinism is sometimes illustrated by the thought experiment of Laplace's demon. Imagine an entity that knows all facts about the past and the present, and knows all natural laws that govern the universe. If the laws of nature were determinate, then such an entity would be able to use this knowledge to foresee the future, down to the smallest detail.[58][59]
  • Logical determinism—the notion that all propositions, whether about the past, present or future, are either true or false. The problem of free will, in this context, is the problem of how choices can be free, given that what one does in the future is already determined as true or false in the present.[55]
  • Theological determinism—the idea that the future is already determined, either by a creator deity decreeing or knowing its outcome in advance.[49][60] The problem of free will, in this context, is the problem of how our actions can be free if there is a being who has determined them for us in advance, or if they are already set in time.

Other forms of determinism are more relevant to compatibilism, such as biological determinism, the idea that all behaviors, beliefs, and desires are fixed by our genetic endowment and our biochemical makeup, the latter of which is affected by both genes and environment, cultural determinism and psychological determinism.[55] Combinations and syntheses of determinist theses, such as bio-environmental determinism, are even more common.

Suggestions have been made that hard determinism need not maintain strict determinism, where something near to, like that informally known as adequate determinism, is perhaps more relevant.[33] Despite this, hard determinism has grown less popular in present times, given scientific suggestions that determinism is false – yet the intention of their position is sustained by hard incompatibilism.[61]

Metaphysical libertarianism

Various definitions of free will that have been proposed for Metaphysical Libertarianism (agent/substance causal,[62] centered accounts,[63] and efforts of will theory[31]), along with examples of other common free will positions (Compatibilism,[12] Hard Determinism,[64] and Hard Incompatibilism[36]). Red circles represent mental states; blue circles represent physical states; arrows describe causal interaction.

Metaphysical libertarianism is one philosophical view point under that of incompatibilism. Libertarianism holds onto a concept of free will that requires that the agent be able to take more than one possible course of action under a given set of circumstances.

Accounts of libertarianism subdivide into non-physical theories and physical or naturalistic theories. Non-physical theories hold that the events in the brain that lead to the performance of actions do not have an entirely physical explanation, which requires that the world is not closed under physics. This includes interactionist dualism, which claims that some non-physical mind, will, or soul overrides physical causality. Physical determinism implies there is only one possible future and is therefore not compatible with libertarian free will. As consequent of incompatibilism, metaphysical libertarian explanations that do not involve dispensing with physicalism require physical indeterminism, such as probabilistic subatomic particle behavior – theory unknown to many of the early writers on free will. Incompatibilist theories can be categorised based on the type of indeterminism they require; uncaused events, non-deterministically caused events, and agent/substance-caused events.[62]

Non-causal theories

Non-causal accounts of incompatibilist free will do not require a free action to be caused by either an agent or a physical event. They either rely upon a world that is not causally closed, or physical indeterminism. Non-causal accounts often claim that each intentional action requires a choice or volition— a willing, trying, or endeavoring on behalf of the agent (such as the cognitive component of lifting one's arm).[65][66] Such intentional actions are interpreted as free actions. It has been suggested however that such acting cannot be said to exercise control over anything in particular. According to non-causal accounts, the causation by the agent cannot be analysed in terms of causation by mental states or events, including desire, belief, intention of something in particular, but rather is considered a matter of spontaneity and creativity. The exercise of intent in such intentional actions is not that which determines their freedom - intentional actions are rather self-generating. The "actish feel" of some intentional actions do not "constitute that event's activeness, or the agent's exercise of active control", rather they "might be brought about by direct stimulation of someone's brain, in the absence of any relevant desire or intention on the part of that person".[62] Another question raised by such non-causal theory, is how an agent acts upon reason, if the said intentional actions are spontaneous.

Some non-causal explanations involve invoking panpsychism, the theory that a quality of mind is associated with all particles, and pervades the entire universe, in both animate and inanimate entities.

Event-causal theories

Event-causal accounts of incompatibilist free will typically rely upon physicalist models of mind (like those of the compatibilist), yet they presuppose physical indeterminism, in which certain indeterministic events are said to be caused by the agent. A number of event-causal accounts of free will have been created, referenced here as deliberative indeterminism, centred accounts, and efforts of will theory.[62] The first two accounts do not require free will to be a fundamental constituent of the universe. Ordinary randomness is appealed to as supplying the "elbow room" that libertarians believe necessary. A first common objection to event-causal accounts is that the indeterminism could be destructive and could therefore diminish control by the agent rather than provide it (related to the problem of origination). A second common objection to these models is that it is questionable whether such indeterminism could add any value to deliberation over that which is already present in a deterministic world.

Deliberative indeterminism asserts that the indeterminism is confined to an earlier stage in the decision process.[67][68] This is intended to provide an indeterminate set of possibilities to choose from, while not risking the introduction of luck (random decision making). The selection process is deterministic, although it may be based on earlier preferences established by the same process. Deliberative indeterminism has been referenced by Daniel Dennett[69] and John Martin Fischer.[70] An obvious objection to such a view is that agent cannot be assigned ownership over their decisions (or preferences used to make those decisions) to any greater degree than that of a compatibilist model.

Centred accounts propose that for any given decision between two possibilities, the strength of reason will be considered for each option, yet there is still a probability the weaker candidate will be chosen.[63][71][72][73][74][75][76] An obvious objection to such a view is that decisions are explicitly left up to chance, and origination or responsibility cannot be assigned for any given decision.

Efforts of will theory is related to the role of will power in decision making. It suggests that the indeterminacy of agent volition processes could map to the indeterminacy of certain physical events - and the outcomes of these events could therefore be considered caused by the agent. Models of volition have been constructed in which it is seen as a particular kind of complex, high-level process with an element of physical indeterminism. An example of this approach is that of Robert Kane, where he hypothesizes that "in each case, the indeterminism is functioning as a hindrance or obstacle to her realizing one of her purposes—a hindrance or obstacle in the form of resistance within her will which must be overcome by effort."[31] According to Robert Kane such "ultimate responsibility" is a required condition for free will.[77] An important factor in such a theory is that the agent cannot be reduced to physical neuronal events, but rather mental processes are said to provide an equally valid account of the determination of outcome as their physical processes (see non-reductive physicalism).

Although at the time quantum mechanics (and physical indeterminism) was only in the initial stages of acceptance, in his book Miracles: A preliminary study C. S. Lewis stated the logical possibility that if the physical world were proved indeterministic this would provide an entry point to describe an action of a non-physical entity on physical reality.[78] Indeterministic physical models (particularly those involving quantum indeterminacy) introduce random occurrences at an atomic or subatomic level. These events might affect brain activity, and could seemingly allow incompatibilist free will if the apparent indeterminacy of some mental processes (for instance, subjective perceptions of control in conscious volition) map to the underlying indeterminacy of the physical construct. This relationship however requires a causative role over probabilities that is questionable,[79] and it is far from established that brain activity responsible for human action can be affected by such events. Secondarily, these incompatibilist models are dependent upon the relationship between action and conscious volition, as studied in the neuroscience of free will. It is evident that observation may disturb the outcome of the observation itself, rendering limited our ability to identify causality.[51] Niels Bohr, one of the main architects of quantum theory, suggested however that no connection could be made between indeterminism of nature and freedom of will.[52]

Agent/substance-causal theories

Agent/substance-causal accounts of incompatibilist free will rely upon substance dualism in their description of mind. The agent is assumed power to intervene in the physical world.[80][81][82][83][84][85][86][87] Agent(substance)-causal accounts have been suggested by both

This article incorporates material from the Citizendium article "Free will", which is licensed under the but not under the .

External links

  1. Horst, Steven (2011), Laws, Mind, and Free Will. (MIT Press) ISBN 0-262-01525-0
  2. Sri Aurobindo about freedom and free will(PDF)
Other sources
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  2. Dennett, Daniel C. (2003). Freedom Evolves. New York: Viking Press ISBN 0-670-03186-0
  3. Epstein J. M. (1999). Agent Based Models and Generative Social Science. Complexity, IV (5).
  4. Gazzaniga, M. & Steven, M. S. (2004) Free Will in the 21st Century: A Discussion of Neuroscience and Law, in Garland, B. (ed.) Neuroscience and the Law: Brain, Mind and the Scales of Justice, New York: Dana Press, ISBN 1-932594-04-3, pp51–70.
  5. Goodenough, O. R. (2004). "Responsibility and punishment". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 359 (1451): 1805–1809.  
  6. Harnad, Stevan (2009) The Explanatory Gap #PhilPapers
  7. Harnad, Stevan (2001). "No Easy Way Out". The Sciences 41 (2): 36–42. 
  8. Harnad, Stevan (1982). "Consciousness: An Afterthought". Cognition and Brain Theory 5: 29–47. 
  9. Harris, Sam. 2012. Free Will. Free Press. ISBN 978-1451683400
  10. Hofstadter, Douglas. (2007) I Am A Strange Loop. Basic Books. ISBN 978-0-465-03078-1
  11. Kane, Robert (1998). The Significance of Free Will. New York: Oxford University Press ISBN 0-19-512656-4
  12. Lawhead, William F. (2005). The Philosophical Journey: An Interactive Approach. McGraw-Hill Humanities/Social Sciences/Languages ISBN 0-07-296355-7.
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  18. Van Inwagen, Peter (1986). An Essay on Free Will. New York: Oxford University Press ISBN 0-19-824924-1.
  19. Velmans, Max (2003) How Could Conscious Experiences Affect Brains? Exeter: Imprint Academic ISBN 0-907845-39-8.
  20. Dick Swaab, Wij Zijn Ons Brein, Publishing Centre, 2010. ISBN 9789025435226
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  22. Williams, Clifford (1980). Free Will and Determinism: A Dialogue. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company
  23. John Baer, James C. Kaufman, Roy F. Baumeister (2008). Are We Free? Psychology and Free Will. Oxford University Press, New York ISBN 0-19-518963-9
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Further reading
  1. Hawking, Stephen, and Mlodinow, Leonard, The Grand Design, New York, Bantam Books, 2010.
  1. ^ The Institute of Art and Ideas. "Fate, Freedom and Neuroscience". IAI. Retrieved 14 January 2014. 
  2. ^ Thomas W Clark (1999). "The Volitional Brain"Fear of mechanism: A compatibilist critique of . Journal of Consciousness Studies 6 (8–9): 279–93. Free will engages us deeply because it seems central to our conception of who we are, our place in the world, and our moral intuitions. To take a position on whether we have free will, and what sort of freedom this is, is to take positions on a host of other fundamental and necessarily interlocking issues.. 
  3. ^ Galen Strawson (2010). Freedom and Belief. Oxford University Press. p. 2.   Quoted by The Information Philosopher.
  4. ^ Stanislas Dehaene (2014). Consciousness and the Brain: Deciphering How the Brain Codes Our Thoughts. Penguin. p. 263.  
  5. ^ An argument by  
  6. ^ Robert C Bishop (2010). "§28.2: Compatibilism and incompatibilism". In Raymond Y. Chiao, Marvin L. Cohen, Anthony J. Leggett, William D. Phillips, Charles L. Harper, Jr. Visions of Discovery: New Light on Physics, Cosmology, and Consciousness. Cambridge University Press. p. 603.  
  7. ^ See, for example, Janet Richards (2001). "The root of the free will problem: kinds of non-existence". Human Nature After Darwin: A Philosophical Introduction. Routledge. pp. 142 ff.  
  8. ^ Gregg D Caruso (2012). Free Will and Consciousness: A Determinist Account of the Illusion of Free Will. Lexington Books. p. 8.  
  9. ^ Corliss Lamont (1969). Freedom of choice affirmed. Beacon Press. p. 38. 
  10. ^ a b c d e f Azim F Shariff, Jonathan Schooler, Kathleen D Vohs (2008). "The hazards of claiming to have solved the hard problem of free will". In John Baer, James C. Kaufman, Roy F. Baumeister. Are We Free? Psychology and Free Will. Oxford University Press. pp. 183, 190, 191, 192, 193.  
  11. ^ TW Clark (1999). ."The Volitional Brain"Fear of mechanism: A compatibilist critique of . Journal of Consciousness Studies 6 (8-9): 279–93. Feelings or intuitions per se never count as self-evident proof of anything.  Quoted by Shariff, Schooler & Vohs: The hazards of claiming to have solved the hard problem of free will For full text on line see this.
  12. ^ a b Max Velmans (2002). "How Could Conscious Experiences Affect Brains?". Journal of Consciousness Studies 9 (11): 2–29. 
  13. ^ William James (1896). "The dilemma of determinism". The Will to believe, and other essays in popular philosophy. Longmans, Green. p. 145 ff. 
  14. ^ John A Bargh (2007-11-16). "Free will is un-natural". Retrieved 2012-08-21. Are behaviors, judgments, and other higher mental processes the product of free conscious choices, as influenced by internal psychological states (motives, preferences, etc.), or are those higher mental processes determined by those states?  Also found in John A Bargh (2008). "Chapter 7: Free will is un-natural". In John Baer, James C. Kaufman, Roy F. Baumeister. Are We Free? Psychology and Free Will. Oxford University Press. pp. 128 ff.  
  15. ^ Paul Russell (2002). "Chapter 1: Logic, "liberty", and the metaphysics of responsibility". Freedom and Moral Sentiment: Hume's Way of Naturalizing Responsibility. Oxford University Press. p. 14.  
  16. ^ Autonomy: Overview [Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy] by J Dryden - 2010
  17. ^ Positive and Negative Liberty (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
    First published 2003; substantive revision March 5, 2012
    ... While theorists of negative freedom are primarily interested in the degree to which individuals or groups suffer interference from external bodies, theorists of positive freedom are more attentive to the internal factors affecting the degree to which individuals or groups act autonomously.... the apparently noble ideal of freedom as self-mastery or self-realization....
  18. ^ Strawson, Galen. "Free will. In E. Craig (Ed.)". Routledge encyclopedia of philosophy. London: Routledge year = 1998, 2011. Retrieved 12 December 2012. 
  19. ^ a b O'Connor, Timothy (Oct 29, 2010). Edward N. Zalta (ed.), ed. "Free Will". The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2011 Edition). Retrieved 2013-01-15. 
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  26. ^ A. Schopenhauer, On the Freedom of the Will, c. 1, "What is freedom?"
  27. ^ Hence the notion of contingency appeared as the very opposition of necessity, so that wherever a thing is considered dependent or relies upon another thing, it is contingent and thus not necessary.
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  32. ^ Quote from Tor Nørretranders (1998). "Preface". The user illusion: Cutting consciousness down to size (Jonathan Sydenham translation of Maerk verden 1991 ed.). Penguin Books. p. ix.  
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  95. ^ "Some Varieties of Free Will and Determinism". Philosophy 302: Ethics. 09.10.09. Retrieved 19 December 2012. Predeterminism: the philosophical and theological view that combines God with determinism. On this doctrine events throughout eternity have been foreordained by some supernatural power in a causal sequence. 
  96. ^ See for example Hooft, G. (2001). "How does god play dice? (Pre-)determinism at the Planck scale". arXiv preprint hep-th/0104219. Predeterminism is here defined by the assumption that the experimenter's 'free will' in deciding what to measure (such as his choice to measure the x- or the y-component of an electron's spin), is in fact limited by deterministic laws, hence not free at all , and Sukumar, CV (1996). "A new paradigm for science and architecture". City (Taylor & Francis) 1 (1-2): 181–183.  
  97. ^ Borst, C. (1992). "Leibniz and the compatibilist account of free will". Studia leibnitiana (JSTOR): 49–58. Leibniz presents a clear case of a philosopher who does not think that predeterminism requires universal causal determinism 
  98. ^ Far Western Philosophy of Education Society (1971). Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Far Western Philosophy of Education Society. Far Western Philosophy of Education Society. p. 12. Retrieved 20 December 2012. "Determinism" is, in essence, the position holding that all behavior is caused by prior behavior. "Predeterminism" is the position holding that all behavior is caused by condition predating behavior altogether (such impersonal boundaries as "the human conditions", instincts, the will of God, inherent knowledge, fate, and such). 
  99. ^ "Predeterminism". Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Merriam-Webster, Incorporated. Retrieved 20 December 2012.  See for example Ormond, A. T. (1894). "Freedom and psycho-genesis". Psychological Review (Macmillan & Company) 1 (3): 217.  
  100. ^ Sherman, H. (1981). "Marx and determinism". Journal of Economic Issues (JSTOR): 61–71. Many religions of the world have considered that the path of history is predeterminied by God or Fate. On this basis, many believe that what will happen will happen, and they accept their destiny with fatalism. 
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  105. ^ Aquinas, St. Thomas. "Ia, q. 14, art 13.". Summa Theologica.  See Summa Theologica
  106. ^ C. S. Lewis (1980). Mere Christianity. Touchstone:New York. p. 149. 
  107. ^ Linda Trinkaus Zagzebski (25 April 1996). "chapter 6, section 2.1". The Dilemma of Freedom and Foreknowledge. Oxford University Press.  
  108. ^ a b See for example: Sandro Nannini (2004). "Chapter 5: Mental causation and intentionality in a mind naturalizing theory". In Alberto Peruzzi, ed. Mind and Causality. John Benjamins Publishing. pp. 69 ff.  
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  110. ^ Susan Sauve Meyer, Aristotle on Moral Responsibility., Oxford 2012
  111. ^ Bobzien, Susanne, Freedom and Determinism in Stoic Philosophy, Oxford 1998, Chapter 6.
  112. ^ a b Hume, D. (1740). A Treatise of Human Nature SECTION VIII.: "Of liberty and necessity" (1967 edition). Oxford University Press, Oxford. ISBN 0-87220-230-5
  113. ^ a b Hobbes, T. (1651) Leviathan CHAPTER XXI.: "Of the liberty of subjects" (1968 edition). London: Penguin Books.
  114. ^ a b McKenna, Michael, "Compatibilism", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2004 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.),((online))
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  116. ^ A discussion of the roles of will, intellect and passions in Aquinas' teachings is found in Stump, Eleonore (2003). "Intellect and will". Arguments of the philosophers seriesAquinas,. Routledge (Psychology Press). pp. 278 ff.  
  117. ^ Timothy O'Connor (Oct 29, 2010). Edward N. Zalta, ed, ed. "Free Will". The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2011 Edition). The Metaphysics Research Lab Center for the Study of Language and Information, Stanford University. Philosophers who distinguish freedom of action and freedom of will do so because our success in carrying out our ends depends in part on factors wholly beyond our control. Furthermore, there are always external constraints on the range of options we can meaningfully try to undertake. As the presence or absence of these conditions and constraints are not (usually) our responsibility, it is plausible that the central loci of our responsibility are our choices, or "willings". 
  118. ^ "Catholic Encyclopedia: Appetite". 1907-03-01. Retrieved 2012-08-13. 
  119. ^ "SUMMA THEOLOGICA: Free-will (Prima Pars, Q. 83)". Retrieved 2012-08-13. 
  120. ^ Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, Q83 A1.
  121. ^ Further discussion of this compatibilistic theory can be found in Thomas' Summa contra gentiles, Book III about Providence, c. 88-91 (260-267), where it is postulated that everything has its cause and it is again and again in detail referred also to all individual choices of man etc., even refuting opposite views. Here the online text of the Summa. In order to avoid, at least in concept, the absolution of man of any guilt he then notes the contingency of all that takes place, i.e. lack of direct necessity from God strictly with regard to a concrete ("contingent") act. A typical choice was not separately ordained to be so-and-so by God; St. Thomas says the choice is not necessary, but in fact that apparently means it was contingent with regard to God and the law of nature (as a specific case that could have not existed in other circumstances), and necessary with regard to its direct previous cause in will and intellect. (The contingency, or fortuity, is even intuitive under modern chaos theory, where one can try to show that more and more developed products appearing in the evolution of a universe or, simplier, an automaton are chaotic with regard to its principles.)
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  123. ^ Watson, D. (1982). Free Will. New York: Oxford University Press.
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  127. ^ A key exponent of this view was  
  128. ^ A thoughtful list of careful distinctions regarding the application of empirical science to these issues is found in Stoljar, Daniel (Sep 9, 2009). Edward N. Zalta, ed, ed. "Physicalism: §12 – Physicalism and the physicalist world picture". The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2009 Edition). 
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  130. ^ Honderich, T. (2001). "Determinism as True, Compatibilism and Incompatibilism as Both False and the Real Problem" in The Free Will Handbook, edited by Robert Kane of the University of Texas. Oxford University Press
  131. ^ Alexander of Aphrodisias, On Fate p. 192, "Everything that happens is followed by something else which depends on it by causal necessity. Likewise, everything that happens is preceded by something with which it is causally connected. For nothing exists or has come into being in the cosmos without a cause. The universe will be disrupted and disintegrate into pieces and cease to be a unity functioning as a single system, if any uncaused movement is introduced into it."
  132. ^ "The Dilemma of Determinism, in The Will to Believe, Dover (1956), p.153; first delivered as an address to Harvard Divinity Students in Lowell Lecture Hall, and published in the Unitarian Review for September 1884
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  134. ^ Atheism and Theism, Wiley-Blackwell (2003) p.63. "Indeterminism does not confer freedom on us: I would feel that my freedom was impaired if I thought that a quantum mechanical trigger in my brain might cause me to leap into the garden and eat a slug."
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  146. ^ Likewise in paragraph 5 that the good or the choice of the good comes from the judgement of reason (in Catholic doctrine it is not identical with free will), which is usually considered causal in philosophy.
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  151. ^ English article in The Tablet
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  154. ^ Kant argued that, in order that human life is not just a "dream" (a random or projected by subjects juxtaposition of moments), the temporality of event A as before or after B must submit to a rule. An established order then implies the existence of some necessary conditions and causes, that is: sufficient bases (a so-called sufficient reason is the coincidence of all the necessary conditions). Without established causality, both in subject and in the external world, the passing of time would be impossible, because it is essentially directional. See online text of his proof
  155. ^ Schopenhauer, who by the way continued and simplified Kant's system, argued (among others basing on optical illusions and the "initial processing") that it is the intellect or even the brain what generates the image of the world out of something else, by concluding from effects, e.g. optical, about appropriate causes, e.g. concrete physical objects. Intellect in his works is strictly connected with recognizing causes and effects and associating them, it is somewhat close to the contemporary view of cerebral cortex and formation of associations. The intellectuality of all perception implied then of course that causality is rooted in the world, precedes and enables experience. See online text of his proof
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  162. ^ a b Grand Design (2010), page 32: "the molecular basis of biology shows that biological processes are governed by the laws of physics and chemistry and therefore are as determined as the orbits of the it seems that we are no more than biological machines and that free will is just an illusion", and page 72: "Quantum physics might seem to undermine the idea that nature is governed by laws, but that is not the case. Instead it leads us to accept a new form of determinism: Given the state of a system at some time, the laws of nature determine the probabilities of various futures and pasts rather than determining the future and past with certainty." (emphasis in original, discussing a Many worlds interpretation)
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See also

The philosopher Søren Kierkegaard claimed that divine omnipotence cannot be separated from divine goodness.[248] As a truly omnipotent and good being, God could create beings with true freedom over God. Furthermore, God would voluntarily do so because "the greatest good ... which can be done for a being, greater than anything else that one can do for it, is to be truly free."[249] Alvin Plantinga's "free will defense" is a contemporary expansion of this theme, adding how God, free will, and evil are consistent.[250]

In Islam the theological issue is not usually how to reconcile free will with God's foreknowledge, but with God's jabr, or divine commanding power. al-Ash'ari developed an "acquisition" or "dual-agency" form of compatibilism, in which human free will and divine jabr were both asserted, and which became a cornerstone of the dominant Ash'ari position.[245] In Shia Islam, Ash'aris understanding of a higher balance toward predestination is challenged by most theologians.[246] Free will, according to Islamic doctrine is the main factor for man's accountability in his/her actions throughout life. Actions taken by people exercising free will are counted on the Day of Judgement because they are their own, however the free will happens with the permission of God.[247]

Some views in Jewish philosophy stress that free will is a product of the intrinsic human soul, using the word neshama (from the Hebrew root or .נ.ש.מ meaning "breath"), but the ability to make a free choice is through Yechida (from Hebrew word "yachid", יחיד, singular), the part of the soul that is united with God, the only being that is not hindered by or dependent on cause and effect (thus, freedom of will does not belong to the realm of the physical reality, and inability of natural philosophy to account for it is expected). While there are other views of free will in Judaism, most share the same basic Kabbalah principles.

However, some philosophers follow William of Ockham in holding that necessity and possibility are defined with respect to a given point in time and a given matrix of empirical circumstances, and so something that is merely possible from the perspective of one observer may be necessary from the perspective of an omniscient.[243] Some philosophers follow Philo of Alexandria, a philosopher known for his homocentrism, in holding that free will is a feature of a human's soul, and thus that non-human animals lack free will.[244]

The theological doctrine of divine foreknowledge is often alleged to be in conflict with free will, particularly in Reformed circles—for if God knows exactly what will happen, right down to every choice, that calls into question the status of choices as free. If God has timelessly true knowledge about one's choices, this seems to constrain individual freedom.[241] This problem is related to the Aristotelian problem of the sea battle: tomorrow there will or will not be a sea battle. If there will be one, then it seems that it was true yesterday that there would be one. Then it would be necessary that the sea battle will occur. If there won't be one, then by similar reasoning, it is necessary that it won't occur.[242] This means that the future, whatever it is, is completely fixed by past truths—true propositions about the future.

In other theology

A human being may follow guidance or may allow himself to go astray: both possibilities are part of his nature. Both directions have been created by God's will. Similarly, the consequences that follow upon a person’s choice to follow one way or the other are also determined by God's will, which is active, absolute. Reckoning, judgement and reward are based on man's choice of the course he follows. That choice is of his own making, although the ability to choose either has been planted in him by God’s will.[240]

This is how God lets whomever he wills go astray and how he helps whomever he wills follow the straight path. His will helps everyone who strives to implement divine guidance, while it abandons and lets go astray anyone who stubbornly rejects guidance. It does no injustice to anyone.

According to Islamic creed, it is God's will that has determined that this particular species of creation, known as man, has the ability to follow guidance or go astray, according to his own free choice, not as a result of any compulsion.

In Islamic philosophy

In Buddhism it is taught that the idea of absolute freedom of choice (that is that any human being could be completely free to make any choice) is unwise, because it denies the reality of one's physical needs and circumstances. Equally incorrect is the idea that humans have no choice in life or that their lives are pre-determined. To deny freedom would be to deny the efforts of Buddhists to make moral progress (through our capacity to freely choose compassionate action). Pubbekatahetuvada, the belief that all happiness and suffering arise from previous actions, is considered a wrong view according to Buddhist doctrines. Because Buddhists also reject agenthood, the traditional compatibilist strategies are closed to them as well. Instead, the Buddhist philosophical strategy is to examine the metaphysics of causality. Ancient India had many heated arguments about the nature of causality with Jains, Nyayists, Samkhyists, Cārvākans, and Buddhists all taking slightly different lines. In many ways, the Buddhist position is closer to a theory of "conditionality" than a theory of "causality", especially as it is expounded by Nagarjuna in the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā.[239]

Buddhism accepts both freedom and determinism (or something similar to it), but rejects the idea of a total agent from external sources.[239] According to the Buddha, "There is free action, there is retribution, but I see no agent that passes out from one set of momentary elements into another one, except the [connection] of those elements."[239] Buddhists believe in neither absolute free will, nor determinism. It preaches a middle doctrine, named pratitya-samutpada in Sanskrit, often translated as "inter-dependent arising". This theory is also called "Conditioned Genesis" or "Dependent Origination". It teaches that every volition is a conditioned action as a result of ignorance. In part, it states that free will is inherently conditioned and not "free" to begin with. It is also part of the theory of karma in Buddhism. The concept of karma in Buddhism is different from the notion of karma in Hinduism. In Buddhism, the idea of karma is much less deterministic. The Buddhist notion of karma is primarily focused on the cause and effect of moral actions in this life, while in Hinduism the concept of karma is more often connected with determining one's destiny in future lives.

In Buddhist philosophy

However, the preceding quote has often been misinterpreted as Vivekananda implying that everything is predetermined. What Vivekananda actually meant by lack of free will was that the will was not "free" because it was heavily influenced by the law of cause and effect—"The will is not free, it is a phenomenon bound by cause and effect, but there is something behind the will which is free."[238] Vivekananda never said things were absolutely determined and placed emphasis on the power of conscious choice to alter one's past karma: "It is the coward and the fool who says this is his fate. But it is the strong man who stands up and says I will make my own fate."[238]

Therefore we see at once that there cannot be any such thing as free-will; the very words are a contradiction, because will is what we know, and everything that we know is within our universe, and everything within our universe is moulded by conditions of time, space and causality. ... To acquire freedom we have to get beyond the limitations of this universe; it cannot be found here.[238]

A quotation from Swami Vivekananda, a Vedantist, offers a good example of the worry about free will in the Hindu tradition.

The six orthodox (astika) schools of thought in Hindu philosophy do not agree with each other entirely on the question of free will. For the Samkhya, for instance, matter is without any freedom, and soul lacks any ability to control the unfolding of matter. The only real freedom (kaivalya) consists in realizing the ultimate separateness of matter and self.[236] For the Yoga school, only Ishvara is truly free, and its freedom is also distinct from all feelings, thoughts, actions, or wills, and is thus not at all a freedom of will. The metaphysics of the Nyaya and Vaisheshika schools strongly suggest a belief in determinism, but do not seem to make explicit claims about determinism or free will.[237]

In Hindu philosophy

In Eastern philosophy

Along similar lines, Tyler Stillman has found that belief in free will predicts better job performance.[235]

Baumeister and colleagues also note that volunteers disbelieving in free will are less capable of counterfactual thinking.[219][233] This is worrying because counterfactual thinking ("If I had done something different...") is an important part of learning from one's choices, including those that harmed others.[234] Again, this cannot be taken to mean that belief in determinism is to blame; these are the results we would expect from increasing people's belief in fatalism.[225]

After researchers provoked volunteers to disbelieve in free will, participants lied, cheated, and stole more. Kathleen Vohs has found that those whose belief in free will had been eroded were more likely to cheat.[227] In a study conducted by Roy Baumeister, after participants read an article arguing against free will, they were more likely to lie about their performance on a test where they would be rewarded with cash.[228] Provoking a rejection of free will has also been associated with increased aggression and less helpful behaviour[229][230] as well as mindless conformity.[231] Disbelief in free will can even cause people to feel less guilt about transgressions against others.[232]

Various social behavioural traits have been correlated with the belief in deterministic models of mind, some of which involved the experimental subjection of individuals to libertarian and deterministic perspectives.

In other words, "provoking disbelief in free will" probably causes a belief in fatalism. As discussed earlier in this article, compatibilistic free will is illustrated by statements like "my choices have causes, and an effect – so I affect my future", whereas fatalism is more like "my choices have causes, but no effect – I am powerless". Fatalism, then, may be what threatens people's sense of self-efficacy. Lay people should not confuse fatalism with determinism, and yet even professional philosophers occasionally confuse the two. It is thus likely that the negative consequences below can be accounted for by participants developing a belief in fatalism when experiments attack belief in "free will".[225] To test the effects of belief in determinism, future studies would need to provide articles that do not simply "attack free will", but instead focus on explaining determinism and compatibilism. Some studies have been conducted indicating that people react strongly to the way in which mental determinism is described, when reconciling it with moral responsibility. Eddy Nahmias has noted that when peoples actions are framed with respect to their beliefs and desires (rather than their neurological underpinnings) they are more likely to dissociate determinism from moral responsibility.[226]

Baumeister and colleagues found that provoking disbelief in free will seems to cause various negative effects. The authors concluded, in their paper, that it is belief in determinism that causes those negative effects.[219] This may not be a very justified conclusion, however.[225] First of all, free will can at least refer to either libertarian (indeterministic) free will or compatibilistic (deterministic) free will. Having participants read articles that simply "disprove free will" is unlikely to increase their understanding of determinism, or the compatibilistic free will that it still permits.[225]

An alternative explanation builds on the idea that subjects tend to confuse determinism with fatalism... What happens then when agents’ self-efficacy is undermined? It is not that their basic desires and drives are defeated. It is rather, I suggest, that they become skeptical that they can control those desires; and in the face of that skepticism, they fail to apply the effort that is needed even to try. If they were tempted to behave badly, then coming to believe in fatalism makes them less likely to resist that temptation.

—Richard Holton[225]

Effects of the belief itself

A recent 2009 survey has shown that compatibilism is quite a popular stance among those who specialize in philosophy (59.1%). Belief in libertarianism amounted to 13.7%. More than a half of surveyed people were US Americans.[224]

Among philosophers

The researchers also found that people consider acts more "free" when they involve a person opposing external forces, planning, or making random actions.[221] Notably, the last behaviour, "random" actions, may not be possible; when participants attempt to perform tasks in a random manner (such as generating random numbers), their behaviour betrays many patterns.[222][223]

Roy Baumeister and colleagues reviewed literature on the psychological effects of a belief (or disbelief) in free will. The first part of their analysis (which is all that we are concerned with here) was not meant to discover which types of free will actually exist. The researchers instead sought to identify what other people believe, how many people believed it, and the effects of those beliefs. Baumeister found that most people tend to believe in a sort of "naive compatibilistic free will".[219][220]

Studies also reveal a correlation between someone's likelihood of accepting a deterministic model of mind, and their personality type. For example, Adam Feltz and Edward Cokely found that people of an extrovert personality type are more likely to dissociate belief in determinism from belief in moral responsibility.[218]

Studies indicate that peoples' belief in free will is inconsistent. Emily Pronin and Matthew Kugler found that people believe they have more free will than others.[217]

Whether people naturally adhere to an incompatibilist model of free will has been questioned in the research. Eddy Nahmias has found that incompatibilism is not intuitive – it was not adhered to, in that determinism does not negate belief in moral responsibility (based on an empirical study of people's responses to moral dilemmas under a deterministic model of reality).[213] Edward Cokely has found that incompatibilism is intuitive – it was naturally adhered to, in that determinism does indeed negate belief in moral responsibility in general.[214] Joshua Knobe and Shaun Nichols have proposed that incompatibilism may or may not be intuitive, and that it is dependent to some large degree upon the circumstances; whether or not the crime incites an emotional response – for example if it involves harming another human being.[215] They found that belief in free will is a cultural universal, and that the majority of participants said that (a) our universe is indeterministic and (b) moral responsibility is not compatible with determinism.[216]

What people believe

In recent years, free will belief in individuals has been analysed with respect to traits in social behaviour. In general the concept of free will researched to date in this context has been that of the incompatibilist, or more specifically, the libertarian, that is freedom from determinism.

Believing in free will

Caveats have however been identified in studying a subject's awareness of mental events, in that the process of introspection itself may alter the experience.[212]

Psychologists have shown that reducing a person's belief in free will makes them less helpful and more aggressive.[211] This may occur because the subject loses a sense of self-efficacy.

Emily Pronin has argued that the subjective experience of free will is supported by the introspection illusion. This is the tendency for people to trust the reliability of their own introspections while distrusting the introspections of other people. The theory implies that people will more readily attribute free will to themselves rather than others. This prediction has been confirmed by three of Pronin and Kugler's experiments. When college students were asked about personal decisions in their own and their roommate's lives, they regarded their own choices as less predictable. Staff at a restaurant described their co-workers' lives as more determined (having fewer future possibilities) than their own lives. When weighing up the influence of different factors on behavior, students gave desires and intentions the strongest weight for their own behavior, but rated personality traits as most predictive of other people.[210]

Wegner has applied this principle to the inferences people make about their own conscious will. People typically experience a thought that is consistent with a behavior, and then they observe themselves performing this behavior. As a result, people infer that their thoughts must have caused the observed behavior. However, Wegner has been able to manipulate people's thoughts and behaviors so as to conform to or violate the two requirements for causal inference.[203][204] Through such work, Wegner has been able to show that people often experience conscious will over behaviors that they have not, in fact, caused—and conversely, that people can be led to experience a lack of will over behaviors they did cause. For instance, priming subjects with information about an effect increases the probability that a person falsely believes is the cause.[205] The implication for such work is that the perception of conscious will (which he says might be more accurately labelled as 'the emotion of authorship') is not tethered to the execution of actual behaviors, but is inferred from various cues through an intricate mental process, authorship processing. Although many interpret this work as a blow against the argument for free will, both psychologists[206][207] and philosophers[208][209] have criticized Wegner's theories.

For example, if a person hears an explosion and sees a tree fall down that person is likely to infer that the explosion caused the tree to fall over. However, if the explosion occurs after the tree falls down (that is, the first requirement is not met), or rather than an explosion, the person hears the ring of a telephone (that is, the second requirement is not met), then that person is not likely to infer that either noise caused the tree to fall down.

  1. The first event immediately precedes the second event, and
  2. The first event is consistent with having caused the second event.

Experimental psychology's contributions to the free will debate have come primarily through social psychologist Daniel Wegner's work on conscious will. In his book, The Illusion of Conscious Will[203] Wegner summarizes what he believes is empirical evidence supporting the view that human perception of conscious control is an illusion. Wegner summarizes some empirical evidence that may suggest that the perception of conscious control is open to modification (or even manipulation). Wegner observes that one event is inferred to have caused a second event when two requirements are met:

Experimental psychology

Groups of cooperating robots also are envisioned:[200] One can conjecture that some such groups could evolve following a Darwinian scheme, not only an interest of engineers,[201] but a recurrent topic of science fiction.[201][202]

In their book The Grand Design[197] Hawking and Mlodinow suggest a thought experiment in which one encounters an alien that may be a robot. Today robots can be made that adapt their responses to their environment through self-programming, so-called intelligent robots. Much of the description of these machines seems parallel to human behavior, although technology has still not reached sufficient complexity to make a strong case for the similarities.[198][199] Is such a machine deterministic? We cannot predict the machine's exact behavior without a complete knowledge of its personal history with its environment, the reliability of its components, and its present state of programming, uncertainties limiting us to probabilistic statements.

As an illustration, some strategy board games have rigorous rules in which no information (such as cards' face values) is hidden from either player and no random events (such as dice rolling) occur in the game. Nevertheless, strategy games like chess and especially Go, with its simple deterministic rules, can have an extremely large number of unpredictable moves. By analogy, "emergentists" suggest that the experience of free will emerges from the interaction of finite rules and deterministic parameters that generate infinite and unpredictable behavior. Yet, if all these events were accounted for, and there were a known way to evaluate these events, the seemingly unpredictable behavior would become predictable.[193][195][196] Cellular automata and the generative sciences can model emergent processes of social behavior on this philosophy.[192]

In some generative philosophies of cognitive sciences and evolutionary psychology, free will is assumed not to exist.[192][193] However, an illusion of free will is created, within this theoretical context, due to the generation of infinite or computationally complex behavior from the interaction of a finite set of rules and parameters. Thus, the unpredictability of the emerging behavior from deterministic processes leads to a perception of free will, even though free will as an ontological entity is assumed not to exist.[192][193] In this picture, even if the behavior could be computed ahead of time, no way of doing so is simpler than just observing the outcome of the brain's own computations.[194]

The notion of nominal emergence and weak emergence. Both deny the possibility of downward causation and see emergence as an expression of events that fundamentally are microscopically generated.[190] The difference between nominal and weak emergence is only in the complexity of the connection to the underlying microscopic behavior.[191]

Determinism and emergent behavior

Similarly, one of the most important ("first rank") diagnostic symptoms of schizophrenia is the delusion of being controlled by an external force.[186] People with schizophrenia will sometimes report that, although they are acting in the world, they did not initiate, or will, the particular actions they performed. This is sometimes likened to being a robot controlled by someone else. Although the neural mechanisms of schizophrenia are not yet clear, one influential hypothesis is that there is a breakdown in brain systems that compare motor commands with the feedback received from the body (known as proprioception), leading to attendant hallucinations and delusions of control.[187]

In alien hand syndrome, the afflicted individual's limb will produce meaningful behaviors without the intention of the subject. The affected limb effectively demonstrates 'a will of its own.' The sense of agency does not emerge in conjunction with the overt appearance of the purposeful act even though the sense of ownership in relationship to the body part is maintained. This phenomenon corresponds with an impairment in the premotor mechanism manifested temporally by the appearance of the readiness potential (see section on the Neuroscience of Free Will above) recordable on the scalp several hundred milliseconds before the overt appearance of a spontaneous willed movement. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging with specialized multivariate analyses to study the temporal dimension in the activation of the cortical network associated with voluntary movement in human subjects, an anterior-to-posterior sequential activation process beginning in the supplementary motor area on the medial surface of the frontal lobe and progressing to the primary motor cortex and then to parietal cortex has been observed.[181] The sense of agency thus appears to normally emerge in conjunction with this orderly sequential network activation incorporating premotor association cortices together with primary motor cortex. In particular, the supplementary motor complex on the medial surface of the frontal lobe appears to activate prior to primary motor cortex presumably in associated with a preparatory pre-movement process. In a recent study using functional magnetic resonance imaging, alien movements were characterized by a relatively isolated activation of the primary motor cortex contralateral to the alien hand, while voluntary movements of the same body part included the concomitant activation of motor association cortex associated with the premotor process.[182] The clinical definition requires "feeling that one limb is foreign or has a will of its own, together with observable involuntary motor activity" (emphasis in original).[183] This syndrome is often a result of damage to the corpus callosum, either when it is severed to treat intractable epilepsy or due to a stroke. The standard neurological explanation is that the felt will reported by the speaking left hemisphere does not correspond with the actions performed by the non-speaking right hemisphere, thus suggesting that the two hemispheres may have independent senses of will.[184][185]

For example, people with Tourette syndrome and related tic disorders make involuntary movements and utterances, called tics, despite the fact that they would prefer not to do so when it is socially inappropriate. Tics are described as semi-voluntary or unvoluntary,[179] because they are not strictly involuntary: they may be experienced as a voluntary response to an unwanted, premonitory urge. Tics are experienced as irresistible and must eventually be expressed.[179] People with Tourette syndrome are sometimes able to suppress their tics for limited periods, but doing so often results in an explosion of tics afterward. The control exerted (from seconds to hours at a time) may merely postpone and exacerbate the ultimate expression of the tic.[180]

In several brain-related conditions, individuals cannot entirely control their own actions. Though the existence of such conditions does not directly refute the existence of free will, the study of such conditions, like the neuroscientific studies above, is valuable in developing models of how the brain may construct our experience of free will.

Neurology and psychiatry

  • support Libet's original findings
  • suggest that the cancelling or "veto" of an action may first arise subconsciously as well
  • explain the underlying brain structures involved
  • suggest models that explain the relationship between conscious intention and action

More studies have since been conducted, including some that try to:

Some argue that placing the question of free will in the context of motor control is too narrow. The objection is that the time scales involved in motor control are very short, and motor control involves a great deal of unconscious action, with much physical movement entirely unconscious. On that basis "... free will cannot be squeezed into time frames of 150–350 ms; free will is a longer term phenomenon" and free will is a higher level activity that "cannot be captured in a description of neural activity or of muscle activation...."[178] The bearing of timing experiments upon free will is still under discussion.

These studies of the timing between actions and the conscious decision bear upon the role of the brain in understanding free will. A subject's declaration of intention to move a finger appears after the brain has begun to implement the action, suggesting to some that unconsciously the brain has made the decision before the conscious mental act to do so. Some believe the implication is that free will was not involved in the decision and is an illusion. The first of these experiments reported the brain registered activity related to the move about 0.2 s before movement onset.[175] However, these authors also found that awareness of action was anticipatory to activity in the muscle underlying the movement; the entire process resulting in action involves more steps than just the onset of brain activity. The bearing of these results upon notions of free will appears complex.[176][177]

Libet found that the unconscious brain activity of the readiness potential leading up to subjects' movements began approximately half a second before the subject was aware of a conscious intention to move.[173][174]

It has become possible to study the living brain, and researchers can now watch the brain's decision-making process at work. A seminal experiment in this field was conducted by Benjamin Libet in the 1980s, in which he asked each subject to choose a random moment to flick her wrist while he measured the associated activity in her brain; in particular, the build-up of electrical signal called the readiness potential (after German Bereitschaftspotential). Although it was well known that the readiness potential caused and preceded the physical action, Libet asked whether it could be recorded before the conscious intention to move. To determine when subjects felt the intention to move, he asked them to watch the second hand of a clock. After making a movement, the volunteer reported the time on the clock when they first felt the conscious intention to move; this became known as Libet's W time.[173]


Like physicists, biologists have frequently addressed questions related to free will. One of the most heated debates in biology is that of "nature versus nurture", concerning the relative importance of genetics and biology as compared to culture and environment in human behavior.[167] The view of many researchers is that many human behaviors can be explained in terms of humans' brains, genes, and evolutionary histories.[168][169][170] This point of view raises the fear that such attribution makes it impossible to hold others responsible for their actions. Steven Pinker's view is that fear of determinism in the context of "genetics" and "evolution" is a mistake, that it is "a confusion of explanation with exculpation". Responsibility doesn't require that behavior be uncaused, as long as behavior responds to praise and blame.[171] Moreover, it is not certain that environmental determination is any less threatening to free will than genetic determination.[172]


Erwin Schrödinger, a nobel laureate in physics and one of the founders of quantum mechanics, came to a different conclusion than Hawking. Near the end of his 1944 essay titled What Is Life? he says that there is "incontrovertible direct experience" that humans have free will. He also states that the human body is wholly or at least partially determined, leading him to conclude that "... 'I' -am the person, if any, who controls the 'motion of the atoms' according to the Laws of Nature." He explains this position on free will by appealing to a notion of self that is emergent from the entire collection of atoms in his body, and other convictions about conscious experience. However, he also qualifies the conclusion as "necessarily subjective" in its "philosophical implications".

Under the assumption of physicalism it has been argued that the laws of quantum mechanics provide a complete probabilistic account of the motion of particles, regardless of whether or not free will exists.[165][166] Physicist Stephen Hawking describes such ideas in his 2010 book The Grand Design. According to Hawking, these findings from quantum mechanics suggest that humans are sorts of complicated biological machines; although our behavior is impossible to predict perfectly in practice, "free will is just an illusion".[162] In other words, Hawking thinks that only compatibilistic (deterministic) free will is possible based on the data.

Assuming that an indeterministic interpretation of quantum mechanics is correct, one may still object that such indeterminism is for all practical purposes confined to microscopic phenomena.[163] This is not always the case: many macroscopic phenomena are based on quantum effects. For instance, some hardware random number generators work by amplifying quantum effects into practically usable signals. A more significant question is whether the indeterminism of quantum mechanics allows for the traditional idea of free will (based on a perception of free will). If a person's action is however only result of complete quantum randomness, and mental processes as experienced have no influence on the probabilistic outcomes (such as volition),[31] this in itself would mean that such traditional free will does not exist (because the action was not controllable by the physical being who claims to possess the free will).[164]

Quantum mechanics defines probabilities to predict the behavior of particles, "rather than determining the future and past with certainty". Because the human brain is composed of particles, and their behavior is governed by the laws of nature, Stephen Hawking says that free will is "just an illusion".[162]

Early scientific thought often portrayed the universe as deterministic – for example in the thought of Democritus or the Cārvākans – and some thinkers claimed that the simple process of gathering sufficient information would allow them to predict future events with perfect accuracy. Modern science, on the other hand, is a mixture of deterministic and stochastic theories.[159] Quantum mechanics predicts events only in terms of probabilities, casting doubt on whether the universe is deterministic at all. Current physical theories cannot resolve the question of whether determinism is true of the world, being very far from a potential Theory of Everything, and open to many different interpretations.[160][161]


In science

Freeman introduces what he calls "circular causality" to "allow for the contribution of self-organizing dynamics", the "formation of macroscopic population dynamics that shapes the patterns of activity of the contributing individuals", applicable to "interactions between neurons and neural masses ... and between the behaving animal and its environment".[158] In this view, mind and neurological functions are tightly coupled in a situation where feedback between collective actions (mind) and individual subsystems (for example, neurons and their synapses) jointly decide upon the behaviour of both.

In the 1780s Immanuel Kant suggested at a minimum our decision processes with moral implications lie outside the reach of everyday causality, and lie outside the rules governing material objects.[156] "There is a sharp difference between moral judgments and judgments of fact.... Moral judgments ... must be a priori judgments."[157]

  • Kant's proof in Critique of Pure Reason (which referenced time and time ordering of causes and effects)[154]
  • Schopenhauer's proof from The Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason (which referenced the so-called intellectuality of representations, that is, in other words, objects and qualia perceived with senses)[155]

This empiricist view was often denied by trying to prove the so-called apriority of causal law (i.e. that it precedes all experience and is rooted in the construction of the perceivable world):

In 1739, David Hume in his A Treatise of Human Nature approached free will via the notion of causality. It was his position that causality was a mental construct used to explain the repeated association of events, and that one must examine more closely the relation between things regularly succeeding one another (descriptions of regularity in nature) and things that result in other things (things that cause or necessitate other things).[152] According to Hume, 'causation' is on weak grounds: "Once we realise that 'A must bring about B' is tantamount merely to 'Due to their constant conjunction, we are psychologically certain that B will follow A,' then we are left with a very weak notion of necessity."[153]

Free will and views of causality

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church one can find that man has free will[148] and that "God is in no way, directly or indirectly, the cause of moral evil."[149] The latter does not automatically exclude compatibilism, due to the assumption of the existence of the devil (pope Benedict XVI put it straight in an Angelus address on February 10, 2008 that the ultimate cause of evil is satan,[150][151] although he warned that it is key to Christianity to admit one's responsibility for evil and to take on the responsibility consciously).

Critique that seems more or less to support popular incompatibilistic views can be found in some papal documents especially in the 20th century,[147] no explicite condemnation, however, of causal determinism in its most generic meaning can be found there. More often these documents focus on condemnation of physicalism/materialism and the stressing of significance of belief in soul, as a non-physical indivisible substance equipped with intellect and will, which decides human proceeding in a (perhaps unprecised) way.

The papal encyclical on human freedom, Libertas Praestantissimum by Pope Leon XIII (1888),[145] seems to leave the question unresolved as to the relation between free will and determinism: whether the correct notion is the compatibilist one or the libertarian one. The quotations supporting compatibilism include the one from St. Thomas (footnote 4) near the end of paragraph 6, regarding the cause of evil ("Whereas, when he sins, he acts in opposition to reason, is moved by another, and is the victim of foreign misapprehensions"),[146] and a similar passus suggesting a natural, cause-and-effect function of human will ("harmony with his natural inclinations", "Creator of will", "by whom all things are moved in conformity with their nature") near the end of paragraph 8 (when considering the problem of how grace can have effects on free will). On the other hand, metaphysical libertarianism – at least as a sort of possibility of reversing the direction of one's acting – is suggested by the reference to the well-known philosophical term metaphysical freedom at the beginning of paragraph 3 and, to an extent, a contrasting comparison of animals, which always act "of necessity", with human liberty, by means of which one can "either act or not act, do this or do that".

Catholic teachings

William James' views were ambivalent. While he believed in free will on "ethical grounds", he did not believe that there was evidence for it on scientific grounds, nor did his own introspections support it.[143] Moreover, he did not accept incompatibilism as formulated below; he did not believe that the indeterminism of human actions was a prerequisite of moral responsibility. In his work Pragmatism, he wrote that "instinct and utility between them can safely be trusted to carry on the social business of punishment and praise" regardless of metaphysical theories.[144] He did believe that indeterminism is important as a "doctrine of relief"—it allows for the view that, although the world may be in many respects a bad place, it may, through individuals' actions, become a better one. Determinism, he argued, undermines meliorism—the idea that progress is a real concept leading to improvement in the world.[144]

Free will as a pragmatically useful concept

Steiner then argues that inner freedom is achieved when we bridge the gap between our sensory impressions, which reflect the outer appearance of the world, and our thoughts, which give us access to the inner nature of the world. Acknowledging the many influences on our choice, he points to the impact of our becoming aware of just these determinants. Outer freedom is attained by permeating our deeds with moral imagination. Steiner aims to show that these two aspects of inner and outer freedom are integral to one another, and that true freedom is only achieved when they are united.[142]

Rudolf Steiner, who collaborated in a complete edition of Arthur Schopenhauer's work,[140] wrote The Philosophy of Freedom, which focuses on the problem of free will. Steiner (1861–1925) initially divides this into the two aspects of freedom: freedom of thought and freedom of action. The controllable and uncontrollable aspects of decision making thereby are made logically separable, as pointed out in the introduction. This separation of will from action has a very long history, going back at least as far as Stoicism and the teachings of Chrysippus (279 – 206 BC), who separated external antecedent causes from the internal disposition receiving this cause.[141]

Free will as "moral imagination"

In his essay On the Freedom of the Will, Schopenhauer stated, "You can do what you will, but in any given moment of your life you can will only one definite thing and absolutely nothing other than that one thing."[139] According to Schopenhauer, phenomena do not have free will. However, will [urging, craving, striving, wanting, and desiring] as noumenon is free.

Everyone believes himself, a priori, perfectly free—even in his individual actions, and thinks that at every moment he can commence another manner of life. ... But a posteriori, through experience, he finds to his astonishment that he is not free, but subjected to necessity, that in spite of all his resolutions and reflections he does not change his conduct, and that from the beginning of his life to the end of it, he must carry out the very character which he himself condemns...[138]

Arthur Schopenhauer put the puzzle of free will and moral responsibility in these terms:

Arthur Schopenhauer claimed that phenomena have no free will but the will as noumenon, is free.

David Hume discussed the possibility that the entire debate about free will is nothing more than a merely "verbal" issue. He suggested that it might be accounted for by "a false sensation or seeming experience" (a velleity), which is associated with many of our actions when we perform them. On reflection, we realize that they were necessary and determined all along.[137]

"Experience teaches us no less clearly than reason, that men believe themselves free, simply because they are conscious of their actions, and unconscious of the causes whereby those actions are determined." B de Spinoza Ethics[136]
Spinoza thought that there is no free will.

Free will as an illusion

The challenge for two-stage models is to admit some indeterminism but not permit it to produce random actions, as determinists fear. And of course a model must limit determinism but not eliminate it as some libertarians think necessary. Two-stage models limit the contribution of random chance to the generation of alternative possibilities for action. But note that, in recent years, compatibilist analytic philosophers following Harry Frankfurt have denied the existence of alternative possibilities. They develop "Frankfurt-type examples" (thought experiments) in which they argue an agent is free even though no alternative possibilities exist, or the agent is prevented at the last moment by neuroscientific demons from "doing otherwise".[115][135]

If a single event is caused by chance, then logically indeterminism would be "true". For centuries, philosophers have said this would undermine the very possibility of certain knowledge. Some go to the extreme of saying that real chance would make the whole state of the world totally independent of any earlier states. Some Stoics are reported to have said that a single uncaused cause could destroy the universe (cosmos),[131] James said most philosophers have an "antipathy to chance".[132] His contemporary John Fiske described the absurd decisions that would be made if chance were real, and if volitions arise without cause.[133] In modern times, J. J. C. Smart has described the problem of admitting indeterminism, as assigning the cause of action to quantum mechanical randomness and therefore impairing rather than granting our freedom.[134]

Each of these models tries to reconcile libertarian free will with the existence of irreducible chance (today in the form of quantum indeterminacy), which threatens to make an agent's decision random, thus denying the control needed for responsibility.

In 1884 William James described a two-stage model of free will: in the first stage the mind develops random alternative possibilities for action, and in the second an adequately determined will selects one option. A number of other thinkers have since refined this idea, including Henri Poincaré, Arthur Holly Compton, Karl Popper, Henry Margenau, Robert Kane, Alfred Mele, Bob Doyle and Martin Heisenberg.

Two-stage models

Some philosophers' views are difficult to categorize as either compatibilist or incompatibilist, hard determinist or libertarian. For example, Ted Honderich holds the view that "determinism is true, compatibilism and incompatibilism are both false" and the real problem lies elsewhere. Honderich maintains that determinism is true because quantum phenomena are not events or things that can be located in space and time, but are abstract entities. Further, even if they were micro-level events, they do not seem to have any relevance to how the world is at the macroscopic level. He maintains that incompatibilism is false because, even if indeterminism is true, incompatibilists have not provided, and cannot provide, an adequate account of origination. He rejects compatibilism because it, like incompatibilism, assumes a single, fundamental notion of freedom. There are really two notions of freedom: voluntary action and origination. Both notions are required to explain freedom of will and responsibility. Both determinism and indeterminism are threats to such freedom. To abandon these notions of freedom would be to abandon moral responsibility. On the one side, we have our intuitions; on the other, the scientific facts. The "new" problem is how to resolve this conflict.[130]

Other views

Compatibilist models adhere to models of mind in which mental activity (such as deliberation) can be reduced to physical activity without any change in physical outcome. Although compatibilism is generally aligned to (or is at least compatible with) physicalism, some compatibilist models describe the natural occurrences of deterministic deliberation in the brain in terms of the first person perspective of the conscious agent performing the deliberation.[10] Such an approach has been considered a form of identity dualism. A description of "how conscious experience might affect brains" has been provided in which "the experience of conscious free will is the first-person perspective of the neural correlates of choosing."[10]

The neuroscience of free will places restrictions on both compatibilist and incompatibilist free will conceptions.

Compatibilist models of free will often consider deterministic relationships as discoverable in the physical world (including the brain). Cognitive naturalism[127] is a physicalist approach to studying human consciousness in which mind is simply part of nature, perhaps merely a feature of many very complex self-programming feedback systems (for example, neural networks and cognitive robots), and so must be studied by the methods of empirical science, for example, behavioral science and the cognitive sciences like neuroscience and cognitive psychology.[108][128] Cognitive naturalism stresses the role of neurological sciences. Overall brain health, substance dependence, depression, and various personality disorders clearly influence mental activity, and their impact upon volition also is important.[122] For example, an addict may experience a conscious desire to escape addiction, but be unable to do so. The "will" is disconnected from the freedom to act. This situation is related to an abnormal production and distribution of dopamine in the brain.[129]

The physical mind

Related philosophical issues

In the philosophy of decision theory, a fundamental question is: From the standpoint of statistical outcomes, to what extent do the choices of a conscious being have the ability to influence the future? Newcomb's paradox and other philosophical problems pose questions about free will and predictable outcomes of choices.

According to Dennett, because individuals have the ability to act differently from what anyone expects, free will can exist.[125] Incompatibilists claim the problem with this idea is that we may be mere "automata responding in predictable ways to stimuli in our environment". Therefore, all of our actions are controlled by forces outside ourselves, or by random chance.[126] More sophisticated analyses of compatibilist free will have been offered, as have other critiques.[114]

In Elbow Room, Dennett presents an argument for a compatibilist theory of free will, which he further elaborated in the book Freedom Evolves.[125] The basic reasoning is that, if one excludes God, an infinitely powerful demon, and other such possibilities, then because of chaos and epistemic limits on the precision of our knowledge of the current state of the world, the future is ill-defined for all finite beings. The only well-defined things are "expectations". The ability to do "otherwise" only makes sense when dealing with these expectations, and not with some unknown and unknowable future.

Free will as unpredictability

The first group, wanton addicts, have no second-order desire not to take the drug. The second group, "unwilling addicts", have a second-order desire not to take the drug, while the third group, "willing addicts", have a second-order desire to take it. According to Frankfurt, the members of the first group are devoid of will and therefore are no longer persons. The members of the second group freely desire not to take the drug, but their will is overcome by the addiction. Finally, the members of the third group willingly take the drug they are addicted to. Frankfurt's theory can ramify to any number of levels. Critics of the theory point out that there is no certainty that conflicts will not arise even at the higher-order levels of desire and preference.[123] Others argue that Frankfurt offers no adequate explanation of how the various levels in the hierarchy mesh together.[124]

The notion of levels of decision is presented in a different manner by Frankfurt.[115] Frankfurt argues for a version of compatibilism called the "hierarchical mesh". The idea is that an individual can have conflicting desires at a first-order level and also have a desire about the various first-order desires (a second-order desire) to the effect that one of the desires prevails over the others. A person's will is identified with their effective first-order desire, that is, the one they act on, and this will is free if it was the desire the person wanted to act upon, that is, the person's second-order desire was effective. So, for example, there are "wanton addicts", "unwilling addicts" and "willing addicts". All three groups may have the conflicting first-order desires to want to take the drug they are addicted to and to not want to take it.

Some explanations of free will focus on the internal causality of the mind with respect to higher-order brain processing – the interaction between conscious and unconscious brain activity.[122]

Aquinas's compatibilist view is defended thus: "Free-will is the cause of its own movement, because by his free-will man moves himself to act. But it does not of necessity belong to liberty that what is free should be the first cause of itself, as neither for one thing to be cause of another need it be the first cause. God, therefore, is the first cause, Who moves causes both natural and voluntary. And just as by moving natural causes He does not prevent their acts being natural, so by moving voluntary causes He does not deprive their actions of being voluntary: but rather is He the cause of this very thing in them; for He operates in each thing according to its own nature."[120][121]

Thirteenth century philosopher Thomas Aquinas viewed humans as pre-programmed (by virtue of being human) to seek certain goals, but able to choose between routes to achieve these goals. In facing these choices, humans are governed by intellect, will, and passions. The will is "the primary mover of all the powers of the soul ... and it is also the efficient cause of motion in the body."[116] Choice falls into five stages: (i) intellectual consideration of whether an objective is desirable, (ii) intellectual consideration of means of attaining the objective, (iii) will arrives at an intent to pursue the objective, (iv) will and intellect jointly decide upon choice of means (v) will elects execution.[117] Free will enters as follows: Free-will is an "appetitive power", that is, not a cognitive power of intellect (the term "appetite" from Aquinas's definition "includes all forms of internal inclination".)[118] He states that judgment "concludes and terminates counsel. Now counsel is terminated, first, by the judgment of reason; secondly, by the acceptation of the appetite [that is, the free-will]."[119]

Free will as a psychological state

Most "classical compatibilists", such as

Free will as lack of physical restraint

Although there are various impediments to exercising one's choices, free will does not imply freedom of action. Freedom of choice (freedom to select one's will) is logically separate from freedom to implement that choice (freedom to enact one's will), although not all writers observe this distinction.[19] Nonetheless, some philosophers have defined free will as the absence of various impediments. Some "modern compatibilists", such as Harry Frankfurt and Daniel Dennett, argue free will is simply freely choosing to do what constraints allow one to do. In other words, a coerced agent's choices can still be free if such coercion coincides with the agent's personal intentions and desires.[38][115]

Compatibilists maintain that determinism is compatible with free will. It may, however, be more accurate to say that compatibilists define "free will" in a way that allows it to co-exist with determinism (in the same way that incompatibilists define "free will" such that it cannot). Compatibilists believe freedom can be present or absent in a situation for reasons that have nothing to do with metaphysics. For instance, courts of law make judgments about whether individuals are acting under their own free will under certain circumstances without bringing in metaphysics. Similarly, political liberty is a non-metaphysical concept. Likewise, compatibilists define free will as freedom to act according to one's determined motives without hindrance from other individuals. So for example Aristotle in his Nicomachean Ethics,[110] and the Stoic Chrysippus.[111] In contrast, the incompatibilist positions are concerned with a sort of "metaphysically free will", which compatibilists claim has never been coherently defined. Compatibilists argue that determinism does not matter; what matters is that individuals' wills are the result of their own desires and are not overridden by some external force.[112][113] To be a compatibilist, one need not endorse any particular conception of free will, but only deny that determinism is at odds with free will.[114]

Thomas Hobbes was a classical compatibilist.


Incompatibilism requires a distinction between the mental and the physical, being a commentary on the incompatibility of (determined) physical reality and one's presumably distinct experience of will. Secondarily, metaphysical libertarian free will must assert influence on physical reality, and where mind is responsible for such influence (as opposed to ordinary system randomness), it must be distinct from body to accomplish this. Both substance and property dualism offer such a distinction, and those particular models thereof that are not causally inert with respect to the physical world provide a basis for illustrating incompatibilist free will (i.e interactionalist dualism and non-reductive physicalism).

A contrasting approach is called physicalism. Physicalism is a philosophical theory holding that everything that exists is no more extensive than its physical properties; that is, that there are no non-physical substances (for example physically independent minds). Physicalism can be reductive or non-reductive. Reductive physicalism is grounded in the idea that everything in the world can actually be reduced analytically to its fundamental physical, or material, basis. Alternatively, non-reductive physicalism asserts that mental properties form a separate ontological class to physical properties: that mental states (such as qualia) are not ontologically reducible to physical states. Although one might suppose that mental states and neurological states are different in kind, that does not rule out the possibility that mental states are correlated with neurological states. In one such construction, anomalous monism, mental events supervene on physical events, describing the emergence of mental properties correlated with physical properties - implying causal reducibility. Non-reductive physicalism is therefore often categorised as property dualism rather than monism, yet other types of property dualism do not adhere to the causal reducibility of mental states (see epiphenomenalism).

Cartesian dualism holds that the mind is a nonphysical substance, the seat of consciousness and intelligence, and raises the question of how mind and body interact. It is suggested that although the two worlds do interact, each retains some measure of autonomy. Under cartesian dualism external mind is responsible for bodily action, although unconscious brain activity is often caused by external events (for example, the instantaneous reaction to being burned).[108] Cartesian dualism implies that the physical world is not deterministic—and in which external mind controls (at least some) physical events, providing an interpretation of incompatibilist free will. Stemming from Cartesian dualism, a formulation sometimes called interactionalist dualism suggests a two-way interaction, that some physical events cause some mental acts and some mental acts cause some physical events. One modern vision of the possible separation of mind and body is the "three-world" formulation of Popper.[109] Cartesian dualism and Popper's three worlds are two forms of what is called epistemological pluralism, that is the notion that different epistemological methodologies are necessary to attain a full description of the world. Other forms of epistemological pluralist dualism include psychophysical parallelism and epiphenomenalism. Epistemological pluralism is one view in which the mind-body problem is not reducible to the concepts of the natural sciences.

The idea of free will is one aspect of the mind-body problem, that is, consideration of the relation between mind (for example, consciousness, memory, and judgment) and body (for example, the human brain and nervous system). Philosophical models of mind are divided into physical and non-physical expositions.

The mind-body problem

In the definition of compatibilism and incompatibilism, the literature often fails to distinguish between physical determinism and higher level forms of determinism (predeterminism, theological determinism, etc). As such, hard determinism with respect to theological determinism (or "Hard Theological Determinism" above) might be classified as hard incompatibilism with respect to physical determinism (if no claim was made regarding the internal causality or determinism of the universe), or even compatibilism (if freedom from the constraint of determinism was not considered necessary for free will), if not hard determinism itself. By the same principle, metaphysical libertarianism (a form of incompatibilism with respect to physical determinism) might be classified as compatibilism with respect to theological determinism (if it was assumed such free will events were pre-ordained and therefore were destined to occur, but of which whose outcomes were not "predestined" or determined by God). If hard theological determinism is accepted (if it was assumed instead that such outcomes were predestined by God), then metaphysical libertarianism is not however possible, and would require reclassification (as hard incompatibilism for example, given that the universe is still assumed to be indeterministic - although the classification of hard determinism is technically valid also).[56]

  • Deny the truth value of future contingents, as proposed for example by Aristotle (although this denies foreknowledge and therefore theological determinism).
  • Assert differences in non-temporal knowledge (space-time independence), an approach taken for example by Boethius,[104] Thomas Aquinas,[105] and C. S. Lewis.[106]
  • Deny the Principle of Alternate Possibilities: "If you cannot do otherwise when you do an act, you do not act freely." For example, a human observer could in principle have a machine that could detect what will happen in the future, but the existence of this machine or their use of it has no influence on the outcomes of events.[107]

This argument is very often accepted as a basis for theological incompatibilism: denying either libertarian free will or divine foreknowledge (omniscience) and therefore theological determinism. On the other hand, theological compatibilism must attempt to find problems with it. The formal version of the argument rests on a number of premises, many of which have received some degree of contention. Theological compatibilist responses have included;

  1. Assume divine foreknowledge or omniscience
  2. Infallible foreknowledge implies destiny (it is known for certain what one will do)
  3. Destiny eliminates alternate possibility (one cannot do otherwise)
  4. Assert incompatibility with metaphysical libertarian free will

The basic argument for theological fatalism in the case of weak theological determinism is as follows;

  • Strong theological determinism is not compatible with metaphysical libertarian free will, and is a form of hard theological determinism (equivalent to theological fatalism below). It claims that free will does not exist, and God has absolute control over a person's actions. Hard theological determinism is similar in implication to hard determinism, although it does not invalidate compatibilist free will.[34] Hard theological determinism is a form of theological incompatibilism (see figure, top left).
  • Weak theological determinism is either compatible or incompatible with metaphysical libertarian free will depending upon one's philosophical interpretation of omniscience - and as such is interpreted as either a form of hard theological determinism (known as theological fatalism), or as soft theological determinism (terminology used for clarity only). Soft theological determinism claims that humans have free will to choose their actions, holding that God, while knowing their actions before they happen, does not affect the outcome. God's providence is "compatible" with voluntary choice. Soft theological determinism is known as theological compatibilism (see figure, top right). A rejection of theological determinism (or divine foreknowledge) is classified as theological incompatibilism also (see figure, bottom), and is relevant to a more general discussion of free will.[34]

There are various implications for metaphysical libertarian free will as consequent of theological determinism and its philosophical interpretation.

A simplified taxonomy of philosophical positions regarding free will and theological determinism.[34]

There exist slight variations on the above categorisation. Some claim that theological determinism requires predestination of all events and outcomes by the divinity (that is, they do not classify the weaker version as 'theological determinism' unless libertarian free will is assumed to be denied as a consequence), or that the weaker version does not constitute 'theological determinism' at all.[56] Theological determinism can also be seen as a form of causal determinism, in which the antecedent conditions are the nature and will of God.[57] With respect to free will and the classification of theological compatibilism/incompatibilism below, "theological determinism is the thesis that God exists and has infallible knowledge of all true propositions including propositions about our future actions," more minimal criteria designed to encapsulate all forms of theological determinism.[33]

  • The first one, strong theological determinism, is based on the concept of a creator deity dictating all events in history: "everything that happens has been predestined to happen by an omniscient, omnipotent divinity."[102]
  • The second form, weak theological determinism, is based on the concept of divine foreknowledge - "because God's omniscience is perfect, what God knows about the future will inevitably happen, which means, consequently, that the future is already fixed."[103]

Theological determinism is a form of determinism stating that all events that happen are pre-ordained, or predestined to happen, by a monotheistic deity, or that they are destined to occur given its omniscience. Two forms of theological determinism exist, here referenced as strong and weak theological determinism.[101]

Theological Determinism

Predeterminism has therefore been compared to fatalism.[100] Fatalism is the idea that everything is fated to happen, so that humans have no control over their future.

The term predeterminism suggests not just a determining of all events, but the prior and deliberately conscious determining of all events (therefore done, presumably, by a conscious being). While determinism usually refers to a naturalistically explainable causality of events, predeterminism seems by definition to suggest a person or a "someone" who is controlling or planning the causality of events before they occur and who then perhaps resides beyond the natural, causal universe. Predestination asserts that a supremely powerful being has indeed fixed all events and outcomes in the universe in advance, and is a famous doctrine of the Calvinists in Christian theology. Predestination is often considered a form of hard theological determinism.

Predeterminism is the idea that all events are determined in advance.[93][94] Predeterminism is the philosophy that all events of history, past, present and future, have been decided or are known (by God, fate, or some other force), including human actions. Predeterminism is frequently taken to mean that human actions cannot interfere with (or have no bearing on) the outcomes of a pre-determined course of events, and that one's destiny was established externally (for example, exclusively by a creator deity). The concept of predeterminism is often argued by invoking causal determinism, implying that there is an unbroken chain of prior occurrences stretching back to the origin of the universe. In the case of predeterminism, this chain of events has been pre-established, and human actions cannot interfere with the outcomes of this pre-established chain. Predeterminism can be used to mean such pre-established causal determinism, in which case it is categorised as a specific type of determinism.[93][95] It can also be used interchangeably with causal determinism - in the context of its capacity to determine future events.[93][96] Despite this, predeterminism is often considered as independent of causal determinism.[97][98] The term predeterminism is also frequently used in the context of biology and hereditary, in which case it represents a form of biological determinism.[99]


Omniscience is the capacity to know everything that there is to know (included in which are all future events), and is a property often attributed to a creator deity. Omniscience implies the existence of destiny. Some authors have claimed that free will cannot coexist with omniscience. One argument asserts that an omniscient creator not only implies destiny but a form of high level predeterminism such as hard theological determinism or predestination - that they have independently fixed all events and outcomes in the universe in advance. In such a case, even if an individual could have influence over their lower level physical system, their choices in regard to this cannot be their own (libertarian free will). Omniscience features as an incompatible-properties argument for the existence of God, known as the argument from free will, and is closely related to other such arguments, for example the incompatibility of omnipotence with a good creator deity (i.e if a deity knew what they were going to choose, then they are responsible for letting them choose it).


Discussion regarding destiny does not necessitate the existence of supernatural powers. Logical determinism or determinateness is the notion that all propositions, whether about the past, present, or future, are either true or false. This creates a unique problem for free will given that propositions about the future already have a truth value in the present (that is it is already determined as either true or false), and is referred to as the problem of future contingents.

Logical Determinism

Destiny implies there is a set course that cannot be deviated from, but does not of itself make any claim with respect to the setting of that course (i.e., it does not necessarily conflict with incompatibilist free will). Free will if existent could be the mechanism by which that destined outcome is chosen (determined to represent destiny).[92]

Fate generally implies there is a set course that cannot be deviated from, and for which one has no control over. Fate is related to determinism, but makes no specific claim of physical determinism. Even with physical indeterminism an event could still be fated externally (see for instance theological determinism). Destiny likewise is related to determinism, but makes no specific claim of physical determinism. Even with physical indeterminism an event could still be destined to occur.

Although often used interchangeably, the words "fate" and "destiny" have distinct connotations.

Destiny or fate is a predetermined course of events. It may be conceived as a predetermined future, whether in general or of an individual. It is a concept based on the belief that there is a fixed natural order to the cosmos.

Destiny and Fate

Causal determinism is the concept that events within a given paradigm are bound by causality in such a way that any state (of an object or event) is completely determined by prior states. Causal determinism proposes that there is an unbroken chain of prior occurrences stretching back to the origin of the universe. Causal determinists believe that there is nothing uncaused or self-caused. The most common form of causal determinism is nomological determinism (or scientific determinism), the notion that the past and the present dictate the future entirely and necessarily by rigid natural laws, that every occurrence results inevitably from prior events. Quantum mechanics poses a serious challenge to this view.

Causal Determinism
High level determinism and free will

Related philosophical issues

The contemporary philosopher Galen Strawson agrees with Locke that the truth or falsity of determinism is irrelevant to the problem.[91] He argues that the notion of free will leads to an infinite regress and is therefore senseless. According to Strawson, if one is responsible for what one does in a given situation, then one must be responsible for the way one is in certain mental respects. But it is impossible for one to be responsible for the way one is in any respect. This is because to be responsible in some situation S, one must have been responsible for the way one was at S−1. To be responsible for the way one was at S−1, one must have been responsible for the way one was at S−2, and so on. At some point in the chain, there must have been an act of origination of a new causal chain. But this is impossible. Man cannot create himself or his mental states ex nihilo. This argument entails that free will itself is absurd, but not that it is incompatible with determinism. Strawson calls his own view "pessimism" but it can be classified as hard incompatibilism.[91]

John Locke denied that the phrase "free will" made any sense (compare with theological noncognitivism, a similar stance on the existence of God). He also took the view that the truth of determinism was irrelevant. He believed that the defining feature of voluntary behavior was that individuals have the ability to postpone a decision long enough to reflect or deliberate upon the consequences of a choice: "... the will in truth, signifies nothing but a power, or ability, to prefer or choose".[90]

Pereboom calls positions 3 and 4 soft determinism, position 1 a form of hard determinism, position 6 a form of classical libertarianism, and any position that includes having F as compatibilism. He largely ignores position 2.[36]

  1. Determinism (D) is true, D does not imply we lack free will (F), but in fact we do lack F.
  2. D is true, D does not imply we lack F, but in fact we don't know if we have F.
  3. D is true, and we do have F.
  4. D is true, we have F, and F implies D.
  5. D is unproven, but we have F.
  6. D isn't true, we do have F, and would have F even if D were true.
  7. D isn't true, we don't have F, but F is compatible with D.
Derk Pereboom, Living without Free Will,[36] p. xvi.

Hard incompatibilism is defended by Derk Pereboom, who identifies a variety of positions where free will is seen irrelevant to indeterminism/determinism, among them the following:

Hard incompatibilism

. interactionalist dualism (without an underlying basis for the free will decision). Secondly, it has been questioned whether physical events can be caused by an external substance or mind - a common problem associated with luck It is required that what the agent causes is not causally determined by prior events. It is also required that the agent's causing of that event is not causally determined by prior events. A number of problems have been identified with this view. Firstly, it is difficult to establish the reason for any given choice by the agent, which suggests they may be random or determined by [89].Thomas Reid and [88]

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