Will

“Man can indeed do what he wants, but he cannot will what he wants”

– Arthur Schopenhauer

Schopenhauer

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2 thoughts on “Will

  1. But he may choose which wants he will honor and which he will refuse to pursue.

    Rational Determinism

    Determinism makes free will inevitable. Here’s how:

    Many living organisms have evolved a nervous system capable of specialized functions that include sensory input, motor control, memory, imagination, cognition, self-awareness, planning, experimentation, and deliberate choosing.

    Thinking is a process rooted in the physical structure of the nervous system, especially the brain. We know this because injury to specific areas of the brain can disable the corresponding function.

    As a thinking organism interacts with its environment it learns by trial and error. When we first cross a stream we must guess how hard to jump from one rock to the next. Jump too hard or not hard enough and you end up in the water. We choose and we try. The successful choices become habits of muscle memory.

    Choosing is as real as walking. Both are phenomena relying upon the physical structure of the human body, which is a product of evolution within our deterministic universe.

    Some things, like walking or jumping, we have to learn on our own. Many other things are taught by parents, schools, churches, and peers. Later we may re-examine their choices and make our own.

    When making new or difficult decisions on our own, we go through a process of deliberation. We start with uncertainty. Then we consider possible options. We imagine the outcomes of each choice. We may consciously list reasons, perhaps even writing them down. We may examine how thinking of each choice makes us feel. Finally, we make our choice and we act upon it.

    This is called our “will”, because it intends to determine the future in a specific way. And if our choice was our own, and not forced upon us by someone else, then it is called a choice of our own “free will”.

    Again, the mental process of deliberation and choosing are rooted in the reality of our physical, deterministic universe. Our reasons and feelings caused us to make this specific choice, at this specific time, under these specific circumstances. Therefore our choice was “deterministic” and “inevitable”.

    However, we were the final cause of that inevitability. The reasons and feelings were ours, and they could determine nothing on their own. It was only after they informed our will and we acted upon it that they had any impact upon reality.

    Our experience of hearing our own reasoning as we consciously deliberate, and our feeling good or bad due to our unconscious evaluation of one option over another, are real. They are the product of our physical bodies.

    Therefore we cannot dismiss the mental process as some kind of illusion. Thinking is as real as walking. And thinking about more than one option leads to choosing. And that choosing must be happening within our physical minds, because where else could the mind be?

    The process of choosing determines our will. Our will determines our action. And our actions determines what inevitably comes next. And what comes next may be as simple as having chocolate rather than vanilla or as significant as raising the temperature of the planet.

    But when people hear that they have no free will, or that they are not responsible for anything, it can lead to a sense of fatalism and apathy. The belief that determinism means free will is an illusion is irrational. The belief that free will means that determinism is an illusion is equally irrational. The fact is that both are quite real, and only the belief that they are somehow in conflict is an illusion.

    In summary, to say that free will is merely an illusion is a lie. Free will is us choosing, and us choosing is a product of the physical and deterministic universe — which means that free will is an inevitable product of our deterministic universe.

  2. Thanks for sharing that. I’ve thought about this topic a bit and shared this quote because it was interesting. The belief that they are somehow in conflict is an illusion. Never thought about it that way.

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