Saturday 11 August 2012

Conceptualizing free will


To understand free will, it must be distinguished from choice.

Will is always free, but choices are constrained.

Our will, therefore, is conceptualised precisely as that which is free. The will is that which is under our control.


For Christianity, it is the will that is primary - to be a Christian involves willed faith, willing that Christ is accepted as Lord, willing love of Christ and neighbour - and so on.

Indeed, it may be clearest to suppose that this is the full scope of will - it is that which constitutes a person's primary orientation  - and perhaps that is all that it does.


Will is therefore dichotomous: for Christ or for oneself, for Love or for Pride.

All the rest is choices, and constrained by circumstances - but the will is free to point ourselves in one direction, or its opposite.

We may label the directions variously, but perhaps that is on the one hand all that will does, but what it necessarily does.


Will thus is free, and points in one direction, or the other.

Determining which direction is our primary task, upon which all else depends.




FHL said...

I've always thought this, and would always get annoyed when people question free will with questions like "can you choose between a hamburger or a hot dog?" Perhaps I can, perhaps I cannot, but of what consequence is this choice?

If I ever found out that every time I chose a meal it was determined by some other previous circumstance, it wouldn't bother me in the least. There is no moral or spiritual consequence involved with one or the other. I'm not going to stay up at night crying "but why couldn't I have had the salad instead... am I not free?"

The modern world doesn't believe in a soul (which, if anything, is probably the seat of free will), so when it questions free will it can only think in terms of basic physical causality, which makes it no real wonder that they ended up denying it in end. How could they not?

Bruce Charlton said...

@FHL - yes, if you ask the wrong question (based on wrong definitions) then you will get the wrong answer.

CorkyAgain said...

Left to itself, our animal nature -- the part of ourselves which is subject to physical causation -- is entirely determined, and seems determined to sin.

It takes an act of conscious will to counter that tendency. Otherwise, we're simply drifting along, half-asleep, on the currents of causality (aka "habit").

Gabe Ruth said...

I guess I should be caught up on your blog before I make comments.