DOES FREE WILL EXIST?
Well, the real answer is Yes, and No, or Maybe.
For millenia philosophers have debated whether humans have free will. What is free will? Is free will compatible with the notion of a God, or Gods? Is free will possible alongside causal determinism? Is free will probable if we believe in quantum mechanics?
Free Will is taken to be the ability to act without the constraint of necessity or fate, or to choose between alternative possibilities. In fact, these two concepts are mutually exclusive. There may be many possibilities, but the choice must be driven by necessity or fate.
In which case free will does not exist. On a daily basis most individuals in the west act out of necessity; school, work, relationships, weather, economics, the list of things which drive human behaviour is endless to the point of infinity.
Man can do what he wills but he cannot will what he wills. ~ Arthur Schopenhauer.
Arthur Schopenhauer ~ philosopher and author of The World as Will and Representation and Essays and Aphorisms.
Fate is another matter. Many Eastern Religions believe that everything is preordained, although the word most commonly used to describe Eastern beliefs is fatalism. In fact, many Christians also believe that God has already decided everything. This may be called either preordination or predestination.
Fatalism espouses the belief that we are powerless to do anything other than what we actually do. We have no power to influence the future or our own actions. In the East this produces an attitude of resignation in the face of the events of daily life. Fatalism also espouses the belief that to live is to suffer ~ which is one of the Four Noble Truths.
To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning to the suffering. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche.
Friedrich Nietzsche ~ philologist, philosopher, cultural critic, poet, composer and author of The Wanderer and His Shadow.
Free will obviously relies on internal thoughts and feelings, and how successful is anyone in generating and sustaining the psychological, physiological, emotional, cognitive and subconscious dimensions which make up a free-thinking individual? How does that fit with alcoholism, drug addiction, gambling addiction, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bi-polar disorder, hypersexuality…? Again the list of neurosis and character defects which appear to deprive humans of free will is almost endless to the point of infinity.
Does a man with a severe addiction to gambling have any choice but to go on gambling until he is broke and destitute, and often beyond that with borrowed money? Does this man have sufficient free will to say; ‘Stuff this for a game of soldiers, I’m going to make a nice casserole for dinner instead of throwing my money away betting on the 3:30 at Sandown?’
Well yes and no. It is only his gambling addiction which is preventing him from exercising free will, not something in the intrinsic structure of the Cosmos. Does a nymphomaniac have a choice about having sex with every man who happens along? Well, possibly not. Unlike sluts and skanks who merely have a pathetically low self image and will sleep with just about anybody, nymphomaniacs have the bona fide mental illness of hypersexuality. They have a choice but the choice is almost always Yes.
I have met many gamblers, sluts, alcoholics, skanks, people with OCD, tramps, heroin addicts, vamps, cocaine addicts, hookers, and strippers, but I have never met a real, honest to God nymphomaniac. Excessive sexual drive in a man is called satyriasis, and I wouldn’t like to suffer from that.
To live a spiritual existence implies that free will does exist. It isn’t a given that any woman needs to have sex with every man that comes along, (unless said woman is a hooker). It isn’t a given that alcoholic women will do almost anything for a drink, up to and including prostituting herself with casual sex. It isn’t a given that the same woman may have OCD and be a compulsive thief.
For example, in the choice between alcoholic and sexual debauchery as against spirituality, an absence of free will negates any moral responsibility whatsoever. Without freedom of action there is no morality. However, given a choice between dying sad and lonely, bottle in hand, and living to see your children grow up, the choice is blindingly obvious. Therefore a man’s decision to give up the booze are not the result of free will but of necessity. BULLSHIT. If that were true then hardly anyone would be a practicing alcoholic ~ and yet our city streets are full of dipsomaniacs.
The difficulty we face is that once we are in a given lifestyle, it is incredibly painful to change. Free will implies that our skank can wake up one morning and decide that she isn’t going to do that sort of thing anymore. On the one hand, she could do that, on the other hand, she won’t. She won’t until she is badly beaten, or gang raped, or suffers similar trauma. It takes a lot to make people want to change their ways, and self deception and denial means our woman probably does not even recognise that she has a problem.
Admitting that you have a problem is the first step on the road to recovery, that takes a hell of a lot of free will. I don’t think there is a self assessment for compulsive shoppers, but there are many for alcoholics. Am I An Alcoholic? is one question some of us should ask ourselves, for alcoholism deprives one of free will.
So, addiction deprives one of free will. So does compulsion. When one is conscripted into an army one doesn’t have very much free will after that. Except we do, even in the mud and blood of the trenches during WWI, there was free will. ‘Should I have a cigarette now or later?’ ‘Am I actually going to have to eat yet another tin of bully beef?’
Free will does exist, despite what a lot of people with more letters after their name than you can shake a stick at say. Which is just as well as far as spirituality is concerned, for without free will there is no spirituality.
It is possible to recover from addiction, but not without some degree of spirituality and a willingness to begin to live a spiritual life. You don’t have to take my word for that, just go to one 12 step recovery meeting.