Do you think that we have completely, independent free will?I could shape this question further, but I don't want to influence your answer. (but perhaps I have already done so just with that...

Do you think that we have completely, independent free will?

I could shape this question further, but I don't want to influence your answer. (but perhaps I have already done so just with that statement) ((or with that parenthesis)) (((or with that))) ((((oooooh))))


What a tricky subject, eh?


Do you think that we have completely, independent freewill?

Asked on by beefheart

11 Answers | Add Yours

billdelaney's profile pic

William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I sometimes stand on an overpass looking down at a busy freeway early in the morning. An endless stream of cars will be racing in one direction while another endless stream will be racing in exactly the opposite direction. Are all these drivers exercising free will? Where are they going in this mad rush? Here is a quote from a novel by the French author George Simenon, who spent some years living in America after World War II.

He had followed the parkway as far as New York, and all the way, there had been a constant stream of cars, two and sometimes three lanes of them in both directions--a movement so implacable it looked like a headlong flight. Their brows furrowed, their muscles tensed, the drivers, often with whole families in the back seats, charged straight ahead as if their lives were in jeopardy, some of them not knowing where they were heading, or heading nowhere in particular, just desperately filling the empty hours with noise and speed.

                    Georges Simenon, The Rules of the Game

Things haven't changed--except that nowadays, instead of two and sometimes three lanes of them in both directions, there is more likely to be four or five lanes of them in both directions.


billdelaney's profile pic

William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Looking back over my fairly long life, it seems to me that I either didn't have free will or else that I didn't exercise it, or perhaps didn't know how to exercise it. My past life, from the perspective of the present, looks a bit like a wild ride in a car with no brakes and a defective steering wheel. Can anyone honestly say that his life has been logically and sensibly planned and ordered right up to the present time? Can anyone honestly say that he planned to be living where he lives and working where he works and having the same friends and acquaintances and, if married, being married to the same person, etc., etc., as is the case right here and now? Rousseau famously said: "Man is born free, but everywhere he is in chains."

literaturenerd's profile pic

literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

I have to agree that the use of "completely" brings on a strong "no." While the idea of free will is accepted, one must consider how influenced we all are by those around us. Although the final decision to anything is, normally, left to the one charged with making the decision, far too many things tend to influence one's decision. That said, I would state that completely independent free will is impossible.

jovip18's profile pic

jovip18 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted on

I think we have the possibility of complete free will, but I think it is so difficult to achieve as to be functionally impossible. 


I see free will as the ability of a logical agent to make decisions independent of any outside influence.  Of course, the problem to achieving completely independent free will is that humans are inherently social animals.  When we here students or younger people say things like “I don’t care what anyone else thinks” most of us smile to ourselves.  The reality is that we all succumb to social pressure in some form or another.  Living entirely outside of the influence of the society in which you live is practically impossible.  In most cases, it is just psychologically easier to conform.      I


e-martin's profile pic

e-martin | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

I would echo rrteacher here. Seeing the term "completely" in the question makes this an easy "no".

Of course, to offer a "no" response to the question of absolutely, completely free will is not the same as saying "no" to the question of free will

There are limitations on our awareness, our consciousness, that diminish the potential for "absolute free will". For reasons cited above, we do not know our own minds, so to speak, well enough to posit anything in absolute terms. 

Rrteacher said it very well in the post above, so I'll just, again, echo the opinion offered there. 

rrteacher's profile pic

rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

This may seem like dwelling on semantics, but since the question stipulates "completely, independent" free will, I'd have to answer no. I do think it's correct to say that we have freedom to act (or not to act) on our desires. What we don't have is the ability, or will, to control what those desires actually are. In that sense, we're controlled, I think, by biology and other more basic factors. So I tend to think we have freedom of action, not necessarily freedom of will

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I think that we do have free will.  My only way to support this statement, though, is my own feelings.  I have never felt that I have been compelled to make a certain decision.  I have always felt that (outside of things like not being able to decide who to fall in love with) I have always had been in charge of making my own decisions.

litteacher8's profile pic

litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Yes, we have free will.  Fate does not direct us.  We make our own decisions.  Sometimes we may seem to be guided by other forces, especially if we are open to guidance, but we still have the choice to choose.

litlady33's profile pic

litlady33 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted on

A tricky subject, indeed. I have to say that no, we don't, have complete free will. While I do believe we should take responsibility for our actions and that we should take charge of our own lives, I do think there are outside factors which influence us and what happens to us. Whether one believes in the influence of God or the Universe, I do think that, one way or another, we are not in complete control. To me, it is a combination between will and whatever else one believes affects our lives.

discussion1984's profile pic

discussion1984 | (Level 1) Salutatorian

Posted on

I think it's impossible to tell. You basically have two explanations: your choices, decisions, thoughts, the events in your life, in the world, etc. are a result of individual self-determination, or these things are already predetermined. But there is no test to prove either is true. In fact, even our intuitions regarding this don't show one is true over the other.

dsouzac's profile pic

dsouzac | High School Teacher | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted on

I enjoyed the various responses.  Numbers 5,6, and 7 provoked deep reflection on this difficult question.  I also agree that the word "complete" complicated the resonse as the word acts like a distractor in a multiple choice question.  Moving along, from my religious point of view which has molded my moral character, I want to say , "yes, we have free will even though God knows what we will decide and even though we are predestined."  I like what #5 says that we are influenced by biology and other factors...have freedom of actions but not of will".  On the other hand, as #3 says, "...sometimes we may seem to be guided by other factors but we still have the choice to choose."  My belief is that while we are social animals, we are influenced by "other" fores beyond our control, the one thing that is not controlled is our freedom to choose.

Posted by dsouzac on October 27, 2012

High School Teacher/NBCT

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