What is an example of a situation in which an individual would have no free will? 

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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This question is somewhat complicated by the fact that different theories make different assumptions about whether human beings have free will at all. Whether you consider a person to have free will or not depends on your general theoretical perspective as much as the specific situation in which the person is found.

First, if we think in the first person, we normally think of ourselves as possessing free will. For example, right now I could make the choice of finishing this answer, getting a cup of coffee, going for a walk, driving to a liquor store and drinking a whole bottle of liquor at a single sitting, spray painting my neighbor's front door, or doing any number of other things. I perceive myself as having choices. On the other hand, a psychologist might be able to predict what choices I make on the basis of my past behavior. For example, on the basis of past behavior, finishing this answer, getting coffee, or taking a walk are all probable behaviors, but getting drunk or vandalizing buildings are improbable. One could say that these are choices made of my free will, but one could also say that as a middle-class, middle-aged university professor I do not actually have the freedom to make the last two choices, as my upbringing has led me to internalize certain prohibitions against excessive alcohol consumption and vandalism. Some psychologists, such as behaviorists, believe that we do not have free will at all, but that all our actions are responses determined by prior conditioning. Thus when we think in the third person, we may consider that people have limited or no free will.

In terms of situations, we all have constraints on our actions, due to the laws of physics and our personal circumstances. For example, I cannot choose to jump 50 feet straight up in the air (not physically possible) or buy a Lear jet (I can't afford it). Most people experience a range of economic constraints on their choices, with less money meaning less freedom.

One situation in which we have no free will at all is under general anesthesia, as we are unconscious and thus unable to make choices. In physically constrained circumstances, such as in prison, choices are limited but one can still choose what to say or think.

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