In philosophy, free will refers to the ability of humans to do actions independent of any universe condition or make decisions. As such, it entails the capacity of humans to decide on their actions and determine the outcome. The existence and nature of free will and its importance have arisen in Western philosophy, and many philosophers like Augustine, Aristotle, Plato, Kant, and Descartes have attempted to solve the debate. Humans can control their actions when they believe in free will; hence, they better make decisions that suit them. Besides, if we do not believe in free will, people become aggressive and dishonest in their opinions and thoughts. They also allow the belief in free will to hold means that an individual is subject to punishment for immorality. The concept of free will has raised controversies among philosophers because it can be viewed from three different perspectives: skepticism, libertarianism, and determinism (Lazarou, 2015).
Historically, and according to determinists, free will does not exist. Some philosophers argue that we have control of our actions, while others believe that free will exists. The Book of Genesis can prove this notion. When God created man, He made him for a purpose and to be worshipped. God knew how people should behave from the very beginning and hence knew the outcome. This means that free will did not exist. Besides, humans cannot account for responsibility because their actions are already determined. According to Galen Strawson, it is impossible to account for our actions because our decisions already exist, so humans have no chance of free will (Johnson, 2022).
Free will existence is hindered by determinism proponents, which state that all universe events are casually unavoidable. Free will is thus not realistic because human behavior is entirely reliant on external and internal forces beyond human control. Determinists’ approach views all behavior as predictable hence has a cause. According to determinism, when an individual is doing an action or making a decision, they do so because they did not have an option. Hence, in most cases, humans’ decisions mean that they do not have a variety of decisions to choose from. Philosophers that believe in hard determinism are referred to as hard determinists. The determinants in this category believe that each behavior has a specific cause hence free will is just but an illusion. According to B. F. Skinner, when individuals make decisions, they have no choice (Step-in, 2018).
Soft deter mists, also referred to as compatibilists, argue that free will and determinism are compatible. In soft determinism, humans may have a choice but are hindered by internal and external factors. According to G.E Moore, an English philosopher, free will means that the individual had an option of making other decisions but made that particular choice. Also, Harry Frankfurt, an American philosopher, claimed that free will is the approval and identification of their desires. Hence, according to soft determinism, some behaviors face more constrictions than others (Ekstrom, 2018).
Incompatibilists argue that determinism and free will exist incompatible. In a deterministic world, agents do not have the free will for any decision. Also, incompatibility of determinism and free will is constituted if humans assume that acquiring free will is a sufficient condition that makes one morally responsible for their decisions. As such, both libertarians and hard determinists believe in incompatibilism. If free will existence and determinism are incompatible, then only libertarian free will gives individuals the capacity to maintain commonsense in moral responsibility. The hard determinist believes that incompatibility means when people retain moral responsibility practices, they are being dishonest because they can assert the causation of acts and act beyond their control. This philosophical problem has raised many controversies (Bergson, 2018).
The revisionist approach arises from hard determinists due to the power of moral responsibility intuitions. Hard determinists agree that moral responsibility appeals remain unjustified. Individuals, however, have been made to accept that moral responsibility is an illusion as the practices of blame and praise on them still exist, and leaving them would cause chaos (Harris, 2012).
Libertarianism is about all humans having free will, and the view that an individual state universe causes each initial state is not accurate. Hence, the perspective of causal determinism is unrealistic. It claims that individuals have less control over their actions which is unavoidable. Libertarians claim that we make decisions out of possible solutions. The decision-maker is thus held morally responsible for the action when the condition holds. There are a lot of intuitions behind the view that people have free will. Therefore, free will ceases when human actions become deterministic (Stepin, 2018).
Free will has a connection with moral responsibility. Some philosophers believe that Free will is needed in moral responsibility, while others claim that free will is not needed. Those that believe in moral responsibility being connected to free will argue that it depends on the causation; hence an agent will only be held morally responsible for the action if they are the recipient of the moral blame. Hence, if the agent lacks free will, they will not be held accountable for their actions. Other philosophers, however, do not believe in the free will being needed in moral responsibility. John Martin Fischer claims that people lack free will but are still morally accountable for their actions and decisions (Ekstrom, 2018).
According to philosopher Aristotle, humans evade pain through seeking pleasure. The involuntary is what causes pain, while the voluntary causes pleasure. Voluntary behaviors hence come from an individual because people fulfill their desires voluntarily. For instance, when helping someone in need, the individual does it out of the free will. Involuntary actions arise from the influence of external factors. According to Aristotle, involuntary actions have unpleasant outcomes because the person is forced or persuaded to undertake the actions (Bergson, 2018). For instance, someone with a weapon forces an individual to give them all their belongings. Furthermore, actions that one does from ignorance are involuntary because, at times, the ignorance begins from outside forces or the individual.
Nature and nurture control our actions; hence, both environmental and genetic determinism are unrealistic. Human beings come from both environment and genetics, beyond human control. People do not choose the place they are born into or their ancestors. The choices are then determined by the environment and genetic factors meaning individuals have no free will (Ekstrom, 2018).
To sum up, free will does not exist. This is because even in the beginning when God made man, He made him with a purpose to be worshiped. God knew the outcome of their decision; hence free will did not exist. Furthermore, free will is hindered by determinism, libertarianism, and nurture and nature. This means that external factors control our decisions and actions; hence, humans’ choices are beyond control.
Ekstrom, L. W. (2018). Free will: A philosophical study. Routledge.
Bergson, H. (2018). Time and free will. e-artnow.
Johnson, D. K. (2022). Does God exist?. Think, 21(61), 5-22.
Stepin, V. S., & Smirnova, N. M. (2018). Does the methodological isomorphism between natural and social sciences exist?. ФИЛОСОФСКИЙ ЖУРНАЛ, 164.
Harris, S. (2012). Free will. Simon and Schuster.
Lăzăroiu, G. (2015). Is it metaphysically possible that we could exist without a brain? Swinburne on free will and the brain. American Journal of Medical Research, 2(2), 240-245.