What are the Limits of Free Will?  

Posted by Plato Greybeard

     Suppose for a moment that you live in a deterministic universe. In such a world, outside forces and events, starting with the big bang, have predetermined everything that you do, say or think today. You could not be held responsible for any behavior. Whether you cheat on your taxes, lie to your spouse or murder a shopkeeper during a robbery attempt, it would not be your fault because your behavior was predetermined. Morality, as such, would be nonexistent. Determinism gives an individual a rationale for doing what he/she wants to do in the first place.

     The philosophical opposite to determinism is the idea of free will. Under this scenario, humans have the capacity to make decisions and choices as they see fit. This sounds good, but let's look at some of the possible limitations faced by those who wish to exercise free will.

     Those who exercise their free will are responsible for the consequences of their choices, and they will be held accountable. The fact that we cannot excuse our actions is a burden that many would prefer to avoid, thus our free will becomes self-limiting.

     Experience (or the lack thereof) limits our free will. It would be impossible, or at least extremely foolhardy, to attempt to pilot a plane without the requisite training and experience associated with that endeavor. Plato Greybeard cannot speak Polish although he would like to and is perfectly free to do so.

     There are innumerable socio-economic factors that limit free will if we choose to act responsibly or irresponsibly. Eventually our credit cards will be maxed out and the computers behind Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover will bring an end to the exercise of our free will.

     So, which is better? Would you rather have the course of your life plotted out in advance, or would you prefer to take your chances by steering your own course?

This entry was posted on May 2, 2011 at Monday, May 02, 2011 . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


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