Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Existence of Free Will

Having considered the question of Truth, and the position of the various relativists who insist that freedom and autonomy are the greatest goods, greater even than truth itself, a position which echos the serpent and the sin of Adam and Eve, who wanted to be free to choose their own truth, let us now proceed to consider the question of freedom -- true freedom.

Jesus then said to those Jews who believed in him, "If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
-- John 8:31-34

Does freedom of choice really exist or is it an illusion? Does an individual have a real and true ability to determine the course of his thoughts and volitions, to decide which motives shall prevail within his mind, and to modify his own character, or are his thoughts and volitions, his character and external actions, all merely the inevitable outcome of his circumstances and biology? Is everything, including our choices, predetermined by some prior cause, either some bio-chemical, genetic or other physical cause, or by God controlling everything? Are choices and actions all inexorably predetermined in every detail along rigid lines by events of the past, over which the individual himself has had no sort of control? Or does a man genuinely have the ability to truly transcend and overcome nature by the free choice and exercise of his will?

Addressing the problem of the existence of free will requires understanding the relation between freedom and causation, and determining whether or not the laws of nature are causally deterministic. The issue of free will is especially important with respect to ethics and morality. Unless man is really free, he cannot be justly held responsible for his actions, any more than he can be held responsible for the date of his birth or the color of his eyes.

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