What is free will?
Free will is the abiliy for an individual to have agency over their actions. Given multile choices, free will implies an ability for an invidiual to select between different courses of action. Intuitively, most people believe that they have free will and will never bother questioning it. And yet this very topic has been a large focus of debate for centuries.
Do we have free will (free choice) or is free will an illusion?
The question of whether we consciously or subconsciously chose has been a topic of debate. Some have argued that our choices are subconscious and what our conscious is provided is both the choice and the options that were part of the subconscious selection process.
The philosophy of free will
Many philosophical figures have taken on the debate of free will, including Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, René Descartes, Thomas Hobbes, Baruch Spinoza, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, John Locke, David Hume, Immanuel Kant, Thomas Reid, Friedrich Nietzsche, and many more. Various beliefs create categories of viewpoints, such as:
Ethics and moral responsibility
The question of free will brings up many moral and ethical questions. A belief in free will makes it easier to categorize things as right and wrong, good and evil. Free will allows for judgement. On the other hand, if free will is an illusion, then the question of whether judgement be cast on against indiviudals for their actions comes into play. In the siutation where no agency is present, people become products of their environment and genetics. Thus the concepts of good and evil must diminish.
Free will, religion, and the soul
Without free will and judgement, there are many implications to the concept of the soul. The moral and ethical debate around free will led philosophers, specifically those of Christian faith, to argue argue in favor of it.
Free will and Buddhism
Within Buddhism there is the concept of no-self, and the understanding that the self is an illusion. If there is no self, who is it that wills?
- Consciousness, Deliberation, and Choice - 1919 essay on free will by Chapman Cohen.