Free Will, Do we really have it?

Sure we all have the right to make our own choices, but when it comes to certain aspects of our lives do we really have the free will to make our own decisions? You can choose who you have relationships with, you can pick  what you want to eat everyday and you can go to university if you want to. We may have free will in these situations but this is not always the case. Is there such a thing as a ‘free man’? We don’t always have control over our lives, sometimes it’s in the hands of someone else.


Are we free to think and behave however we want? Well in this case the kitten has no choice whether it gets shot or not, its behaviour is determined by the gunman. This factor is outside of the kitten’s control. There are two positions that will argue whether or not we have free will over our thoughts and behaviours. One will say everyone has the free will over these things, the hard deterministic view will say all behaviour and thought is determined by external factors and these factors can be biological, environmental or unconscious. If the hard deterministic view is true then in theory we should be able to predict all behaviour and analyse it. Now is this possible? No because humans are unpredictable and psychologists don’t have a crystal ball. However you can predict the consequences of an individual’s behaviour and you can say how their actions might affect their lives, but you won’t always be correct. There is also another way to view it, using soft determinism. Someone who calls themselves a compatibilist will adopt the soft determinism view, they will accept that subjective experience is important and being able to choose our actions indicates free will. Soft determinism will say we have conscious mental control over our actions, we are not forced. So let’s go back to the kitten, do you think it has control over the situation? Probably not, but it does have the choice to think and behave in whatever way it likes. However its actions will have consequences. In situations like this our subconscious thought processes may take over or even our biological instincts, how much control do we have over that?

I believe we all have free will to some extent but I think it also depends on the external factors around us. So I adopt the soft determinism view. For example an individual may want to go to university, but there could be factors which stop this from happening, such as money, travel or even illness. You could commit a murder and this would be exercising your free will, but you would be put in jail whether you like it or not you have no choice if your proved guilty. We abide by the laws set by the government. Rules and regulations keep society in line but restrict our free will. What would the world be like if we had 100% free will? Right now we don’t have 100% free will and I don’t believe we ever have had it or will have. Even in the animal kingdom the hierarchy places the leader or boss at the top and the workers at the bottom just like bees and their queen they follow their duties and that’s the way civilization works.


6 thoughts on “Free Will, Do we really have it?

  1. I believe that we have free will. As you mentioned in your post, I feel that external factors play a part in “controlling” our free will. This is dependent on factors such as peer pressure/ conformity as seen in Milgram’s Experiment where though the participants knew that what they were doing was wrong, they did not have enough free will to put a stop to the experiment all together but rather continued serving higher and higher voltage shocks (Milgram, 1963). This would be due to our natural desire/ instincts to fit in with the crowd, not wanting to stand out (Most of the time). However, though it may be said that we will have true free will if we can get rid of our willingness to follow the norm or disregard any situations that may happen due to our actions, I feel that this would mean that we have gotten rid of what truly makes us human as it is natural to think about what our actions may result in, caring about others. As such, I agree with you that we all have free will to a certain extent. Therefore, I will adopt the soft determinism view as well.

    Tracy Yang

  2. Some psychologists strongly believe that humans have absolutely no free will therefore all behaviour is determined by peoples unconcious desires and motivations that cannot be controlled therefore humans actions are not a results of free will.Skinner and Freud are example of psychologists who believe this however Skinner believed determinism is a result of social order almost that there is a uncontrollable force that determines peoples behaviour whereas Freud believed determinism is a result of desires that our built into us as a consequence of evolution.However as the theorists suggest if humans have no control over their behaviour does this mean a murderer should not be held responsible for their actions as after all they cannot control their behaviour in a deterministic view?
    I personally believe in the soft deterministic approach which is that you are compelled to do certain things dues to un-seeable forces however you do have free will on deciding whether to act on them as most people can admit they have refused to do something knowing its wrong even if they have really wanted to therefore we do have control.
    To believe we have complete free will in my opinion is nieve however i understand why the majority of people believe this as many people recieve satisfaction from feelin as if they have control.Skinner made a statment which reflects this ‘The greatest gift which humanity has received is free choice. It is true that we are limited in our use of free choice. But the little free choice we have is such a great gift and is potentially worth so much that for this itself life is worthwhile living’

  3. i believe that we do not have freewill and that we will never have freewill but i do believe in soft determinism as all our behaviour is caused by external forces. Milgram’s study demonstrated soft determinism because they had the choice whether to issue the electric shocks however it was the external factors such as the authority figure telling them to continue that could have determined their behaviour.

  4. I also agree that soft determinism is the best approach to take when studying human behaviour, as although it is more scientific to take a deterministic, causal approach, free will does play a significant part in our lives. Free will allows individuality, which is a specific feature of humans that makes them so distinctive from other animals.

    Erich Fromm (1941) brought in the idea of ‘Fear of freedom’, where we have to balance freedom of will with the requirements, norms and laws of modern society. This highlights the idea that although we all have free will, personal responsibility, biological elements and past experiences can also control our behaviour. Even the perspectives on the extreme ends of the scale (Biological – deterministic, Humanism – free will) have come to accept that human behaviour, whilst it can be controlled be external or internal forces, can also be determined through free choice of an individual’s thoughts and behaviour.

    I really liked the example of the kitten, brightened up a confusing, unanswerable topic :).

  5. Although i am sure that many people would like to belive that we have freewill i belive that in todays society there will always be something contraining or influencing our behavior. for example if someone wanted to be a high jumped but had short legs they can want to do something all they want they will still be constrain by their biology. Society also influences our behaviour every day both consiously and unconsiously. Would you rob a shop?, No (hopefully) why? because it is wrong, unethical, unhonest, against the law. All of these factors are laws set by society, they haven’t developed through evolution and have nothing to do with freewill. I belive in soft determinism, that freewill applies as long as there are no constraInts or suchlikeforcing our behavior. This does however have implications for crime, although things such as poverty influence people to commit crimes i still think that in most situations you still have a choice in what you do. If you live in poverty you could beg in the strret or do odd jobs, you could also steal, although both possible behaviours are occuring through some level of determinism you still have a choice over which of the behaviour to do.

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