What do you think, is our will really free?

As is so often the case, it helps to look at these questions in detail, what is meant by the terms “want something”, “in reality” and “free” because… :

(Sorry for the detailed answer, but briefly I think it’s misunderstood.)


  1. What do we mean by “wanting something”?

Anyone who wants something is convinced that you can change one aspect of reality.If you want to comfort your daughter who has stumbled, you believe that what you do for it is helpful to comfort her. (of course you can also be wrong…)

When someone says, “I want the moon to have such rings as Saturn.” or “I want 7 not to be a prime number.” or “I want my father not to die.” or “I want unicorns not to die out.” – then we think this person is insane, something or at least believe that they do not know how to use the term “something” in a meaningful way.

Typically, this is called rather “pious” wishes – it seems completely out of the question that one has some room for manoeuvre or influence in this regard…

Wanting something essentially presupposes that you believe that you can influence it through something you do.

Or, in other words, to want something implies to believe that one has influence on being able to realize what one wants.

What a person can usefully want is therefore always limited by what that person somehow considers feasible.

In this subjective sense, therefore, the will is not free, but limited by the personal convictions about what is feasible and what wishful thinking is.

(If someone mistakenly thinks that he can, for example, resuscitate his father or conjure up rings for the moon by means of a ritual, then it makes sense to attribute it to him that he also wants it – he believes in the effectiveness of the ritual!)

Will is thus a term that only makes sense in subjective contexts.A stone wants nothing when it rolls down the mountain.

Whether one believes that a bee wants something when it collects honey ultimately depends on whether one is willing to attribute to the bee that it acts (and therefore wants to achieve something) or whether this is merely uncontrollably instinctive behavior (i.e. it happens to the bee or happens).

鈥斺€斺€?li>”Free” in what sense?

We would certainly not describe the stone, which has just been mentioned by example, which rolls down a mountain, in such a way that it would be free in where it comes to lie down.Perhaps we would attribute to him (depending on the physical model used) more likely and less likely positions where he might be left lying – but to call it “free” would be a bit strange.

We use the term “free” in a meaningful way in relation to acting persons (possiblyanimals that we assume to act on, but not for mere physical inaccuracies or margins. The “freedom” begify presupposes subjective intentions that in some respect seem personally feasible.

“The prisoner is free to go if he wants to.”; “You are free to marry whoever you want.”; “You are free to think about your part.” … – to name a few Beipiele…

“Freedom” is, like “will”, a term that can only be conceptually applicable in subjective or subjective contexts.

This shows that “will” and “freedom” are two sides of the same medallie, the same phenomenon:

Those who want something assume that they also have the opportunity or the “freedom” to contribute to the realization of what they want.

Anyone who describes himself as “free” in relation to one way or another of acting thus presupposes that his intentions, that is to say exactly what he wants, are also feasible or.is feasible.

In short, those who speak of “wanting” have already assumed “freedom” in this regard and vice versa.

鈥斺€斺€?li>What is meant by “real” or “in reality”?

Here the spirits differ from the world view, that one represents in relation to real objects, facts and connections:

(i) Deterministic Worldviews – Determinism – Wikipedia
(mainly objectiveistic descriptions of reality)

A prominent version of our worldview is that everything that happens is predetermined down to the smallest detail.

There are mechanistic worldviews that imagine the course of things, like the wheel movement of a willless movement – formerly rather mechanical (hence the movement), today rather than the interplay of elementary particles, quantum effects and natural laws.

And there are notions of foresight, a divine plan of uninstible destiny, or, the most recent fashion, neuro- and evolutionary-biologically programmed functional sequences.

All these deterministic worldviews share the same logical problems.A whole class of circular arguments, some paradoxes and the undeniable experience of each individual being ultimately responsible for many things in their lives.

Books can be filled with positions on this, replicas and more or less plausible arguments for or against deterministic worldviews (hundreds every year!).The dispute over the right world view is now similar to great wars of faith- this cannot be clarified here.

But one point is the same as all deterministic worldviews:
They claim an objective binding order of the world.And then conclude that everything else can be reduced to that.

But will and freedom are now, by their conceptual nature, subjective concepts.Ergo, – determinists of all stripes conclude – can only be illusions or imaginations.

From the point of view of detereminists, will and freedom are only subjective misinterpretations of a thoroughly predetermined world.

(Of course, from this point of view, this also applies to similar subjective or intersubjective terms, such as trust, justice, state raison d’etre, conscience, beauty, hope, happiness, etc.)

(ii) (a) Indeterministic worldviews
(mainly subjective descriptions of reality)

The opposing positions emphasize the subjective aspect of reality.
They take the view that our reality manifests itself exclusively through subjective lyrelationships.

Here, too, there is a bouquet of variations: structuralists (Structuralism 鈥?Wikipedia), Constructivists (Constructivism (Philosophy) 鈥?Wikipedia), up to solipsists (Solipsism 鈥?Wikipedia) assume that the species is unf how we interpret reality from our subjective human perspective determines what we describe as “real”.

As human intentions change in relation to our world, what we can correctly describe as “reality” or “world” also changes.In this worldview, the “free will”, the ability to manipulate the world according to our intentions, is almost firmly pretentable and rooted part of the concept.

After such an understanding, precisely in contrast to the deterministic arguments, the objective world is reduced to humanly subjective (and intersubjective), intentionally selected and constructed contexts, facts and objects.

These worldviews also suffer from many logical flaws and stand in contrast to the daily experiences of individuals, who then have to deal with very stable unchangeable facts in many areas.

When it rains, the shoes get wet.No matter how the description of the phenomenon (rain) and the participating devices (shoes) is constructed, arranged or culturally structured…

(In spite of everything, the representatives of subjective worldviews have a point: Even in physics or mathematics, new objects are constantly being
conceived, recategorized and regrouped – we reckon with particles, if it suits us, with waves, if it cannot be described with particle physics, or postulate quantum effect models if it is more useful to our current intentions…)

(ii) (b) Dualistic worldviews – Dualism – Wikipedia
(both objectiveistic and subjectivist descriptions are considered to be correct descriptions of reality – this is of course also indeterministic, but with limitations…)

The conviction of dualists (of course there are also various types of play…) is broadly the fact that both subjective facts (such as wanting something or making responsible decisions) can claim to be “real” as to be “real” as objective connections (e.g. wet shoes in the rain).

Both views are understood as two different aspects of reality: the stars revolve according to objective physical laws and the state is shaped by subjective intentions, interests and the will of its citizens.

It is clear that – similar to the question “Is a photon actually a wave or a particle?”, dualists are in need of explanation to draw the line between objective and subjective acts of reality.It depends on what you want to do, what your intention is…

The answer to the question to what extent physical laws, biological functions, fate or even God’s plan restricts our possibilities for action can therefore be only vague, but in accordance with our intuition:

You are free to do what you think is feasible to realize what you want.But what is actually feasible is limited by the prevailing circumstances.

This is just as true of circumstances of the objective world (as it rains when you wish to sunbathe), as well as subjectively intentional circumstances (such as the democratically prescribed diesel driving ban or your fear of flying).


In summary, I think it is worth noting that:

There are different views on what is meant by “real”.
None of the implied positions is philosophically watertight – all have massive, if different, logical difficulties in explaining everyday processes of personal experience conclusively and satisfactorily.

The dualistic comromis of distinguishing two types of reality and having to sign both seems unsatisfactory.

Perhaps this is only because we want to shear everything over a comb and do not like to befriend the idea that different areas of reality may each have their own structures and regularities that do not simplified and reduced.

However, it seems to me to be clear that it only makes sense to speak of ‘wanting something’ in a context in which we also believe that we are “free” to be able to do something to achieve what we want.

To “want” something without believing in the freedom to do something to make it a reality is an empty term.At best, a pious wish.

In this sense, the will is always “free”, even more so – it necessarily presupposes the belief in our freedom of action logically and conceptually.

A lot of things that are so succinctly said, “I want this!”, turns out on closer inspection to be wishful thinking – because you don’t see any possibility, or.does not believe in any freedom to influence it.

In this sense, the will is not entirely “free”, but limited by one’s own subjectively assumed feasibility.(Whether you’re right or not with the assumption.)

The question of whether the will is “really” free in an objective sense depends decisively on the world view with which one argues.And what is presented as “real” components of reality.


My personal conviction is that the question of the “really” is inconsequential in the truest sense of the word.I think it was Camus (or another Frenchman) who said something like, “I only deal with the philosophical questions that could change my life.

Even if I believed that everything I do was predetermined, every day, wrestling with the same decisions, I would take responsibility for my mistakes and rejoice in my successes.

Despite all philosophically metaphysical speculations, the will is also in this pragmatic respect de facto and completely comprehensible for every individual (with the limitations described).

Our communities, our institutions, our culture and our personal relationships build on this.We take our partners, acquaintances and fellow citizens as a matter of course responsible, admire and judge them for their actions within the limits of their possibilities.

Strictly speaking, you have actually answered the answer to your question quite pragmatically by asking.Or did it happen to you?

With the best greetings!

Century

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