The Possibility of Free Will

The art of choosing a sensible course of action amid existing alternatives is referred to as free will. Free Will can also refer to the ability to make decisions in situations when prior events have already determined the outcome. Some philosophers argue that the concepts of free will and moral responsibility are intertwined (Christian). The inference is that people act in order to fulfill the metaphysical condition of being a responsible person. Yet, free will extends beyond responsibility; indeed, it appears to be a prerequisite for achievement; autonomy and dignity; and the importance that members of society place on love and friendship. According to the philosophy of determinism, only one course of event is possible in life, hence free will does not exist. When people think about how determinism related to free action, then a new question is likely to arise: do we have control over the past? For the prior plausible events, that can be thought to be the cause of human action; there must be an enabling condition that led to the activity. In the ordinary world, every new day comes with its requirements, and it is not likely that the states will repeat over time. For instance, is a child is propelled into an action because of watching a particular game on a TV mainstream program, then, this looks like a good reason to decide to take water from the fridge, and this is unlike other events that are far much beyond his control. In a few hundred years time when events will be recorded in the books of history, what most historians will see is technology and not the other things associated with the same like the internet, e-commerce, among others. It is the same way most of the things people enjoy today were determined by others who were in existence by then. Some scientists even come up with ideas, that they never live to see being implemented. Emerging scholars then builds on the existing approaches. We, therefore, end up with situations where somebody cannot change the design of a particular phenomenon because another person had determined it.

The next question that is likely to come up is whether or not we can control the laws of nature. The understanding of the importance of determinism partly lies with the concepts of the laws of nature (Nicholas). For the proposed regulations of life, the state of the world at any given time determines how things go after and before the season elapses. In a philosophical world, however, the symmetry of the laws and the happenings in the world is most commonly ignored, more so, when thinking about the bearing of determinism on the issue of the free will. The reasons are attributed to the fact that we think of the past as an event whose activities are beyond our control. However, the philosophy of determinism states that the past occurrences, however much they may comprise of things beyond our control, determines everything that happens in our lives today. In physical sciences, the assumptions based on the existence of the fundamental laws of nature are ever questionable. Many scientists believe that the laws of nature are pushy explainers - that is, the rules dictate the manner in which certain things happen. In other words, the laws of nature are deterministic, meaning that every event that occurs in the world is as a result of an underlying principle that is to a more significant extent determinant on the laws of nature. The man has no control over such regulations.

What then is the relationship between the happenings of the past and the laws of nature? Apparently, the laws of nature and the past events dictate what would happen in the future (Irving). Since the rules that govern the world are deterministic, everything that happens today has an underlying explanation based on what happened in the past. Even though the consequences work in the future, individuals still encounter problems when it comes to giving an account of what will happen in future. In this, respect, the laws of nature apparently work implicitly in the past-future direction (Bhaskar). In consideration to all these factors, the action of every human in history forms a world-wide pattern of events that are deterministic.


Two philosophers Ginet and Inwagen are some of the modern day philosophers who attempted to postulate an argument against the existence of the determinism. The Consequence Argument has a basis on the fundamental difference between the past and the future. The information presented in the argument states that there seems to be a profound asymmetry between the past and the future that also depends on the time and causation flows (Christian). According to Bhaskar, the future is open to the extent that cannot be compared to the past. For instance, the fact that Booth killed Lincoln in the year 1865 will remain so irrespective of what can be done today.

Even if we admit the possibilities in time travel, the point remains static. If time were capable of traveling, then it would be possible to influence what the past became, without necessarily changing the history itself (Bhaskar). Even though the past is apparently 'fixed,' the same is not the case with the future. For instance, the murder of Lincoln could act as a lesson upon which future policies are built to discourage an occurrence of the same incidences in future. The difference between the past and the future is such that there is symmetry. Such variations are as a result of the fact that man has a natural tendency of avoiding deliberations about the two in the same manner. Somebody can always question whether the past actions were indeed the right ones, but can at the same time deliberate on how best the future can be. Therefore, it appears like the future is open to everybody, and that is not true for the past. When an individual is using his free will, then the process involves a selection of desired events and activities from a wide range of available options which the laws of nature and the actions of the past have made possible.


From the discussion above, we note that free will covers issues in metaphysics, action theory and the philosophy of the human nature. There are some competing views regarding the aspects of free will, which are not limited to whether or not free will exists. Possibly, it could be the reason why the issue attracts a philosophical approach. If the philosophy of determinism is right, then the laws of nature and the past entirely determine how people act today. However, people need not focus much on what happened before they were born, as well as what the laws of nature states since we have no control over them.

Work Cited

Bhaskar, Roy. The possibility of naturalism: A philosophical critique of the contemporary human sciences. Abingdon: Routledge, 2014.

Christian, List. "Free will, determinism, and the possibility of doing otherwise." Noûs 48.1 (2014): 156-178.

Irving, Melden Abraham. Free action. New York: Taylor & Francis, 2017.

Nicholas, Rescher. Free will: A philosophical reappraisal. Abingdon: Routledge, 2017.

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