. <What can one say about whether humans have free will or not?


This is a very difficult question. It is related to the idea of determinism about which we may talk another time.
Religions, philosophers, psychologists, neuroscientists, and other people all have (had) different opinions on the matter.
First let us talk about the concept of freewill. The question is simple: When we decide to do something – especially when it is a choice between two alternatives – do we do it on our own, or are we forced (knowingly or unknowingly) to take that decision?
Though most of us think we take decisions on our own, many have argued (and some scientists think they have proved) that there are hidden factors of which we have no idea and over which we have no control. Others disagree.
Whatever we think or do is governed by (a) factors over which we have very little knowledge or control; (b) factors over which we feel we have at least some control.
We can do very little about (a). We can do a lot about (b). Most often it is a combination of the two. Many of you send me questions because you were asked to send a question. But the particular question you send is your own choice.
What often matters is NOT so much what we believe in, but on what we do and how we behave with our belief.
A person may think he/she has no control over his/her actions and commit a crime. The belief may be right, but the action is wrong because it was hurtful. Another person may think he/she has freewill and help a fellow human being. The belief may be wrong but the action was good because it had a positive impact on another human being.
Once a bank robber who was caught told the judge in the court: “Sir I had no control over my action. I don’t believe humans have free-will.” The judge said: “I am putting you in prison for ten years. I am not giving you this punishment out of by freewill, but because I have no control over this punishment that I am giving you.
For my part I choose to believe I have freewill because I am forced into that belief by so many factors 🙂

December 27, 2014

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About Varadaraja V. Raman

Physicist, philosopher, explorer of ideas, bridge-builder, devotee of Modern Science and Enlightenment, respecter of whatever is good and noble in religious traditions as well as in secular humanism,versifier and humorist, public speaker, dreamer of inter-cultural,international,inter-religious peace.
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One Response to . <What can one say about whether humans have free will or not?

  1. Dear V.V.
    I agree it is certainly a very difficult topic, and the whole of human written history has shown mankind make aosr no progress when its considered purely from a philiosopher stand point. I feel some progress is made when we bring in human moral responsibility and the problem of evil and God.
    The tightly related question is why do we do the wrong thing when we know better? I believe it is because there is a battle between good and evil going on in the universe, and God has allowed us to be free. Otherwise Love could not be freely given.
    Does this make any sense to you? I see this from a Christian perspective and I would be very interested in your thoughts.

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