Do we have free will?

BONUS! Find this helpful? To download this post as a PDF, click here!

When my good friend Chad emailed me to tell me one thing, and I ended up attacking him with a zillion questions about free will in response – I realized this is something I’d really love to hear more people’s thoughts about. This is incredibly fascinating to me (as I would think it would be to anyone).

What do you think about free will?

Do you think we have it, or that everything’s planned out? Or maybe a combination (the bigger picture is planned out, we have control over the small stuff)?

I found this interesting video for those of you who aren’t into metaphysical stuff…And this page is what got me thinking about it in the first place.

I do have some opinions, but I feel like posting them wouldn’t be beneficial for 3 reasons:

1. I don’t want them to affect your answer (and they’re still opinions, anyway).

2. I’m not quite sure if I’m comfortable posting my experiences here yet.

3. The people from which I based some of them might delude how they’re perceived.

Would really, really, REALLY love to hear your thoughts about this.

Stay In Touch!
Follow Me
Tweet
BONUS! Find this helpful? To download this post as a PDF, click here!

0 thoughts on “Do we have free will?”

  1. Hi Rachel,

    I’ve just bumped into this discussion thread. So pardon my belated comment.

    For an understanding of the relationship between Free Will & Destiny, have a read about it at my Blog

    You & your readers will be delighted for a fresh perspective from the age old yoga scripture.

    John Ho

    Reply
  2. Hi Rachel,
    I was wondering if I had free will or not, as I was driving along the road noticing that there were barriers on both sides of the road signs all over the place and road rules in the back of my head. I can go anywhere I like but most of the time it’s within boundaries set by society to either keep me safe or to keep others safe from me. ( only straight ahead within the speed limit)

    So do I just have the illusion of choices but only one destiny? I know for sure that debt limits our choices so our attitudes combined with society do shape our future.

    What if our mind is just a computer program only 10k years more advanced than current computer programs? Is it that we are programmed to behave in a certain way? I know that certain breeds of dogs are more vicous than others.

    Despite a certain amount of pre-programming by our society, genetics and so on I think that we all have a choice to dwell on things that are good or things that are destructive. As a teenager I used to listen to ACDC tracks like “I’m on the highway to hell” and I recognise now that repeatedly listening to lyrics like that did encourage me to go down that track so I’m much more careful about all that I read and listen to now.

    Reply
  3. Blehhh, I feel like I need to respond to these all individually… appreciate them too much not to. :)

    Bobby – First of all, 2 years in psychology research? Sounds like my dream job! As far as my having free will to ask, etc… it could be that I was meant to ask ;)…

    No, but really… what do you mean as far as we only have it within the confines of what happens around us? Do you mean you think we’re given situations and we have free will within them, or am I missing something?

    Kathe – You raise quite a few good points. :) The first thing that was brought to my mind was a post that someone made her a while ago. It’s a story about how someone was drowning in a river, and someone came with a boat to save him. He said, “Nah, God will save me.” Another boat came, and he said the same thing. Finally a helicopter came, and again, he said “God will save me.”

    In the end, he died. When he got to heaven, he asked God why he never saved him. God said, “I tried to! I sent you two boats and a helicopter!”

    I do my best to rely on intuition, too, now… instead of ego. Always works better.

    I’m really glad to be in contact with you too! :)

    Dan – First off, I really like that song! Just got done listening to it again… and I can’t hear enough that doing nothing is making a choice. Inactivity kills me!

    Fascinating points, too. I agree on the subconscious and the importance of that. Another fantastic book is John Assaraf’s “The Answer” – it really explains a lot about your subconscious and habits/beliefs.

    As far as:

    1. Just because God/a “higher power”/etc knows what your next move is doesn’t mean that a higher power is forcing you to make that move. Tajwar – First off – you can use my posts for whatever you like, I adore you. :)

    You’re right on whatever answer we give depends on our lens… I guess it’s just fascinating to me to hear people’s different lenses.

    I like your theory, too. It makes a lot of sense. :)

    Evpstudd – I really like the point you and Dan made about just because someone knows what you’re going to do, it doesn’t make it any less of an option. For some reason I glazed over that.

    Makes a lot of sense. Thanks for the post. :)

    Jambhala – I’m so glad you posted, you know I highly value your opinion.

    You make great points… and very intriguing on the higher self part of it. By putting it that way, a bit is put into perspective for me, actually.

    Hmmm… I love this entry. :)

    Reply
  4. Wow… tons of great responses, guys. Thanks so much for all of them. I’m sorry for not responding sooner… have been a bit busy… but I read through them all and really appreciate them. Gave me a LOT of things to think about!

    And Andrew… will get to that post soon. :)

    Reply
  5. I believe I have free will to choose my destiny, but once I choose something and focus my energy to manifest it, I think my higher self or some higher power steps in which causes me to choose things and take certain actions almost on autopilot. Things and actions that will lead me closer to the goals I seek to manifest.

    I wouldn’t rule out that there is an even higher power than what I call my higher self, which would govern my own free will and yet allow me to think it is my free will.

    Perhaps free will is just doing what you do, and ‘god’ or the highest power that designed us as humans, designed us knowing that we’d do what we do, and so in that design piece by piece we are created to with the desires and will that would do as ‘god’ or the highest power wants us to.

    I don;t necessarily believe nor disbelieve the previous paragraph, but I do know for sure that the answer is still unknown to me.

    Peace,
    Jambhala

    Reply
  6. I most definitely believe that we have free will. We can do whatever we please.

    This doesn’t remove the fact that a loving, caring God who knows us better than we know ourselves already knows what we’re going to choose. The fact that He knows doesn’t mean that we’re any less free.

    I think God sees time differently than we do. If we compare time to a video tape, we see only the image as it passes on the screen in the present. God has the tape unrolled in front of His eyes and can see the entire past, present, and future – He has to be able to in order to be Omniscient.

    Reply
  7. Hey Rach,

    Nice post….I hope you don’t mind, I used it as an inspiration to a new post on my blog:-)

    As far as free will goes I think the answer lays in the eyes of the beholder. The answer to that question is in the same realm as the answer to the question “where do we go after we die”. It depends on what lense we have on at the moment.
    One may say “Of course, I have free will, I was told by the Holy Books.”
    Another may say “If I were to make a machine that had artificial intelligence and I somehow programmed an algorithm to trick it into processing information in such a way that it was under the illusion that it was self aware and under control and I allowed it to live it’s life out under that illusion….how do we know that isn’t exactly what is happening with us?”
    Another may say “well, we are here simply by chance and everything is chaotic. There is no free will. Everything just happens.”

    These are all very valid points. None of them can be proven right or wrong.

    Personally, I feel that we are co-creators. I think we are given part of the power.

    If you are on a beach and the ocean is providing waves…you cannot control the waves, but you can choose(free will) to get in front of the wave and harness the power of that wave.

    I think life is like that ocean, where we really have no control over the actual ocean, but we can ride the wave all day long and go where we need to go…and on the flip side we can let that wave crash on us and drown us….
    The choice of what to do with the wave (in my opinion) is ours.

    Reply
  8. Wow that’s deep, Rachel.

    I believe that we do have free will. The only MAJOR caveat would be that our habits and beliefs play a huge role in many of the actions we take on a daily, even minute-by-minute, basis.

    (In case you’re interested, for more info on habits and beliefs I HIGHLY recommend reading “Influence: The Psychology Of Persuasion” by Robert Cialdini and “Awaken The Giant Within” by Tony Robbins.)

    Re: the video you point to

    1. Just because God/a “higher power”/etc knows what your next move is doesn’t mean that a higher power is forcing you to make that move.

    The knowledge of your future actions in no way proves that someone else is in control of your actions.

    2. We are a physical system no doubt. But just saying that because we are physical means that there is no freewill is, to put it bluntly, idiotic. That theory leaves out one HUGE thing that humans have that other physical systems don’t – THOUGHT.

    The Earth doesn’t think about gravity. The moon doesn’t think about orbiting around the Earth. The waves don’t think about crashing into the shore. The grass doesn’t think about growing. It happens ‘naturally’.

    Humans THINK… some more than others. (See my first comment about habit and beliefs.) But, we *can* think about our choice of actions before we act.

    The fact that we think is the proof that we have free will.

    I think destiny/fate is used as a cop out by many people to try to excuse their less than stellar lives.

    It’s much easier to say: “I was born to be fat.” “I was meant to be poor.” “I was destined to live a crappy life.

    Making excuses is so much easier than taking responsibility for your own actions, getting off your lazy a$$, taking control of your life, and making something of yourself.

    I’ll leave you with the lyrics of my all time favorite Rush song… (Words in CAPS added by me for emphasis)

    “Freewill”
    Written by Neil Peart
    Performed by Rush

    There are those who think that
    Life has nothing left to chance
    With a host of holy horrors
    To direct our aimless dance

    A planet of playthings
    We dance on the strings
    Of powers we cannot perceive
    The stars aren’t aligned —
    Or the gods are malign
    BLAME IS BETTER TO GIVE THAN RECEIVE

    You can choose a ready guide
    In some celestial voice
    IF YOU CHOOSE NOT TO DECIDE
    YOU STILL HAVE MADE A CHOICE

    You can choose from phantom fears
    And kindness that can kill
    I will choose a path that’s clear
    I will choose free will

    There are those who think that
    They’ve been dealt a losing hand
    The cards were stacked against them —
    They weren’t born in lotus-land

    All preordained
    A prisoner in chains
    A victim of venomous fate
    Kicked in the face
    You can’t pray for a place
    In heaven’s unearthly estate

    [Chorus]

    Each of us
    A cell of awareness
    Imperfect and incomplete
    Genetic blends
    With uncertain ends
    On a fortune hunt
    That’s far too fleet…

    [Chorus]

    To get the real meaning you should listen to the song…
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OnxkfLe4G74

    Re: “BLAME IS BETTER TO GIVE THAN RECEIVE”

    That line, like much of the song, is sarcasm. And the deeper meaning goes back to what I said about using destiny/fate as a cop-out.

    It’s easier to blame things outside ourselves for our situation. But, in the end, we ARE responsible for how our life turns out.

    We most certainly have free will, and more people should exercise theirs.

    Reply
  9. Wow, heavy conversation, girlfriend! :)

    My personal belief is YES, we all have ‘free will’ otherwise we would have no control over anything, right?

    While I do believe EVERYTHING does happen for a reason (although we don’t always know that reason immediately), it took me many years to accept that. Then I made the shocking discovery that it actually WAS my free will that was standing in my way most of that time, when I would have been much better off NOT using my free will.

    I rather, should have allowed myself to “let go and let God” (or the universe, if you will) …and forced my own will on so many things in my life. (Some folks would call that being a control freak? lol)

    It’s a little like falling in a raging river and trying to fight your way back to shore, when if you’d simply relax and flow WITH the river, you’ll get to shore eventually, at a different place, but where you were supposed to be all along…

    I’m so glad to make contact with you again!

    Take care,

    Kathe

    Reply
  10. Hi Rachel

    Mmmmm love the question, provokes so much thought!

    You had the free will to ask the question and I had the free will to reply here, so where does that leave us? :)

    My personal view is a resounding YES we do have free will at ALL times. My rider or paradox is that we only have it within the confines of what happens around us, people places, situations etc.

    I suppose this reinforces the argument that we are social animals.

    I’m in danger of rambling, but if you are on your own on a desert island, then you have free will to do what you want to and for yourself with no caution, fear or anticipation of how it might affect others. HOWEVER if you share the island even with one other then your free will will be governed by your social norms (what ever they are!)

    I spent 2 years in psychology research and still can’t answer the question!!! :)

    My free will now tells me to shutup and go put the kettle on….

    You do ask searching questions Rachel…

    Bobby

    Reply
  11. James: Yeah, you’re right… it’s an argument that probably won’t be won any time soon (unless people are right about the spiritual awakening that’s supposed to come and prove that we don’t have it, but that’d be a completely different thing…)

    But it’s definitely intriguing, nonetheless. :)

    Tom: Thank you very much! Awesome way to start my morning, by seeing that. Thank you. :)

    Reply
  12. Free will…

    That’s a tough one. An argument that could never be won really.

    One could argue that yes, we have free will. Simply because we are able to do whatever we want at any one point in time.

    For instance, I could hold my breath right now if I wanted to. I could jump up and down, control my body, my being, my emotions, etc…

    However, on the other side of the coin, it could be argued that it is in my destiny, or that some divine being or force made me choose to do the things that I did.

    The problem is that time is a series of forks and choices. Once a choice is made, you create a fork in your road and can never analyze the other option. So there is no telling whether we have “free will” or not.

    *note that I didn’t watch the video or read the link. So, hopefully we’re talking about the same thing and not about someone named Will that needs free-ing. haha.

    Reply

Leave a Comment