Small Summer Philosophies #2
Do we have Free Will? Anyone who grew up in a western civilization will probably answer YES to that question. Of course I have Free Will! Am I not completely free to decide what I will do or not do in the next second? I could choose to get up and go to the toilet, OR make myself a snack in the kitchen, OR I could even go out of the house, into the car and ride to Paris to start a new life!
But it’s not very likely that last thing will happen. Why not? Well, I’m just not that kind of person. So, my Free Will is limited by who I AM.
What makes me who I am? DNA and past experiences. Those two together seem to predestine me to DO certain things and NOT do a whole lot of others. So how much of a Free Will do I have then? My choices are a lot more limited than they seem at first.
I can’t change who I AM – that is fixed, by my genetics and by everything that I have experienced in my life so far. Does that also mean I can’t change what I will do in the next second? Is every future action also fixed? Nope. If my genes and background have predestined me to be afraid of heights, for instance, that does not prevent me from deciding to climb the Eiffel Tower tomorrow. I probably won’t. But maybe I have grown sufficiently fed up with my phobia. Maybe I feel I should confront my fears and overcome them. That might make me decide to do a course on “coming out on top of your vertigo” – and that will change who I am, which will change the range of choices I have in the future.
Maybe we shouldn’t call it FREE Will but FLEXIBLE Will. You can’t do something that’s completely opposite to who you are destined to be – but you can make a choice that nudges your personality into another direction, which opens up new possibillities to choose from.
(Unless it is already a fixed thing whether we are a person who can nudge their personality or not. In that case everything is predestined, after all.)