Free Will

"How might we be changed by dwelling intensely on the view that ultimate responsibility is impossible?"

- Galen Strawson, "Luck Swallows Everything," Times Literary Supplement, June 26, 1998

Why the focus on free will?

Free will is often the focus here at Naturalism.Org because debates about free will centrally involve human nature and human agency, matters of considerable practical and existential importance. The naturalist doesn't suppose human beings, complex and multi-talented though they are, transcend causal laws and explanations in their behavior.

The naturalist view is therefore directly at odds with the widespread culturally-transmitted assumption in the West that human agents have supernatural souls with contra-causal free will. Souls are causally privileged over their surroundings, little first causes, little gods: each of us has the power to have done otherwise in the exact situation in which we didn't do otherwise. Since this assumption expresses itself in our concepts of blame, credit, responsibility, self-worth and deservingness, to challenge it has all sorts of ramifications, personal, social and political.

Where to Start

For a reasonably comprehensive summary of a naturalistic debunking of contra-causal free will, and the benefits of doing that, see Fully Caused: Coming to Terms With Determinism.

Articles in this Section

Sub-sections

  • Three strikes against fatalism.

  • How the concept of time affects the concept of free will.

    Naturalist attorney Bob Gulack explores time and free will in one of his talks for the Ethical Culture Society of Bergen County, New Jersey, see here.

  • This section introduces brief mentions and quotes from a selection of recent books and articles that bear on free will, the self, and the implications of naturalism for social policy and personal well being.

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