To start discussing and reflecting upon such a broad term seen by many sciences and defined by the will of many people we would have to narrow our view or otherwise write about the point of view of each of the disciplines that try to define the term.
However for the sake and purpose of this article we will define Free Will as: The ability to choose between different possible courses of action unimpeded (1).
As mentioned above free will as pretty much been a polemic term or quality of our mind and consciousness since ancient times, many more nowadays with the advent of technology and artificial intelligence argue that we’re approaching a time where our decisions are starting to become less and less “free”.
In my particular point of view I believe that free will is a mixture that in fact is loosing the ability of free as we are immersed by a constant series of stimuli that are directing our behaviors, in addition to that we are becoming a society less focused on our inner nature and more focused on the “external reality” which is not ours we are a product pretty much of a reflection of media and the marketing that is penetrating our minds and following everywhere we turn on a device (which if we are critical is more than 80% of our time), each click we give into anything we are looking for in the sea of the web, we are being tracked, each emotion we have, we are directed to share it through the social media, we are being pulled away from our social presence, we are being dragged to stop even using the phone to communicate with someone and instead we prefer to “text” them, and soon enough we are going to be dragged even from our words into putting cartoons and faces to express ourselves.
Therefore probably we’ll start loosing our language and migrating to a new “code” of communication.
The more we step away for the “simplicity” of our lives, the more we step away from our source that is nature and our Mother Earth, the more we are becoming that dreadful generation of “hybrid humans” part human, part technology, even if we are still made of flesh and bone entirely, our inner consciousness is more controlled by everything external and we’re becoming more dependent on those “instant solutions” to keep our busy rhythm into the darkness of others, into the powerful industries that are investing more and more money into knowing every move we make, every emotion we feel, and maybe soon enough into every breath that we take.
With the biotechnology also advancing it is not difficult now to track your hormones, to track your sitting time, to track your walking time, to track the food that you eat, to track the activity that you have, to track your sleep, and to even register your heartbeats …
What else is missing?
I believe that the more you stop avoiding knowing yourself, the more you’ll be pulled towards loosing your free will, loosing your ability to decide, loosing you ability to communicate, loosing your ability to listen to your body, loosing your ability to THINK !!.
Which is the ultimate goal of many companies and individuals that want to decide for you, that sell you the idea of what you need, what you want, even what your purpose should be.
We are always ready to take refuge in a belief in determinism if this freedom weighs upon us or if we need an excuse.
— Sartre (2)
As the quote above establishes we are more prone and weaker to blame everyone else than to be responsible for our own actions … maybe that is why we are more willing (ironically using the word) to free ourselves from our decisions so that we don’t have to be accountable for the result of our lives. Have you reflect on that?
How often do you admit your own responsibility in your decisions? How often do you look someone or something to blame?
What would happen if people came to believe that their behavior is the inexorable product of a causal chain set into motion without their own volition?
Would people carry on, selves and behavior unperturbed, or, as Sartre suggested, might the adoption of a deterministic worldview serve as an excuse for untoward behaviors?
It is well established that changing people’s sense of responsibility can change their behavior. For example, invoking a sense of personal accountability causes people to modify their behavior to better align with their attitudes (2).
Mueller and Dweck (1998) observed 10-year-old children who were told that they had been successful on an initial task either as the result of their intelligence or through their hard work. In a second round, all the children encountered a task that was well beyond their performance level (i.e., they failed at it). When the children were given yet a third task, those who thought their earlier success was due to their intelligence put forth less effort and reported lower enjoyment than those who thought their initial success was due to their own effort. The authors concluded that the former children’s belief that their performance was linked to their intelligence indicated to them that achieving a high score on the difficult problems in the second round was beyond their ability. Hence, faring poorly (on an admittedly difficult task) indicated to children in the intelligence condition that they were simply not smart enough for the task, which in turn led them to stop trying to perform well and to like the task less (2).
If reducing people’s sense of control also reduces the amount of effort they put toward improving their performance, then advocating a deterministic worldview that dismisses individual causation may similarly promote undesirable behavior. In this vein, Peale (1989) bemoaned how quickly and consistently deviant behavior is tagged a ‘‘disease,’’ a label that obviates personal responsibility for its occurrence. As a recent Washington Post article on neuroscience and moral behavior put it succinctly, ‘‘Reducing morality and immorality to brain chemistry—rather than free will—might diminish the importance of personal responsibility’’(2).
Reflecting on experiments performed on children which supposedly have less influence of environmental factors although more influence of family patterns we can clearly see that our abilities are reduced by the amount of information that attributes our success to “inherent qualities” which was a common thought during several years since early 50’s or far behind to pretty much 90’s, and nowadays the tendency is to tell you that you can really surpass your inherent qualities, your genetic traits if you modify your environment which is called “Epigenetics”, however the emphasis is still at least by the media, the web and still many individuals on external forces or external aids to help, or in some cases the pressure is stronger, as to make you think you really need those tools to accomplish your goals (i.e. magical supplements, apps, or programs based on pure marketing).
So If we are aware of these aids, apps or “magical products” which try to make us many times dependent on them and sell the idea for us of not being able to do it by our own will and hard work we’re falling for the trap of neglecting our own ability to act, to perform hence the fact that, I would dare to say more than 80% of people like to be carried, aided or guided by others instead of knowing himself/herself. It seems to be the easier choice and also the one that accounts for less responsibility.
There is free action, there is retribution, but I see no agent that passes out of one set of momentary elements into another one, except the [connection] of those elements.
— The Buddha.
Was he philosophically naive or was he right in his assumptions about the nature of reality and knowledge? If one, for example, does not make a firm distinction between the inner and the outer, then there can be no talk about free events inside us and determined events outside of us. Neither can there be a problem of the ontological status of the external world and the skeptical impasses that arise from this. The Buddha’s empiricism was first compared to Hume’s, but the most accurate parallel is to James’ radical empiricism. James and the Buddha observed that basic experience does not divide into inner and outer; rather, the inner flows into the outer and the outer flows into the inner. (One could perhaps read Hume in the same way.) It is only by some Cartesian method of systematic doubt that an inner world of ideas and perceptions is separated from an outer world of physical things. The Buddha and James also claimed that basic experience does not divide into facts and values, because as the Buddha said: “What one feels, one perceives; what one perceives one reasons about.” What one feels is obviously filled with values and emotions (3).
How does this reflections on inner and outer realities impact our attention on developing awareness? Simplifying we can say that both are interconnected as well as all of our five senses. This means that we are in a constant loop of flowing information from both sides and that is how we also maintain a homeostasis or that is how we break our balance. And this I dare to say is the root of many problems and diseases of all kinds.
If we have a poor knowledge of ourselves, if we are just a mere influence of the patterns, programs and ideas that our caregivers installed in us and the external environment, then we are easily influenced, directed and manipulated by almost every external force (companies and social media) or individual.
Therefore we are more prone to be sad/frustrated when things don’t go as they’re “supposed to be”, we are more prone to be depressed by issues that happened a while ago because we are reinforced to maintain that state because simply we believed the idea that we are not able to control what we think, what we allow, what impacts us.
On the other hand as we detach from external experiences in particular the ones created artificially we allow more space for reflection, we allow more peace, we allow more contact with our true nature and source. If you allow yourself to be a rebel force that goes against what many want and discover more how you are, what you really like, what you really want, what makes gives you happiness or better said what inner state allows you to feel and find the joy within you, what allows you to find peace, what allows you to feel love and what allows to feel compassion then you will be in a path of knowing yourself better than any external company or individual reclaiming your freedom to decide, to feel and to express whatever you want!!
Free and mindful agents (humans) know what their needs are and what their preferences should be; and, on the basis of that knowledge, they can separate desires from cravings, defined as desires that either cannot be fulfilled, or for things that are simply not needed. Moral freedom lies in the ability of agents to form desires that are consonant with their needs and personal circumstances (3).
If we are a more “evolved” society we should aspire for higher control of our inner desires, we should start drawing and walking a path that would enlighten our journey with more wisdom of our inner nature not with more knowledge of our external predisposition. I believe that If we commit ourselves to dedicate this years to come to a more simplistic yet deepening culture of knowing our internal nature, allowing a connection of all our capacities and abilities, fusion our biological and spiritual nature then we have a chance of designing an external environment that encourages our growth in other direction, in a direction of our own inner virtue which is love, compassion, brotherhood, creation, expansion !!
We really need to start investing more on cultivating values, cultivating awareness, cultivating responsibility starting with ourselves and passing them on to our children, the more they also acquired that discipline, that behavior of taking action on how they are built inside, how they react, how they perceive the things, the more aware they will be of any kind of "threat" or "manipulation" that anyone would like to influence them on!! as the ancient minds predicated and acted the best investment you can ever make is yourself and by doing that you will be automatically impacting the ones closer to you.
The more apathy and irresponsable you are in blaming or looking for excuses, the more you are also infecting and damaging the ones closer to you and above all, the more you are replicating a society that apparently "loves to live in victimhood" giving up all its power to the outer and external circumstances than to themselves!!
As far as I see it where are in deciding bridge which won’t last more than 2-5 years to decide what route we take, if we keep giving up our freedom our will to others or if we reclaim it and cultivate a sense of responsibility in each one of us by first knowing ourselves and then by helping anyone that comes along in the journey respecting that their route and their nature is different and they will find different answers that in the end will collide into a collective good for humankind.
Let’s take the journey, let’s accept the challenge, If we have been navigating the path of external forces for more than hundred years, why not giving a dramatic shift into a journey of inner knowledge, inner wisdom, inner power that eventually will be supported for all divine (any kind of God) and Universal forces because it stands for a higher value which is collective freedom, collective peace, collective love!!
Free Will. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_will. Retrieved 2019 Jun 21.
Vohs, K. D., & Schooler, J. W. (2008). The Value of Believing in Free Will. Psychological Science, 19(1), 49–54.
Gier, Nicholas and Kjellberg, Paul. "Buddhism and the Freedom of the Will: Pali and Mahayanist Responses" in Freedom and Determinism. Campbell, Joseph Keim; O'Rourke, Michael; and Shier, David. 2004. MIT Press