On Free Will, part 1: Definition
Animals: Tradition - Philosophy - Religion Article from All-Creatures.org


Stephen Kaufman, M.D., Christian Vegetarian Association (CVA)

On Free Will, part 1: Definition

Philosophers have long debated whether or not humans have free will. The question has important implications for how we should respond to those who do harmful activities. Should we show mercy because they were compelled to act badly, or should we respond to evil acts with vengeance?
I think any discussion about free will must start with a definition of terms. I suggest that we regard free will as the ability at some point in the decision-making process to have made a different choice. For nearly all of us, we feel as if we have free will. We feel that we have choices (though not always desirable choices) throughout the day. Unless there is a gun to our head or similar coercion, we do not feel forced to choose among available options.
But, is this sense of free will an illusion? As we reflect back on decisions we have made, the question remains: could we have done otherwise? I will start to explore this question next essay.

Go on to: Thoughts on Free Will, part 2
Return to: Reflection on the Lectionary, Table of Contents

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