The Issue of Human Freedom of Choice
Table of Contents
Human freedom of choice is an opportunity and the ability of people to act in the direction of their own interests. One can not only adapt to the reality around them but also change this reality. Probably, almost everyone was asking themselves what the fate is and whether human destiny is predetermined or not. Undoubtedly, this is one of the issues, which requires the greatest circumspection, as well as one of the most important (if not the most important) issues related to the spiritual and philosophical sphere. People are free in their decisions and actions only to a certain extent. This paper will argue that people are not free in their choices.
Arguments and Counterarguments
The concept of human freedom of choice means at least two things: that people are free and that people have a choice. Therefore, in order to look into the matter in detail, first it is necessary to consider the basic concepts and determine how they manifest themselves in the real world around. The knowledge of the person that are available today, gives reason to doubt that the absolute freedom of the will, which is understood as the ability and opportunity of a person to act in accordance with their ideas of life, really exists. The facts recorded in various branches of scientific knowledge in psychology, neurophysiology, and biochemistry made discoverers suggest that human behavior is controlled at all stages, starting from intention and ending with its practical implementation.
There are plenty of objective factors that determine the behavior of people from the outside making it non-free. These include climate and other natural phenomena; ideological propaganda; the influence of parents; the impact of advertising; social prejudices, etc. (Hamby, 2015, p. 67). People’s actions and thoughts are greatly influenced by the biological potential of the social environment, upbringing and education. This circumstance gives rise not only to a theoretical conflict but also practical difficulties. For example, in the war, a soldier executing an order kills people and destroys things. He is not doing it according to his own will and desire but obeys the orders from above. He is not free, that is, in fact, he does not belong to himself. In war, the boundaries of armed violence are quite blurred, and this creates the problem of excessive use of force verging on the war crime. Thus, it is not moral and legal to blame military for such crimes since they are not free in their actions (Hamby, 2015, p. 69).
Another circumstance which casts doubt on the possibility of free choice is explained by the theory and practice of psychoanalysis. Research conducted by psychoanalysts shows that human’s assessment, judgment, and actions are predetermined to some extent by factors that are not admitted by people (Kidder, 2009, p. 78). These are the factors from the scope of so-called unconscious (Kidder, 2009, p. 78). Therefore, even when people think that they act freely, their behavior is still determined. Freedom in the choice of a particular course of action is often given to man. However, the rules, by which they are guided in this free choice, are not set by them but given from the outside. They cannot influence the content of those rules and take responsibility for them, and therefore, the selected action is not free.
If considering the religious aspect of the issue, it can be said that all world religions are based on the fact that human life is predetermined by God’s Providence in every detail. Being the Absolute, God has omniscience, omnipotence, and all-good, and, therefore, nothing happens without his will. Otherwise, God would not be the Absolute (Christensen, 2016, p. 34). In addition to the theological justification of the absence of free choice in man, there is philosophic justification. It follows from the statement that every event must have a reason. According to Christensen (2016), in any act of will, the same sequence and alternated nature, which exists in natural events, can be found. Therefore, it is possible to predict what would be the choice of a person in a particular situation with sufficient accuracy.
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However, despite the persuasiveness of the arguments put forward, opposing arguments can be no less impressive and convincing. After the development of quantum mechanics, proponents of absolutely free will are trying to take advantage of the uncertainty principle, according to which, even in nature, at the level of elementary particles, there is no rigid causal predetermination of events. Even the physical and biochemical processes sometimes can develop in completely different ways and at unpredictable scenarios under the same initial conditions (Velkley, 2007, p. 55). We live in a world where nothing can be absolutely accurately determined and revealed. If this is possible in nature, then it is possible with respect to the human.
However, in their activities, people are forced to consider the fact that the laws of nature and society are objective, that is, act independently of the will, desires and interests of man. In simple words, the allegation that the man is a competent master of his destiny is opposed to the basic natural laws. Human has to obey the rules existing in the surrounding world and their own body. In addition, human freedom is being tested not only in a clash with the natural laws but also in contact with the freedom of another person. The fact that the same living space is home to a huge amount of people each of whom has their own idea of what life should be inevitably leads to conflicts and restriction of free choice of the human.
A review of various aspects of freedom as an essential human trait leads to the conclusion that freedom is inherent in each person as an opportunity to project their subjective intentions in the outside world. However, the real existence of freedom is seriously doubted only due to awareness of man. In other words, a person is free as far as he/she is aware of what freedom is, what opportunities and what the consequences are associated with it. A person is free as far as he/she is aware of his/her freedom. Therefore, a person can be free even while in prison, and on the other hand, he/she can be not free even living in a democratic society. Therefore, human freedom of choice development is not related to the external world. It has some qualitatively new capabilities or features and is associated with the development of the consciousness of freedom. A person will be considered a fully developed man when he/she finally realizes what to be free means. However, now, humanity is only at the beginning of this path.
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The optimal solution for the collision of human free will and the objective laws of nature is the knowledge of these laws and their usage for personal purposes. According to the law of universal gravitation, a body that is heavier than air will surely fall to the ground if tossed up. However, the man has created lethal devices that can overcome gravity and move in the air not contesting this law. In this case, freedom is shown in a person’s ability to operate not despite necessity but in accordance with it, to use the law in the interest of freedom (Harris, 2012, p. 39).
The only reasonable way out of the situation of collision of free wills among people themselves is to reach the agreement, which should be based on the restriction of liberty. To oversee compliance with this restriction, state institutions have been established and the rights that provide an average measure of freedom in society through coercion were adopted. The objective law, this time in public form, gets in the way of free will. On this occasion, there is a statement that it is impossible to live in society and be free from society at the same time.
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Freedom should not be taken as a kind of gift for the man from nature or God that is designed to provide them with a relaxed and comfortable life. Freedom is always a choice and, therefore, the responsibility for the results of this choice. The choice of the optimal variant of actions is rarely made on the basis of knowledge of all peculiarities of the situation and the possible consequences. There is always a possibility of risk. Only animal does not run the risk because it does not choose. It obeys the law of nature, which is the self-preservation instinct. This is the most reliable guide in the world where everything is subordinated to the objective conditions.
People must begin with themselves: to learn, be open, share knowledge and work with others. The ability to realize the right to choose is the happy lot. Life is the best optimal period of time necessary for a person to realize their destiny to fulfill their great mission. We came in this world with a specific application, with the task to reveal and realize ourselves in a certain period of earthly existence. Self-realization is the full responsibility of a person to themselves and others. In this narrow area, free will manifests itself.
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It is necessary to learn how to use the existing potential most effectively. Not everybody has big potential from birth, but people can learn to derive maximum benefit from what they have. First, it is important for a person to believe in themself because a person who does not believe in themselves is not able to reach anything and change in their life. A person who does not believe in their strength will not be brave enough to make the necessary effort and give up as soon as they face failures and problems. Therefore, people must believe in their own strength above everything.
It is crucially important to understand what events and situations freedom manifests in, and how the freedom of choice, due to which people can change their destiny, can be used. Perhaps, the attitude to what is happening is the most important factor allowing to become a free person. Not everything in life develops as it had been planned. Not always life will be smooth and peaceful as many events appear to be confounding and disappointing. There are some difficult and tragic life events, which will inevitably happen. However, if people cannot always change the events of our lives, they still can change their attitude towards the events. Attitudes but not the events determine the quality of life. Someone can possess considerable wealth but still want to have more. For this reason, the person will be constantly dissatisfied while others, even having much less material goods, would be pleased with it. From my point of view, there is no bad fate; everything happening is the means to develop our soul and draw unique lessons.
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Mindfulness is a key concept in the problem of freedom of a person. Living consciously means to notice certain patterns in life (Siegel, 2010, p. 22). It means being able to look inside ourselves and being able to draw the right conclusions from the events. When people live unconsciously, their reaction in response to the events surrounding them becomes mechanical and spontaneous. When the outside world begins to take them out of balance, they are not aware of their thoughts and actions. As a rule, a person begins to meet the world in the same coin rather to look at themselves to see and realize the full reasons for such behavior. With such freedom of choice, the behavior of a person is equal to zero. A person usually does not respond to the event itself but to the emotions that occurred within them in response to an event.
Thus, it should be always remembered that the freedom of choice is their responsibility. Not always external conditions are designed out hard. It is just necessary to start to live consciously. At least, there is always a choice of how to react to a particular life event. Of course, people cannot ignore their fate. For example, no matter how much I have worked on my character, some tendencies remind of themselves every time. It is a part of me, which I never will be able to escape from. However, it is significant to learn to live in harmony with ourselves focusing on the strengths of our character and freedom of choice.
A person is able to change attitude towards life if he/she is able to find his/her place in this world. At plain everyday level, it is impossible to understand this world, which makes people constantly think that it is unfair and imperfect. However, when a person stands in the mindful position, from that moment, he or she takes responsibility for their life. From that moment, the person ceases to shift it onto others. A truly wise person takes all the circumstances of life, both good and bad, as a benefit for themselves, and tries to learn from them the necessary lessons. He or she learns to take any turn of events. When a person is highly dependent on external circumstances, he or she loses control of life. Such a person will never be truly free and happy since there will always be a cause for frustration and suffering (Siegel, 2010, p. 30). The things people most strongly attached to are exactly those things that are able to inflict the greatest pain such as a swinging pendulum. For example, if one is attached to the children, their behavior will be more likely to frustrate a person. If someone is dependent on family relations, the husband or wife respectively will be their greatest concern. When one is attached to the results of their work, they are often disappointed when their expectations are not consistent with reality. Thus, the attitudes to surrounding people and events are the way to freely control our life.
It is necessary to emphasize that human freedom of choice is restricted and limited by a variety of factors. It is hardly possible to say that a person can fully control their life and freely express their will. Getting the right to choose, a person assumes the responsibility for their choice. However, the mankind was always interested in answering the question of how to become a free man. The angle of perception of each situation can be chosen. In addition, it is possible to study and use the existing laws of nature. In other words, it is possible to choose the position to treat the issue of freedom of choice. In addition, each method of observation automatically generates the appropriate attitude or condition. Thus, the choice of the angle of perception is the area where free will can manifest itself.