What is free will? By Armando Massarenti

This post is also available in: Spanish

In several occasions you raise the issue of whether there is free will and what it may be.

I could answer with a question: does it make sense to go on living if I think that every one of my decisions is determined, or was simply already known by the mind of some higher entity, or if the world is dominated by total determinism? The answers from philosophy and religion have been different and varied. In order to reach the core of the matter, some American psychologists have done an interesting experiment. They have asked a series of individuals if, given a totally deterministic world, they still thought there was free will. However, while to some that world was described as fictitious, to others it was described as the real world, that which they inhabit everyday when they make their everyday decisions, small and big. Well, in the first case the subjects mostly stated a world like that denies free will; in the second group, the tendency was the opposite. What does that mean? That human beings have a tendency to consider themselves free and responsible for their own acts. And it may be thanks to that feeling of freedom and responsibility that it seems to us we are able to say -returning to the first question- that life has a meaning for us.

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