Do I have free will?
Each of the past fifty mornings or so, I have been waking up wanting to write my next book, a novel that centers around a subject that’s closest to my heart, but I end up doing this and that, never getting around to doing what I want to do the most. If I had no other responsibilities, I’d choose to spend day after day writing that story, until I wrote “The End” on its last page, and then I’d probably move to painting day after day, until I had painted the image that has been torturing me for months.
But I don’t do any of these things. Instead, I do things that I must do.
So, do I have free will?
I’d say, “Well, that’s an interesting question.”
Free Will is traditionally explained as the capacity (not capability) to choose one’s own course of action.
Do I have the capacity to choose one course of action over the other?
The answer is, “Yes, I do.”
Do I have external constraints tying me down, making me do other things?
I’d say, “Yes and No. I can choose to do what I’d like with my today and tomorrow, but at some point, I’ll have to focus on work that pays.”
Am I then a free agent?
Allow me to dodge the question and say, “This is but an example of things that I want to do, but I decide against. Why? Because a complex web of expectations (some external, others internal) keeps me stranded. It allows me only a few degrees of freedom. In other words, it keeps me largely restrained.”
Back to the question. So do I have free will?
My honest answer is, “No. I don’t have free will. As long as I feel answerable to anyone, I don’t have free will in the real sense of the word. To be truly free, I mustn’t feel bound to do anything at all. When I choose, not for happiness or contentment, but for duty, morality, ethics, social expectations – my will isn’t really free. It still toes the line that’s been drawn for me by my family, society, gender, age, country, but I always believe that if the illusion of free will keeps us from revolting and clawing at the invisible bonds that surround us then it might not be such a bad thing after all.”
If the illusion of free will is real and it keeps us from causing trouble, let us not destroy it.