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The Reality of Free-Will

February 24, 2020

Many people make a false presumption when they talk about free-will. They place themselves into a particular ontological framework of external space and time as having precedence to their own state of being here and now, then find it impossible for that being here and now to have any freedom.

Well, no wonder! You have created an ontological prison for yourself before even beginning to address the issue. You have surrounded yourself by an iron cage as a powerless speck with no connection to anything around you, with no grip on the world and determined by that world. Funnily enough, as soon as you don’t start from this ontological prioritisation of external space and time, there is no problem at all finding free-will.

A philosopher like Galen Strawson finds it unpalatable that an individual being here and now would dare to have the ego to identify themselves with all of reality, and yet that that is what they must do, in order to have a concept of free will that makes any sense. His argument being a good one on this point, which is that if we are free we would have to be accountable for our whole genesis of actions going all the way back to creation. If not, then at some point, luck would swallow our moral claim, in some event that against our will made us more susceptible to willing something freely and correctly. Thus, that luck is the source of our initial moral goodness, not our own agency in free-will.

But, regardless of how it may seem unpalatable that we could be the whole of reality in a given situation, and how it seems impossible once we have hypostatised an externalised space and time arena as pre-existing us, the fact remains that insofar as we are presented, as aware beings with moral choices, this is precisely the reality we are faced with. We are in a uniquely emergent situation in history at these moments and nothing but our awareness in the moment exists and means anything to the solving of the problem. There are no other resources to draw upon. No social context, no space-time, external, determining framework pushing our body around to act in such and such a way. These kinds of things we can only add in after the fact.

So in that moment, we are free, as in that moment, our awareness encompasses the whole reality of the situation that we must deal with. Why some philosophers refuse to see this, I can only take as being a case of engaging either in disingenuous polemics or sophistry or devils advocate of some kind, or being so out of touch with their own awareness and state of being that they are unable to recognise these moments as coming to pass in their own lives.

Perhaps the reified, externalised space-time arena as an ontology has infected their thinking to such an extent, that though they still act at times as if it doesn’t exist in their daily lives, they are unable to ever think and reason, as if it doesn’t exist in the philosophical parlour.

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