The idea that humans possess free will is an antiquated concept used to justify a person's thoughts and actions. A human is a chemically constructed entity, and all of one's thoughts and actions are ultimately determined by the balance and interplay of atoms within that entity.
Within a society we make choices that are deemed acceptable or unacceptable according to the mores of that society. Throughout history, that which was acceptable in one society would not necessarily be acceptable in another. A Mayan priest could sacrifice another human without moral guilt, whereas human sacrifice is unthinkable in our society. The mores of a society are generally based upon the prevailing consciousness of what is right. The degree to which an individual within a society does what is right is ultimately determined by that individual's chemical balance, and not by the free will of the individual.
Can a bald man will himself to grow hair? Can a woman will herself to become pregnant? If we cannot will (have control over) physical changes, how can we expect that we can will that which evolves from the mind? The act of suicide and sexual preference or orientation are examples of choices originating in the mind determined by the body's chemistry and not by the free will of the person.
People can live their life making acceptable societal choices--until they develop Alzheimer's. As Alzheimer's progresses, more of their actions could fall outside society's acceptable norms. As it progresses, is their free will gradually lost? Can they have partial free will? At what point in the progression of Alzheimer's do they no longer have free will? If a person loses any or all of their free will, are they no longer human?
All humans must possess free will at all times if it is to be valid. There are those who, because of a chemical imbalance, make choices that are unacceptable within their society. This is obvious when a person's choice is a result of their body's chemical imbalance brought on by drugs, whether or not the drugs were induced into their system legally or illegally.
If a person's choices can be affected by the introduction of chemicals, what about the person whose choices are affected by chemical imbalances which are a natural part of their system and over which they have no control? It seems logical that their actions are not a result of free will. If this is true, then not everyone has free will, and if everyone does not have free will, then no one has.
What we think and do is determined not by free will, but by the atoms of us (our genetic makeup) and within us (our body's chemical balance).
Paul Christ of Harrison is a retired middle school teacher who understands there is little value in hot air.
Editorial on 05/16/2019
Print Headline: What free will?