At the time of this writing, we are at the commencement of a term of sentence, to an indeterminate period of home confinement, officially adjudged by the prevailing medical and public health authorities. The understood and unhappy occasion, of our immobility, being the prevailing virus du jour, which we will, for simplicity’s sake, term the “corona” virus. The powers that be, have strongly recommended that two categories of people, the elderly and the health challenged, avoid crowds, and remain home. We, unfortunately, qualify under both criteria, and so, morosely, comply with the mandated restriction. The challenge imposed by this new pathology, is responsible for the interference with our freedom of agency, yet, the situation, for us, is merely, another confirmatory demonstration, of our long-held disavowal, of the philosophical theory, espousing “free will.”
We, disclaim any special degree of professional competence, regarding the arcane mysteries of neurological science, psychology or philosophy. It appears that there has been a considerable amount of serious investigation into the phenomenon and dynamics of free will, and human agency, conducted by professional investigators. Those investigators, who believe that brain action precedes and predetermines thought and action, viz., on biological grounds, have serious reservations about the conscious exercise of free will. Some experts feel otherwise, believing in conscious choice as to all behaviors; and. yet others, believe in conscious choice, but only, as to very meaningful acts. The findings of professional neurological, and psychological experiments, argue, respectively, in support, or opposition, to the absolute existence of free will. However, we will, unashamedly, deign to express our observations, from our (layman’s) experience, hoping that it will not be seen as reductionist, nor assumedly presumptuous, but rather, as based, upon decades of practical, empirical observation.
There exists in the literature, superbly reasoned and famously authored, works both, of classical, and, modern philosophical, thought, on the subject of mans’ free will, expressed in scholarly and abstract terms. It appears that over the centuries, there has been significant contention, as to whether knowledge and will, derives from the inspiration of the Deity, or, is voluntary and experiential. We see far superior merit, in the theories of great thinkers, like John Locke, who saw the life and development of man, as one derived, solely, from his learned experience.
We can conceive of no better explanation for man’s knowledge and the development of his persona, than had Locke, who famously said that man is born with a blank slate (“tabula rasa”) and that all knowledge and development, is acquired through man’s empirical experience. We would then deduce, that, since man is born and lives his life, as a separate and distinct individual, his respective life experiences, individual persona and motivation, would, logically, and correspondingly, differ. The respective differences in life situation would, effectively, dictate the opportunities, or lack thereof, and the general context of his life. Locke, undoubtedly made rational sense, and so it follows, by application of the “blank slate” conception, each individual would, thereby, learn and experience life, in accordance with his own, nuanced, situational context. A child, born feeble, or disabled, would have desires and choices, which would necessarily, be restricted, and markedly abridged and different, in comparison to a child, who, more fortunately, was born with a normal and healthy body. The disabled child’s “free will” would inarguably vary, by necessity, from those of the healthy child.
Our view is that, empirically observed, free will, or agency, is completely distinct and apart from the elements of scientific data, regarding the logistics of will, brain first, or conscious desire first, neurological pathways or obstructions, and of the philosophical literature. In actual dynamic and practical conception, the conception of, and opportunities for, free will, is universally, dependent upon the situational context into which a child is born, and matures. Body-brain, scientific issues aside, we find ourselves rather, in the context of free will (life choices) necessarily, more interested the presence and nature of significant life factors, such as gender, economics, race, nationality, religion or atheism, the personalities, married life, and age of parents, existence of siblings, dynamics of family interaction, individual health, the presence of disability, among many other life-time and impactful variables, determinative of the individual’s singular experience, as relevant, to our topic, and realistically, of utility, in the understanding of his possible aspirations, and will.
The naïve concept of choices and “free will,” also excludes the significance of individual upbringing and experiences in maturation, the latter, determinative of the perception of life’s phenomena, the evaluation of one’s limitations or privileges (personal or economic), the influence of bodily chemistry and physiology, the social interaction with others of divergent persona and varying ethical precepts, the extent of learning and mature perception, the events that occur in one’s life (positive or traumatic), the existence of painful experiences, personal abilities and aptitudes, intellectual prowess, and other situational factors, affecting the individual’s aspirations and choices.
It is a stimulating and entertaining exercise, to, socially, discuss the concept of “free will”, in abstract conception, with a philosopher, or the physiological, mechanical dynamics, of the conception, with neuroscientists and other dedicated professionals. Yet, on the non-esoteric level, where we actually live and experience life in the company of others, it is of crucial importance, to the assessment and understanding of the individual, to be aware of the forces and the context that shape his thoughts, behavior and, to our present point, his desired and attainable aspirations (“free will”).