Our readings of the erudite essays of the classical philosophers, on the subject of “free will,” reveal them, in general, to be the context of the concern for political liberty from a King or from Church dogma. In the contemporary, post-Freud era, it has become relevant and meaningfully, useful, to consider such conceit in the context of the nature and extent of the individual’s realistic, motivational freedom of action.
The subject of Man’s freedom of choice, is contemporaneously, perceived in the nature of an unfolding, dynamic scenario, commencing at the earliest stage of childhood (perhaps, even earlier) based, upon the nuanced confluence of many individualized, factors, sociological, psychological, environmental, medical, economic and situational. The Individual’s choices, aspirations, fears, and general mindset, if not quite, ordained, by his life circumstances, are certainly guided, or affected, thereby. It might, empirically, and reasonably, be declared that no choices in life are, in themselves, entirely spontaneous or haphazard.
An individual’s expressed views, overt actions, chosen affiliations and friendships, are empirically based upon established, criteria, developed in the situational and contextual setting of his life, most especially, experiences at the early stages of childhood. However, The attitudes and innate inclinations of the mature individual may be altered, due to significant experience warranting such change, or perhaps, by educative persuasion; notwithstanding, he will, predictably, in some residual way, eternally, demonstrate a trace of his nuanced persona, and make choices, to some degree, affected by his earlier, impactful, perceptions.
Our basic apprehension as to the subject of individual motivation and free will (choices), fundamentally, commences with our often-cited and lauded, John Locke. Locke famously, declared, that Man is born with a clean slate (“tabula rasa”) and that his knowledge is (exclusively), acquired by experience. One’s signature and nuanced, frame of reference, aspirations and fears, accordingly, are dependent upon personal, situational and experiential, factors.
Included, among the latter formative, factors, are: the nature of his parental personalities and their level of education, the family’s state of finances, his race, religion, personal and family health, both physical and mental, his level of intelligence, inherited genes, acquired ethnos, existence of siblings, nature of his community, and his national and ethnic affiliation.
A virtual universe of accepted, familial views, relating to spiritual, matters (religious or secular), morality and justice, aspirational propriety, political affiliation and lifestyle, even food preferences, are among the impacting, factors in the home environment of the developing individual; which have enduring, if not, lifetime, influences on his “free,” choices of lifestyle and outlook.
His interactive experiences in society will be salient factors in the resultant development of his self-image and perceptional reality, which will affect the nature and extent of his aspirational choices (“free will”) and their possible effectuation. In the sober apprehension of his situational reality, factors such as race, economic situation, physical and emotional health, degree of education and innate, experiential, aptitude, will pragmatically, color his perceptions, and, accordingly, his “voluntary,” choices.
Nevertheless, it can, empirically, and positively, be said that “free will,” and aspirational choices, are, factually, attainable, or, else, unattainable, to the extent that the individual, albeit, fully, cognizant of the above phenomena, perceives them as impassable roadblocks or, to the contrary, more admirably, and constructively, as a personal challenge.