Thursday, May 6, 2010

free will & the Divine

In my personal opinion, true free will necessitates the Divine. If one's fate is not ultimately determined by chemical reactions in her/his brain it seems as if humans must possess a nonphysical component, such as a soul/spirit/mind etc.

Therefore, it appears that we must look beyond the physical to the spiritual for the source of this component of our beings.

I "know" from my experience that part of my being, a non-physical component, is not controlled by chemical reactions.

It seems it would be difficult for one to reconcile this belief with disbelief in the Divine.

So this is how I see it: The Divine results in soul/spirit/mind, which is the only way "you" could ultimately be in control of your destiny.

How could one contend that chemical reactions are not responsible for his/her destiny without a belief in a non-physical component of humans? And if one believes in that non-physical component how can the Divine be denied?


  1. One thing: how does this 'nonphysical component' confer free will any better than our natural selves? Wouldn't a soul, given to one at birth, be equally determining as a chemical/genetic makeup? If what you do is guided by this nonphysical component, are you free to change this nonphysical component? If you an change this nonphysical component, what are you changing it with? Is it changing itself? If you cannot change your soul, is it controlling you? Do you truly have free will?

  2. Very interesting question. In the context of the above post I was loosely using the term "free will" to mean the ability to transcend the restraints of mere physical reactions. My perception of reality leads me to believe that individuals' are not completely bound by the physical. Although a nonphysical component may operate under some constraints, there is at least the possibility that free will exists to some degree (admittedly, this would probably involve the nonphysical component having some form of autonomy). However, if you deny any non-physical component, all your choices, personality, etc are determined by the sum total of the chemical reactions in your brain.

  3. Free will seems pretty much screwed either way. If you believe in a soul, that controls you. If you don't, chemical processes do. I don't exactly deny a non-physical component, I merely believe it to be completely outside the realm of any testing.

  4. The soul isn't some external force that controls you but rather the core of your being. In that context, I don't understand how free will wouldn't be possible. I agree, however, that the soul is outside the realm of testing.

  5. I guess the thing i am trying to say is that, if we have souls, they are really no different, in terms of their consequences on free will, than pure naturalism would be. Both are internal, and both control our actions; neither can be changed except by an outside force.

  6. "Both are internal, and both control our actions; neither can be changed except by an outside force."

    The soul could be autonomous (i.e. able to self rule). Pure naturalism leads to the underlying chemical reactions of the brain determining one's fate. Individual or collective chemical reactions are not autonomous in any way that would allow for free will. Therefore, only the existence of some non-physical component allows for the core of our beings to exert control over our destinies.

  7. "The soul could be autonomous (i.e. able to self rule)."

    Yeah, I get that. I suppose I simply have trouble comprehending it, and especially comprehending what GIVES the soul it's autonomy. My last attempt to explain it ended up with a soul, within a soul, within a soul...and so on. I pretty soon gave up on that.