Free will  

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"There can be no scientific psychology of man, for the aim of psychology is to derive what is not derivative, to prove to every man what his real nature and essence are, to deduce these. But the possibility of deducing them would imply that they were not free. As soon as it has been admitted that the conduct, action, nature, of an individual man can be determined scientifically, it will be proved that man has no free will. Kant and Schopenhauer understood this fully, and, on the other hand, Hume and Herbart, the founders of modern psychology, did not believe in free-will." --Sex and Character (1903) by Otto Weininger

This page Free will is part of the politics series.Illustration:Liberty Leading the People (1831, detail) by Eugène Delacroix.
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This page Free will is part of the politics series.
Illustration:Liberty Leading the People (1831, detail) by Eugène Delacroix.

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The question of free will is whether, and in what sense, rational agents exercise control over their actions and decisions. Addressing this question requires understanding the relation between freedom and cause, and determining whether or not the laws of nature are causally deterministic. The various philosophical positions taken differ on whether all events are determined or not—determinism versus indeterminism—and also on whether freedom can coexist with determinism or not—compatibilism versus incompatibilism. So, for instance, hard determinists argue that the universe is deterministic, and that this makes free will impossible.

The principle of free will has religious, ethical, and scientific implications. For example, in the religious realm, free will may imply that an omnipotent divinity does not assert its power over individual will and choices. In ethics, it may imply that individuals can be held morally accountable for their actions. In the scientific realm, it may imply that the actions of the body, including the brain and the mind, are not wholly determined by physical causality. The question of free will has been a central issue since the beginning of philosophical thought.

Arthur Schopenhauer put the puzzle of free will and moral responsibility in these terms:

Everyone believes himself a priori to be perfectly free, even in his individual actions, and thinks that at every moment he can commence another manner of life. ... But a posteriori, through experience, he finds to his astonishment that he is not free, but subjected to necessity, that in spite of all his resolutions and reflections he does not change his conduct, and that from the beginning of his life to the end of it, he must carry out the very character which he himself condemns...

In his On the Freedom of the Will, Schopenhauer stated, "You can do what you will, but in any given moment of your life you can will only one definite thing and absolutely nothing other than that one thing."

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