Free will


Hi there ,

I have to write a philosophy paper that encompasses free will and moral responsibility. I need help!!!
This must come from a purely philosophical standpoint: Do humans have a free will and why do they?

Again,this must be a purely philosophical standpoint and NOT a theological.

ANY help you provide will be greatly appreciated!!!


Nathan, a struggling philosophy student.

PS…i hope i asked this in the right place!


Turn in a blank sheet of paper to your professor and tell him that you didn’t have the choice to complete it or not. It was only your circumstances which prevented you, namely, your laziness, and any desire to write the paper was overpowered by your desire not to write the paper.

Its a joke, but maybe you can glean some wisdom from it, I hope :D.


I think I’ll do that…lol…good one fuzzy!


Don’t do it just yet. See if someone smarter than me has advice. I don’t know what your professors (or colleges) are like.


Your professor might find equally amusing to say that nature and nuture caused him to give you an F on your paper. :stuck_out_tongue:

I’m pressed for time, so I’ll give you a couple of thoughts. Determinists believe that nature (our genetics for instance) and nuture (how we raised, our social background and the like) completely determine our choices. They would say that there are no free choices because these two elements are all that there are. It is difficult to see though how we could be morally responsible for our acts if our acts are caused by these two external factors.

Those who believe in free will start with the premise that we could have chosen to act other than the way that we did in any particular instance. Determinists can’t say this because the two external factors absolutely determine how we act in any particular instance. In other words, we couldn’t have acted otherwise.

Many free will proponents would say that there must be something other than nature and nuture at play to allow us to have the freedom to act other than we did. Some would say that there is an immaterial component to the mind that allows us to do this. Some support for this is that all humanity seems to act as if it is making choices that aren’t completely determined. The very fact that we do attribute moral responsibility in society to people is another indicator that we believe we have free will.

I would go more into the moral responsibility aspect of both sides, but I have to go to Mass! Will try to post more later if I can. Hope this helps.


here is what I have so far…please dont laugh:

In comparison with the positivist view, the traditional view is fundamentally sound. Furthermore, since human beings have a free will they are morally responsible for their actions.
Human beings have a free will in which they can choose to do one thing or another. Throughout the evolutionary process, man has always been free. From thousands of years ago up to this point we have been free to make our own decisions. When humans are faced with a choice, that choice is an instantaneous event that has nothing to do with heredity. Choices are instinctual, governed by the activity in our brain. For example, think of an infant and the choices it makes. It chooses to cry when it wants something and it chooses to smile at a familiar face. Where is the heredity in this case? The infant could be three months old, or a year old; it doesn’t matter. This governing principle is with us our entire life. We choose because we can choose. Furthermore, there may be factors that influence our choices, but they don’t dictate them. On the other hand, there are others who share an opposing view.
Robert Blatchford’s view is that all choices are caused by heredity and environment. Robert says that our nature and our training make us decide to do good or evil. He goes on to say that, “the will is not free, if it were free man could not know right from wrong until he was taught” (Blatchford, p. 34). For example, when a man hesitates between doing one thing or another, the conflict is between his temperament and his training not his supposed free will. He also states that we can “foretell the action of certain men in certain cases” (Blatchford, p. 38). Furthermore, we can do this because each man’s heredity and environment will determine the choice each man makes in each certain case. However, with that said, human beings do have a free will that is not dictated by heredity and environment.


If you have access to a library, try Encycolpedia of Philosophy, ed. Paul Edwards or The Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Both will help with terms and sources.

Richard Taylor’s Metaphysics (Prentice Hall) has a good summary. James Felt, S.J.'s Making Sense of Your Freedom might also be helpful.

William James’ lecture “The Dilemma of Determinism” is a good balance to Blatchford.

Louis Pojman usually has a good selection in his introductory anthologies. Robert Kane has done some interesting work in the field and has several books and articles.

Augustine really developed our notion of free will, in large measure to explain the Fall and our moral responsibility, in On Free Choice of the Will.

Aquinas has some good stuff in the Summa I Q. 83; I-II Q. 6-19.

Good luck,



Responses in bold

Just some rough thoughts.

Best again,



Just a couple additions to dsb1808’s good critique.

Exercising and making free will choices involves reasoning; therefore little infants would not be exercising free will and therefore are not morally culpable.

Regarding “choices are instinctual”: If by that, you mean our instinctual reactions (eg withdrawing a hand from a hot burner), they would not be considered exercises of free will for the action takes place before we even think or reason about it and subsequently make a reasoned choice. Thank heavens!!! or we’d have a third degree burn every time. :slight_smile:



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