You might remember your first introduction to the scientific method in science c

You might remember your first introduction to the scientific method in science class. You were taught that every event must have a preceding cause that essentially forces (causes) the event to happen the way that it happens. But when we talk about free will, we assert that we are strong not puppets on a string who are compelled to act the way we do by chemical, biological, or historical factors. Instead, we assert that we choose freely to do the things we do, even if we are influenced by our experience and knowledge (or lack thereof).
For the purposes of this discussion, consider whether or not your decision to enroll in college courses at SNHU was a freely made decision. Consider these three questions:
Was your decision to enroll at SNHU the result of your own decision, or was it the result of a complex chain of cause and effect? To use the language of the free will–determinism debate, was your decision to enroll at SNHU the result of your free will in some way, or was it determined?
Could you have chosen not to attend college? Feeling constrained to attend college due to career issues or choices is one thing; enrolling because you had no choice is another.
Was enrolling at another online or face-to-face university an option? Did the desirability of enrolling at SNHU outweigh other alternatives? If so, is that a “cause” or just an “influencer” of your decision?
As you enter this discussion, consider your response to all these questions and tell us your answer to at least one of these questions, followed by your response to the prompt, “How can we have free will in a materialistic universe?”
For your response posts, try to select those that chose a different question from the one you chose for your initial response. Remember that strong critical thinking is essential in responding to other students. This means that you should be finding things that support or extend your classmates’ thoughts or that you take critical issue with in their arguments and positions. When possible, providing alternatives to another person’s arguments or positions is part of the task of a critical thinker.
PEER 1: Christopher Emerson: The starting point for any discussion of free will is WILL. What is this thing we think is free? What is “will”? We can all probably agree that the will is not 100% free. You are not free to survive in outer space without a spacesuit or spaceship, no matter how much willpower you muster. Fine, but what is will in the first place? Is it uniquely human?
Maybe the real issue is not whether our will is free, but how, where and for what it is exerted? Whether we speak about Hitler willing the death of millions, or about your willing yourself to get the Prospectus in on time, or about Serena Williams willing the ball to bounce a certain way, how humans exercise the unique capacity called will is a big deal.
Willpower is a prodigious thing. No bridge has ever been built, no championship ever won, no deadline ever met, without force of will. Some people use their will to make others submit, and others use their will to improve their own lives. Still others choose to join their willpower to that of others and become collaborative persons. Political movements seek to combine the will of many.
Mahatma Gandhi once said, “If we develop the force of will, we shall find that we do not need the force of arms.”
Adolf Hitler produced “The Triumph of the Will,” a 1935 propaganda film.
Jennifer Yuh Nelson is a noted storyboard artist and director.
In Confessions of a Born Again Pagan, Anthony Kronman follows Nietzsche in using the term “drive.” He writes that everything “strives to persevere in being.” (p. 822) And, “Every drive seeks endlessly greater power by arranging more and more of the world from its own point of view.” (p. 827) Willpower is an elemental drive in humans. Whether it is totally free, partially free or not free at all, will is a powerful drive, once it is unleashed. Willful individuals have changed the world.
Here then is my thesis: Asking whether the human will is free opens valuable avenues for personal investigation which can provide insight and wisdom; but asking how the human will is exercised is the most important moral, social, spiritual and political question of any age.
Comments welcome!
Good luck!
Mr E
Image credits:
Triumph of the Will:
PEER 2: Jon Shipley posted May 30, 2022 3:29 PM
While it may seem like my decision to enroll at SNHU was a result of a complex chain of cause and effect, ultimately it was my final decision to enroll. I knew my college career would look different from the traditional student. I have already gotten my associate’s degree, and was ok just having that. Then, I got hired at the University of Iowa, and saw the potential to move up within the hospital simply by having my degree in something. So, rather than deciding I was ok with my first job, I decided I’d like the chance to move up, so I decided to finish my bachelor’s degree. My wife encouraged me to look at multiple schools to find the best fit for me. I could have gone in person at the University of Iowa to finish my degree, but with my work hours, it was better to attend an online school. I did some research, and decided that SNHU was the best fit for me. It was not always destined for me to attend SNHU, and I didn’t really envision attending SNHU until I got my job.
Having a materialistic universe means only physical matter and its properties exist. Honestly, this is something that is kind of hard to wrap your head around. Materialism believes there is no spirits, or minds controlling us. Rather, simply our physical being. Because of that, I think it is easier to wrap yourself around the concept of free will. There can be two people raised the exact same way, but have entirely different outcomes due to their free will. You hear news stories all the time about siblings raised the same way with the same chemical makeup, only for one to turn out to a saint, and the other to turn out a sinner. The only logical explanation behind that is free will. Free will is in interesting concept. Growing up, the first I heard of free will was in a church setting. Catholic school taught me that God gave us free will in order to make decisions over a life that he ultimately had total control over. (I guess this would mean the Catholics take a immaterialism view of the world). Looking at it now, it was a way to explain the evil in the world while trying to prove the existence of God. If we are in a world where reality consists of purely physical or material components, then we have to be bound by free will. There is no external force or spirit guiding us in the decisions we make.

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