Free will is the ability to choose between different possible courses of action unimpeded.
- Man cannot be free if he does not know that he is subject to necessity, because his freedom is always won in his never wholly successful attempts to liberate himself from necessity.
- Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition (1958), part 3, chapter 16.
- The people who walk angelically according to their free will and practice discipline in the life of the angels remove themselves completely from the desires of the flesh, beloved brothers; they die daily in the life that belongs to earth, but they live in the life of the angels, just as they share in the life of the Lord.
- Athanasius of Alexandria “The advanced life of virtue,” Athanasius and the Politics of Asceticism (1995), p. 314
- It might be said that within the limits of the intelligent direction of the intelligent man, there is free will, as far as activity in the human kingdom is concerned. Where no mind activity is present, and where there is no power to discriminate, to analyse and to choose, there is no free will.
- Alice Bailey A Treatise on the Seven Rays: Volume 2: Esoteric Psychology II. (1942) p. 29
- Christ and the spiritual Hierarchy never - no matter how great the need or important the incentive - infringe upon the divine right of men to take their own decisions, to exert their own free will, and to achieve freedom by fighting for freedom - individually, nationally, and internationally. When true freedom covers the earth, we shall see the end of tyranny - politically, religiously and economically. I am not here referring to modern democracy as a condition which meets the needs, for democracy is at present a philosophy of wishful thinking, and an unachieved ideal. I refer to that period which will surely come, in which an enlightened people will rule; these people will not tolerate authoritarianism in any political system; they will not accept or permit the rule of any body of men who undertake to tell them what they must believe in order to be saved, or what government they must accept. When the people are told the truth, and when they can freely judge and decide for themselves, we shall then see a much better world.
- Alice Bailey The Reappearance of the Christ (1947) p. 164/5
- To change the subject, he said, “I’ve been thinking a lot.”
“Yeah,” he said, trying not to fidget, a weird feeling in his head. “I reckon free will is bullshit.”
“You need to get some sleep, Spider.”
“No, no, I feel okay, more or less.”
“Free will,” she said, shaking her head.
“It’s an illusion. That’s all it is. Everything is already sorted out, every decision, every possibility, it’s all determined, scripted, whatever.”
Iris was looking at him as if she was worried. “Where’d all this come from?”
“I’ve been to the End of bloody Time, Iris. From that perspective, everything is done and settled. Basically, everything that could happen has happened. It’s all mapped out, documented, diagrammed, written up in great big books, and ignored.”
“You’re a crazy bastard, you know that, Spider?”
“Maybe not crazy enough,” he said.
Iris was still struggling for traction on the conversation. “You think everything is predetermined? Is that it? But what about—”
“No. You just think you have free will.”
“So, according to you,” Iris said, looking bewildered, “a guy who kills his wife was always going to kill her. She was always going to die.”
“From his point of view, he doesn’t know that, and neither does she, but yeah. She was always a goner, so to speak.”
“There is no way I can accept this,” she said. “It’s intolerable. It robs individual people of moral agency. According to you nobody chooses to do anything; they’re just following a script. That means nobody’s responsible for anything.”
“I said free will is an illusion. We think we’ve got moral agency, we think we make choices. It’s a perfect illusion. It just depends on your point of view.”
“It’s a bloody pathway to madness, I reckon,” Iris said.
“I dunno,” he said. “Right now, sitting here, thinking about everything, I think it makes a lot of sense. Kinda, anyway.”
“Think you’ll find that’s just an illusion,” she said, and flashed a tiny smile.
- K. A. Bedford, Time Machines Repaired While-U-Wait (2008), Chapter 22
- There is a way to escape the inference of superluminal speeds and spooky action at a distance. But it involves absolute determinism in the universe, the complete absence of free will. Suppose the world is super-deterministic, with not just inanimate nature running on behind-the-scenes clockwork, but with our behavior, including our belief that we are free to choose to do one experiment rather than another, absolutely predetermined, including the ‘decision’ by the experimenter to carry out one set of measurements rather than another, the difficulty disappears. There is no need for a faster-than-light signal to tell particle A what measurement has been carried out on particle B, because the universe, including particle A, already ‘knows’ what that measurement, and its outcome, will be.
- John Stewart Bell as quoted in The Ghost in the Atom: A Discussion of the Mysteries of Quantum Physics, by Paul C. W. Davies and Julian R. Brown, 1986/1993, pp. 45-46
- What we really mean by free will... is the visualizing of alternatives and making a choice between them. ...the central problem of human consciousness depends on this ability to imagine.
- Jacob Bronowski, The Origins of Knowledge and Imagination (1978)
- Heaven weeps, but free will is sacred. The meaning of yes is created by the ability to say no.
- Lois McMaster Bujold, The Hallowed Hunt (2005), Chapter 24
- Endowed with a spiritual soul, with intellect and with free will, the human person is from his very conception ordered to God and destined for eternal beatitude.
- Can we get control of an individual to the point where he will do our bidding against his will and even against fundamental laws of nature, such as self preservation?
- CIA interdepartmental memo Project ARTICHOKE January 1952
- We have limited free will. Our free will goes only so far. Inevitably, the `cosmic magnet' draws us back into incarnation. Occasionally people write to me, and say: "Please, Mr Creme, would you ask your Master to free me from the need to incarnate at all. I don't like it, I don't want it. I want to get out of life altogether. But I know that if I die, I'll just come back. So is there some law that will cancel the need to reincarnate any more? Of course there is not; you do not have the free will to do that. When you are in life, you have the free will to continue or to end your own life; everyone has that right. But you cannot do it without some reverse. If you take your own life, you have to come back and face the same situation. There is no escape until you have learned...
- Free will is really due to the Law of Cause and Effect, which governs all life on the planet. Every thought and action which we have sets in motion a series of causes. The effects stemming from these causes make our lives, for good or for ill. Everything that happens to us is the result of our response to outer stimuli. We cannot change the stimuli but we can change our reaction to the stimuli. So the nature of our responses governs the nature of our lives — we are really in charge. In the wider, broader, cosmic sense there is a kind of predestination because there is a Plan. That Plan is not made by narrow mathematicians, but by super-mathematicians, Who allow little gaps in the Plan. These gaps can be filled in by humanity, because it is not a dead, rigid Plan but a creative Plan. We are part of that Plan, so our creative input is also part of the Plan. In that sense we have free will.
- Benjamin Creme in [Maitreya's Mission, Vol. III, Share International,] (1997) p. 581
- Until people are initiate, they are swept along by evolution. When the person is initiate, especially once they have controlled the astral vehicle and are thinking and acting as a soul, then one can really say that the person has free will. Then you can actually develop your own destiny and control cause and effect because you understand the Law of Cause and Effect; you live the Law. You are acting, not reacting.
- Benjamin Creme in [Maitreya's Mission, Vol. II, Share International,] (1993) p. 531
- Both narrow-minded science and narrow-minded theology stand opposed to free will. ...The philosophical problem of chance and free will are closely related. The Socinian theology deals with both together. Free will is the coupling of a human mind to otherwise random processes inside the brain. God's will is the coupling of a universal mind to otherwise random processes in the world at large.
- Freeman Dyson, Infinite in All Directions (1988)
- We must not think of the problem in terms of a choice between being determined and being free. We must look at it dialectically, and say that man is indeed determined, but that it is open to him to overcome necessity, and that this act is freedom. Freedom is not static but dynamic; not a vested interest, but a prize continually to be won. The moment man stops and resigns himself, he becomes subject to determinism. He is most enslaved when he thinks he is comfortably settled in freedom.
- Jacques Ellul, The Technological Society (1964), p. xxxiii
- Many educators, and even politicians, have been firmly convinced that "free will" is not compatible with Newtonian physics, but very much so with quantum theory. They have been convinced also that it is desirable that the citizen should believe in free will, and they have exerted a certain influence in favor of the indeterministic formulation of subatomic physics. What they have in mind is certainly a sociological purpose of science, whatever the technological purposes may be.
- Philipp Frank, Philosophy of Science: The Link Between Science and Philosophy (1957) p. 358.
- If human beings can simply decide on what they want to do and then do it, then forecasting is impossible. Free will is beyond forecasting. But what is most interesting about humans is how unfree they are. It is possible for people today to have ten children, but hardly anyone does. We are deeply constrained in what we do by the time and place in which we live.
- George Friedman, The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century (2009), p. 252, Doubleday
The current worldview has it that everything is made of matter, and everything can be reduced to the elementary particles of matter, the basic constituents — building blocks — of matter.' And cause arises from the interactions of these basic building blocks or elementary particles; elementary particles make atoms, atoms make molecules, molecules make cells, and cells make brain. But all the way, the ultimate cause is always the interactions between the elementary particles. This is the belief — all cause moves from the elementary particles. This is what we call "upward causation." So in this view, what human beings — you and I think of as our free will does not really exist. It is only an epiphenomenon or secondary phenomenon, secondary to the causal power of matter. And any causal power that we seem to be able to exert on matter is just an illusion. This is the current paradigm.
Now, the opposite view is that everything starts with consciousness. That is, consciousness is the ground of all being. In this view, consciousness imposes "downward causation." In other words, our free will is real. When we act in the world we really are acting with causal power. This view does not deny that matter also has causal potency — it does not deny that there is causal power from elementary particles upward, so there is upward causation — but in addition it insists that there is also downward causation. It shows up in our creativity and acts of free will, or when we make moral decisions. In those occasions we are actually witnessing downward causation by consciousness.
- Niemand ist mehr Sklave, als der sich für frei hält, ohne es zu sein.
- None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Elective Affinities (1809), Bk. II, Ch. 5
- None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.
The illusion of free will...is itself an illusion. There is no illusion of free will. Thoughts and intentions simply arise. What else could they do? Now, some of you might think this sounds depressing, but it's actually incredibly freeing to see life this way. It does take something away from life: what it takes away from life is an egocentric view of life. We're not truly separate: we are linked to one another, we are linked to the world, we are linked to our past, and to history. And what we do actually matters because of that linkage, because of the permeability, because of the fact that we can't be the true locus of responsibility. That's what makes it all matter.
So you can't take credit for your talents, but it really matters if you use them. You can't really be blamed for your weaknesses and your failings, but it matters if you correct them. Pride and shame don't make a lot of sense in the final analyses. But they were no fun anyway. These are isolating emotions. What does make sense are things like compassion and love: caring about well-being makes sense; trying to maximize your well-being and the well-being of others makes sense. There is still a difference between suffering and happiness, and love consists in wanting those we love to be happy. All of that still makes sense without free will.
And, of course, nothing that I've said makes social and political freedom any less valuable: having a gun to your head is still a problem worth rectifying, wherever intentions come from. So the freedom to do what one wants is still precious. But the idea that we as conscious beings are deeply responsible for what we want I think needs to be revised: it just can't be mapped onto reality, neither objective nor subjective. And if we're going to be guided by reality, rather than by the fantasy lives of our antecessors, I think our view of ourselves needs to change.
- Sam Harris, Discussion on Free Will at Sydney Opera House Festival of Dangerous Ideas 2012
- The ultimate objective test of free will would seem to be: Can one predict the behavior of the organism? If one can, then it clearly doesn't have free will but is predetermined. On the other hand, if one cannot predict the behavior, one could take that as an operational definition that the organism has free will … The real reason why we cannot predict human behavior is that it is just too difficult. We already know the basic physical laws that govern the activity of the brain, and they are comparatively simple. But it is just too hard to solve the equations when there are more than a few particles involved … So although we know the fundamental equations that govern the brain, we are quite unable to use them to predict human behavior. This situation arises in science whenever we deal with the macroscopic system, because the number of particles is always too large for there to be any chance of solving the fundamental equations. What we do instead is use effective theories. These are approximations in which the very large number of particles are replaced by a few quantities. An example is fluid mechanics … I want to suggest that the concept of free will and moral responsibility for our actions are really an effective theory in the sense of fluid mechanics. It may be that everything we do is determined by some grand unified theory. If that theory has determined that we shall die by hanging, then we shall not drown. But you would have to be awfully sure that you were destined for the gallows to put to sea in a small boat during a storm. I have noticed that even people who claim everything is predetermined and that we can do nothing to change it, look before they cross the road. … One cannot base one's conduct on the idea that everything is determined, because one does not know what has been determined. Instead, one has to adopt the effective theory that one has free will and that one is responsible for one's actions. This theory is not very good at predicting human behavior, but we adopt it because there is no chance of solving the equations arising from the fundamental laws. There is also a Darwinian reason that we believe in free will: A society in which the individual feels responsible for his or her actions is more likely to work together and survive to spread its values.
- Stephen Hawking, Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays (1993), pp. 133–135
- My first act of free will shall be to believe in free will.
- William James, The Thought and Character of William James (1936) vol.1, p.323
- An object that has no will of its own, capable, if need be, of opposing its creator, and with no qualities other than its creator’s, such an object has no independent existence and is incapable of ethical decision. ... Therefore Lucifer was perhaps the one who best understood the divine will struggling to create a world and who carried out that will most faithfully. For, by rebelling against God, he became the active principle of a creation which opposed to God a counter-will of its own.
- Carl Jung, Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Volume 11: Psychology and Religion: West and East (1958), p. 196
- In the Middle Ages, people were born and baptized into the Church. But the Church was the corpus mysticum and it depended upon one's own free will whether one wanted to be a living or a dead member of the Mystical Body of Christ. The cry "traitor" was only raised against those who broke the solemn oath of allegiance, not those who chose to go ways different from their status of birth. The Connêtable Charles de Bourbon who served with Charles V, or Marshal Moritz of Saxony, the great general under Louis XV were hardly considered to be traitors. Soldiers picked out the countries they wanted to serve. Prospective monks chose their orders. There were no "traitors to the proletariat" or "traitors to democracy." Today we live in an age of increased predestination and decreased free will, where Calvin, Freud, Marx, Luther, Darwin, Dewey, and the host of racial biologists have laid down the inexorable laws of anthropological, religious, psychological, environmental, and sociological determinism with no hope for escape. We are merely exhorted to make a virtue out of necessity and to be loyal to our prison and prisoners. Every attempt from our side to escape the artificial shell or to use our dormant remainders of free will to destroy the chains is branded as treason and punished accordingly by State or Society or even by both.
- Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, The Menace of the Herd (1943), p. 133 (emphasis in the original)
- Man is a masterpiece of creation if for no other reason than that, all the weight of evidence for determinism notwithstanding, he believes he has free will.
- Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, in Notebook J (1789), aphorism 249
- Dieser yrthum von freyen willen ist eyn eygen Artickel des Endchrist.
- This error of free will is a special doctrine of the Antichrist.
- This error about the free will is a peculiar teaching of Antichrist.
- Martin Luther Grund und Ursach aller Artikel D. Martin Luthers so durch römische Bulle unrechtlich verdammt sind (Defense and Explanation of all the Articles of Dr. Martin Luther which were Unjustly Condemned by the Roman Bull; An Argument in Defense of All the Articles of Dr. Martin Luther Wrongly Condemned in the Roman Bull), Article 36, March 1521. Weimar, 7:451  
- Throughout your treatment you forget that you said that 'free-will' can do nothing without grace, and you prove that 'free-will' can do all things without grace! Your inferences and analogies "For if man has lost his freedom, and is forced to serve sin, and cannot will good, what conclusion can more justly be drawn concerning him, than that he sins and wills evil necessarily?"
- Martin Luther On the Bondage of the Will (1525) Pg. 149
- Let all the 'free-will' in the world do all it can with all its strength; it will never give rise to a single instance of ability to avoid being hardened if God does not give the Spirit, or of meriting mercy if it is left to its own strength.
- Martin Luther On the Bondage of the Will (1525) pg. 202
- Omnipotence and foreknowledge of God, I repeat, utterly destroy the doctrine of 'free-will'...doubtless it gives the greatest possible offense to common sense or natural reason, that God, Who is proclaimed as being full of mercy and goodness, and so on, should of His own mere will abandon, harden and damn men, as though He delighted in the sins and great eternal torments of such poor wretches. It seems an iniquitous, cruel, intolerable thought to think of God; and it is this that has been such a stumbling block to so many great men down through the ages. And who would not stumble at it? I have stumbled at it myself more than once, down to the deepest pit of despair, so that I wished I had never been made a man. (That was before I knew how health-giving that despair was, and how close to grace
- Martin Luther On the Bondage of the Will (1525) Pg. 217
- All the passages in the Holy Scriptures that mention assistance are they that do away with "free-will", and these are countless...For grace is needed, and the help of grace is given, because "free-will" can do nothing.
- Martin Luther On the Bondage of the Will (1525) Pg. 270
- I frankly confess that, for myself, even if it could be, I should not want "free-will" to be given me, nor anything to be left in my own hands to enable me to endeavour after salvation; not merely because in face of so many dangers, and adversities and assaults of devils, I could not stand my ground ; but because even were there no dangers. I should still be forced to labour with no guarantee of success. But now that God has taken my salvation out of the control of my own will, and put it under the control of His, and promised to save me, not according to my working or running, but according to His own grace and mercy, I have the comfortable certainty that He is faithful and will not lie to me, and that He is also great and powerful, so that no devils or opposition can break Him or pluck me from Him. Furthermore, I have the comfortable certainty that I please God, not by reason of the merit of my works, but by reason of His merciful favour promised to me; so that, if I work too little, or badly, He does not impute it to me, but with fatherly compassion pardons me and makes me better. This is the glorying of all the saints in their God.
- Martin Luther On the Bondage of the Will (1525) Pg. 313-314
- I said: “Then in reality I had little choice.”
“Let us say that your character has already determined your choice.”
- Michael Moorcock, The War Hound and the World’s Pain (1981), Chapter 3
- We must now take precautions to prevent you from being embarrassed by something in which the ignorant majority is at fault for lack of proper consideration, and so from supposing with them, that man has not been created truly good simply because he is able to do evil. ... If you reconsider this matter carefully and force your mind to apply a more acute understanding to it, it will be revealed to you that man's status is better and higher for the very reason for which it is thought to be inferior: it is on this choice between two ways, on this freedom to choose either alternative, that the glory of the rational mind is based, it is in this that the whole honor of our nature consists, it is from this that its dignity is derived.
- Pelagius, Letter to Demetrias, B. Rees, trans., Readings in World Christian History (2013), p. 207
- All the free decisions you have made and will make are determined by the mathematical nature of reality. Art and unconditional love are the only ways to turn your back on determinism, at least for a while.
- Radoslav Rochallyi, The second to last answer in the interview. (26 March 2023), "Love", "Freewill" , "Art"
- You can choose a ready guide in some celestial voice.
If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.
You can choose from phantom fears and kindness that can kill;
I will choose a path that's clear-
I will choose Free Will.
- Rush, Permanent Waves, "Freewill"
- I have free will, but not of my own choice. I have never freely chosen to have free will. I have to have free will, whether I like it or not!
- Raymond Smullyan, Is God a Taoist? (1977)
- It is misleading to say that somebody "chose" a dysfunctional relationship or any other negative situation in his or her life. Choice implies consciousness - a high degree of consciousness. Without it, you have no choice. Choice begins the moment you disidentify from the mind and its conditioned patterns, the moment you become present. Until you reach that point, you are unconscious, spiritually speaking. This means that you are compelled to think, feel, and act in certain ways according to the conditioning of your mind. That is why Jesus said: "Forgive them, for they know not what they do." This is not related to intelligence in the conventional sense of the word. I have met many highly intelligent and educated people who were also completely unconscious, which is to say completely identified with their mind. In fact, if mental development and increased knowledge are not counterbalanced by a corresponding growth in consciousness, the potential for unhappiness and disaster is very great. p. 142
- “You think shuffling a deck of cards gives it free will?” Kai shakes his head. “Nobody’s believed that shit for a hundred years. Until someone comes up with a neuron that fires without being poked, we’re all just—reacting.”
- Peter Watts, Hotshot, in Reach for Infinity (2014) edited by Jonathan Strahan, and published by Solaris ISBN 978-1-78108-203-4, pp. 318-319
- If man were not free, then he could not conceive of causality at all, and could not form any concept of it. Insight into lawfulness is already freedom from it.
- Otto Weininger, Collected Aphorisms, as translated by M. Dudaniec and K. Solway
- Everything is inanimate, if by that you mean things that operate according to cause and effect. Free will is an epiphenomenon, a misjudgment impressed upon us and sustained by the actions of brain molecules in motion.
- John C. Wright, Fugitives of Chaos (2006), Chapter 16, “Remember Next Time Not to Look”