Is free will possible without a soul?

Conor Sherman (@shermacj) 9 years, 5 months ago

Hey everyone! This is my first official post, so I thought I would make it a fun one :)

I was recently in a philosophy lecture in which the topic of wether or not humans have souls (soul here refers to any non-physical component of our being). Naturally, that got me thinking about the ramifications that having (or not having) a soul could have on our concept of free will.

After a few days of pondering, I came to the conclusion that in order for free will to exist, there must be some non-physical component to our beings. For example, lets say I am presented with a scenario with only two possible courses of action. The decision that I make will be nothing more than an internal analysis done of my previous experiences (memories) by my brain (genetics). In order for there to be free will, some completely independent outside force, such as a soul, would have to somehow be providing input into the decision making process.

With that being said, I do not believe that humans have anything analogous to a soul, meaning that we also do not have free will (if my previous assumption wasn’t flawed). I can understand why some people find this idea troublesome, as the notion that we do not have free will severely damages the core principles of things like our justice system and most religions.

I hope you guys take the time to respond to this post! Although, you may not even have a choice ;)

April 22, 2013 at 9:12 pm
Anonymous (86) (@) 9 years, 5 months ago ago

1) It depends on how you define “free will.” For example, soft determinists believe free will is compatible with determinism because they define free will by as a person doing something willingly, but in the end that action was still determined.

2) As for contra-causal free will, the only way I could see that happening is if something was able to “transcend” it. (snerk)

3) The uncertainty principle does not prove free will, nor does it disprove determinism. Also, we wouldn’t necessarily have free will if determinism was false.

Anonymous (145) (@) 9 years, 5 months ago ago

Small differences in initial conditions (such as those due to rounding errors in numerical computation) yield widely diverging outcomes for such dynamical systems, rendering long-term prediction impossible in general. This happens even though these systems are deterministic, meaning that their future behavior is fully determined by their initial “conditions, with no random elements involved. In other words, the deterministic nature of these systems does not make them predictable. This behavior is known as deterministic chaos, or simply chaos.
This was summarised by Edward Lorenz as follows:

Chaos: When the present determines the future, but the approximate present does not approximately determine the future.”

yugen (29) (@jreynolds789) 9 years, 5 months ago ago

@shermacj Clever little ending there mate ;] I mean, I’d classify the last couple-few years of my life as being the king of bad decisions, I know that doesn’t prove anything for free will considering I could just be a driven life of misfortune according to your theory. But my contradiction, it seems though, that I made those bad choices, reaped and sowed from them, now Ive decided and am pursuing different future plans much more carefully and responsibly.. I think thats just the evolution of my being. I suppose there is no evidence to prove I have no free will and the bad decisions I have made along with the good are just exactly what I would make, very deep and an excellent thought, but on the flip side, there is no evidence to validate such a claim, and with the almost limitless universe and expanse of universes, I feel like nothing has restricted my actions to something previously ordained. We are too random in this vast expanse..

At least my take on the whole sha-bang =]

MonkeyZazu (1,865)M (@monkeyzazu) 9 years, 5 months ago ago


First define what free will is before deciding whether or not you have it. Some people would say free will is the ability to do what ever it is you want. The definition I’m giving to free will is “the choice to decide to take an action or to not”.

So in essense, freewill is a choice, but what makes the choice? Consciousness? Which consciosness is associate with the soul. So as you said, without a soul is freewill possible? You say no because you don’t think we have souls.

I think, we do have free will. I believe in the soul, but I come to the conclusion that we have free will, not from my belief of the soul, but from the acknowledgment of Duality. Let me explain.

If you see something with scorch marks on it, you come to the conclusion that it was scorched by something really hot. You don’t know what scorched it, you just know that it had to be very hot.

Because I acknowldge duality, I come to the conclusion that free will exist. Duality is good or bad, hot or cold, wrong or right, etc. Nothing in this world is genuinly good or bad, everything just is. You choose whether or not something is good or bad. You cant choose what is good or bad unless your free to think and reason why something is good or bad. Because everyone’s opinions and views of what is good and bad are different, that means that they each freely choose why they think that. I don’t know how they freely think, but I do see evidence of their freewill and choice.

I hope that makes sense.

MonkeyZazu (1,865)M (@monkeyzazu) 9 years, 5 months ago ago


I also have a theory about souls. In it I describe the plausiblity of a soul by using dreams as a bases. I call it the Dreaming Soul Theory. I would love to have input from someone who doesn’t believe in a soul. Check it out:

Dreaming Soul Theory

Matt (0) (@maxis) 9 years, 5 months ago ago

My opinion is that as long as we perceive ourselves as having free will then we pretty much have free will because on some level perception is basically reality

Bee (65) (@rainclouder) 9 years, 5 months ago ago

I have to agree and say we don’t really have free will. Our decisions are based off our minds, which are shaped by our experiences and genetics, like you said. There is nothing else to equate into the problem because if a “soul” were present then it would also have been shaped by our experiences.

Anonymous (2,833) (@) 9 years, 5 months ago ago

@shermacj, Is free will possible?

Define free will, and then explain how it can come about, and then I will ponder the question!

Glenn (79) (@th3wand3r3r) 9 years, 5 months ago ago

@shermacj, My definition of soul is not an entity or non-physical body that is within us as if we are just flesh bags, or vehicles for it. Rather the energy that comprises all things and makes all things possible is the soul. I use this many times to explain what I mean, but in science we have found that matter/energy cannot be created or destroyed. Thus all things are of the same matter and energy. Wondering how it came into being is fruitless. Seeing as it simply exists, trying to dissect it to further understand it, is missing the essence of what it is. Which is to say, that it just is. So with this stuff we call matter/energy all things are comprised of it making all things connected with an inability to be disconnected. Thus this is the soul of all things. As far as free will is concerned or as I will say, free to will, we are so free that we can think that we are not. Thus the complements of this whole thing such as life and death, light and darkness come together in harmony which is the experience we are all having. Life need not to happen as is completely evident in the fact that we haven’t found any life anywhere other than our planet. Also this would explain why there are so many seeds and sperm in living things to showcase how fragile life is; thus how it isn’t a necessity, rather a happening. All things in life are not chained to any way of working or acting or being but for anything to work there would have to be a harmony involved for anything to bear fruit. With this harmony things are free to change and are in constant change. Though with our naked eye things may appear to be the same, if we examine them closer through microscopes and/or a time lapse recording, we could see how things change over a period of time. Thus even in this moment great change is happening without an authority pointing the way. For even in life there is death and in death life. These things are inescapable and one may feel we are trapped in the cycle. This would mean to say that you think yourself separate from life and death and all other “opposites”, which are actually complements, when in fact you are these things. As stated earlier, matter/energy cannot be created or destroyed and it is thus that we are all cycles of this universe for we are it and it us. If I point to you and you to me and we both say “you”, what is the difference? If we point to ourselves and say “me” or “I”, again what is the difference? We are the same conscious energy experiencing itself as someone else though we both are sharing the same base experiences that cause all of this to be. We are free to think and feel whatever we wish which is to say we can think and feel that we are not free. If this is comprised of a harmony of complements, than free will must be accompanied by an inability to be free (illusion). Freedom does not stem from the past or the future. The past and the future cannot exist without the present. Something has to have happened for it to have HAD happened. Something has to happen continuously for it to have a future. Meaning that the past and the future come from the present which is right now. So the past present and future are actually all one. This means that E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G is happening AT THIS VERY MOMENT. The big bang is still happening, and all events in “history” have happened at this very immediate experience as well. The eternal now that can never be spoken because it is impossible. This is where freedom lies and where the identity of your soul rests. A journey each man, woman, and child must walk alone. I hope this has helped.

Viewing 8 reply threads
load more