Post 3: The Psychology of Free Will

80 hours, 4.5 books, several articles, 23 written pages, and three times trying to write this blog post because somehow it keeps getting deleted and I am (officially at least) done my research. Overall, doing this research was a great experience for me. Two things that I did find were that it was much harder to find relevant material for my research than I had expected and it was much easier to drift into speculation that I would have imagined. The first is because when you discuss a topic like free will, so many other philosophical topics easily drift right into the discussion. The transition from a discussion of free will to what makes you you or to is there a god or to what is morality really is  is all to easy to make, which, for at least some of the authors I read, led them very off task from what I was trying to do research on. The second is because many of the studies that led me to do this research turned out to prove much less than I had anticipated. This gap in scientific knowledge then left a lot of room for pondering. This was both good and bad. It was good because it allowed me to really think deeply and attempt to create some of my own philosophical examples, but obviously it was less good because it is far easier to question philosophical musings than scientific data.

Despite these unforeseen issues I faced, I did manage to at least begin to answer the questions I set out to write about in my last blog post. Obviously the extent of my answers is limited by what I read and what I myself believe, but at least they are more in depth and thoughtful then I would have been able to provide at the beginning of my work with this topic. I have (attempted to at least) attach a copy of my essay to this post so if anyone is interested in what my answers turned out like then you can take a look. I will warn you that as of right now the paper is totally unedited, so read at your own risk. I wanted to be able to get this post up before I headed back to school, so I figured I would post it anyway, but some of it was definitely written late at night which may impact the quality of some of the grammar. If I can, once I edit the paper I will try to update it on this post or another post, but here it is for now!



  1. Hi Hannah!

    I’ve read your blog posts and I think you’ve addressed a really interesting topic. Initially, I agree with the notion that we lack free as described in Harris’ book–the idea that an infinite amount of factors outside of our control influence our decisions, whether we know it or not. In fact, I have often felt that because of that, I shouldn’t stress about things that don’t work out in my favor because I didn’t have complete control over them anyway.

    Another point that I was happy you addressed is as follows: how do we define free will? I think it is extremely necessary to come up with solid agreed-upon definition of what constitutes “free will.” Often, I think philosophical topics such as this become so abstracted that it is difficult to make persuasive arguments because so there is so much that is left open to personal interpretation. I looked up the definition of “free will” and I found two descriptions, which, in my opinion, seem to mean slightly different things. Free will is “the power of acting without the constraint of necessity or fate” and “the ability to act at one’s own discretion.” The first clause implies that if fate plays any role in what happens to us, we do not have free will. On the other hand, the second clause implies that if we can consciously make a decision between two or more things, we have free will. I guess the argument then becomes, what does it mean to consciously make a decision?

    Anyway, I think your research was very informative and well done–good work!

  2. Lauren Herbine says:

    I loved your paper! The tone was very conversational, so it made it very easy to read. I like how you explained everything, so that even me, with no prior philosophical experience, understood (most) of it. What I found most intriguing were the different definitions of free will. How you explained Mele’s definition of Libertarianism really made me think, and now I’m wondering why I’m currently wearing a purple shirt….

    Anyway, great job, and thanks for sharing with us!