Many believe free will is having the ability to make your own choices without outside influence. But everything you see, hear and smell is an outside influence. Every lesson learnt through past experience is an outside influence. Advertisers have learnt how to subliminally alter our choices without us even being aware of it. How can we ever trust that our decisions have not been influenced?

  • Can you change the title, and edit the question so that it is more amenable to an objective answer? Debate questions and opinion based answers are against the Philosophy SE policy. Feb 29, 2016 at 7:58
  • 1
    As written, this is a thoroughly opinion-based question. Can you make clearer what the question is that you are having about philosophy?
    – virmaior
    Feb 29, 2016 at 9:02
  • @virmaior I had no problem to answer this question, hopefully in an objective way :-) Of course the title contains the banned words "your opinion". But I think we should not disencourage new participants with their serious questions by being overly formal.
    – Jo Wehler
    Feb 29, 2016 at 9:10
  • It's not the words in the title that make this a poor question. Please tell me the question about philosophy you discern from the body of the question. The vast majority of it does not seem related to your answer.
    – virmaior
    Feb 29, 2016 at 9:10
  • 1
    @JoWehler if you can solve the problems with a question by editing (without making significant changes), do so and answer after that. If you can't, don't answer but close the question.
    – user2953
    Feb 29, 2016 at 9:31

1 Answer 1


1) Free will - according to a libertarian view - is defined by the following criteria:

  • Liberty: Under identical conditions it would be possible to decide or act in a different way than one actually did.

  • Intelligibility: The actor can explain and show the reasons why he decided and acted as he did.

  • Authorship: It is the person in question who decides and acts. The person is not forced.

Advocates of free will differ how strict they interpret these criteria. The contra-position to a libertarian view is a deterministic view. Our subjective and conscious experience conforms to a libertarian view. But the only scientific view (neuroscience), which I consider to have the ability to explain the phenomenon, is a deterministic one.

For the whole issue see e.g., Walter, Henrik: Neurophilosophy of Free will. (2001)

2) Of course we are influenced by outside factors. Most of all we are influenced by our previous experiences with our fellow men and with the physical world. In a given situation we do not just react to external stimuli. Instead our reactions depend also on our internal state. The latter is determined by what we have learnt and experienced.

Being totally independent in our decisions would not mean to decide but to play at dice (random choice).

  • 1
    Don't answer questions that should be closed.
    – user2953
    Feb 29, 2016 at 9:29
  • Does random exist? Or is random just an incomplete knowledge of the precipitating conditions which lead to an event/occurrence? Feb 29, 2016 at 13:35
  • @Zane Scheepers According to quantum mechanics the behaviour of certain microphysical objects is at random (radioactive decay of an atomic nucleus). And this randomness is not due to our incomplete knowledge but an objective property.
    – Jo Wehler
    Feb 29, 2016 at 16:03
  • @ZaneScheepers Jo's answer is misleading in that he omits compatiblism, as well as Roger Penrose's answer to the problems you mention. See this answer I posted to a previous question for the details. Mar 1, 2016 at 6:07
  • @Alexander S King Why misleading? I get the impression that's Penrose thoughts concerning an wayout form determinsim - similar to Eccles' - are not accepted by the maiority of neuoscientists. Are his thoughts more than pure speculation? Note, that Penrose is not a trained neuroscientist. His eminent reputation is from mathematics and physics.
    – Jo Wehler
    Mar 1, 2016 at 12:31

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .