Suppose a man works 15 hour shifts to provide for his wife and 10 kids, and after a very long and exhaustive day, he comes home to find his wife in bed with another man.

At what point does the man decide that this situation should make him angry and yell, sad and cry, or joyful and laugh?

In other words, does an amount of time pass before free will kicks in and the man makes a decision that reflects the self he’s created (leaving him temporarily vulnerable to make bad decisions), or is free will always there so that he always has absolute control of his emotions and actions.

  • Read impulsivity. People differ in this kind, some of them are less impulsive and some are more impulsive. – rus9384 Sep 17 '18 at 11:05
  • @rus9384 Why are some people more impulsive than others? Are there different degrees of free will that each person possesses, so that they can’t help it; or do people choose to be more impulsive than others? – Cannabijoy Sep 17 '18 at 11:36
  • No, people don't choose this. It is a feature of temperament. But people can train to be better in self-control (to some degree). – rus9384 Sep 17 '18 at 11:39
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    But this depends on the definition. For a compatibilist determinist free will can be a state of self-control. In this meaning it makes sense to speak about free will. And then some people have higher degrees of freedom in their wills than others. For a hard determinist both are not states of free will. But who will argue they are similar? – rus9384 Sep 17 '18 at 11:48
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    I would say we can control our emotions. The essential trick would be to take our ego out of the situation, When one does this it becomes possible to decide to allow ourself to become angry or refrain. This is not a proof of freewill anymore than is our control of our little finger. That is to say, we can (seem to) decide to do or not to do all sorts of things but cannot prove that we are free to decide. – user20253 Sep 18 '18 at 13:58

This answer is only partial since it addresses only the second half of the question.

Determinism means that all events are completely explained by other events. Any deviations from that definition need to be explained. As the Information Philosopher puts it:

Determinism is the philosophical idea that every event or state of affairs, including every human decision and action, is the inevitable and necessary consequence of antecedent states of affairs.

I am emphasizing the "every" as "all" and the "inevitable and necessary" as "completely explained" to more easily represent the negative of determinism.

One negates determinism by finding just one event that is not completely explained. There is no requirement that that event be absolutely inexplicable by prior events. There may be many influences on that event. There is no requirement that all events be such. Only one event that is not completely explained by prior events is all we need to negate determinism.

Do such events exist? Yes, one need look only at quantum mechanics to find them. Quantum mechanics becomes physical evidence against determinism. Given that physical evidence all one has left as the Information Philosopher describes it is "adequate (or statistical) determinism" which is adequately predictable.

Here is what the Information Philosopher who identified ten dogmas of determinism says about the belief in determinism :

Belief in strict determinism, in the face of physical evidence for indeterminism, is only tenable today for dogmatic philosophy.

So, to say, "is free will always there so that he always has absolute control of his emotions and actions" is describing a straw man, not free will. Using a definition of free will as "always" having "absolute control" is to set up a straw man argument.

See Mark Balaguer's Free Will for further clarification of this problem from a physicalist perspective. He looks at free will as a problem to be settled by neuroscience, not philosophers, which is no where near solved today.

The other part of this question is more difficult and more interesting and I can only speculate on an answer. The OP asks "does an amount of time pass before free will kicks in and the man makes a decision that reflects the self he’s created".

Robert Kane presents the ideas of alternate possibilities, ultimate responsibility and self-forming actions to ground his "event-causal libertarian view of free will". (page 268) This would be close to the idea of a self that one has created.

This, however, restricts free will to humans. Could other species have it as well? Could even non-living systems have it? Does it really require an intellect?

Since I don't have answers for those questions, this answer to the other half of the OP question is only partial except for the reference to Kane.


Balaguer, M. (2014). Free will. MIT Press.

Information Philosophy, "Ten Dogmas of Determinism" http://www.informationphilosopher.com/solutions/dogmas/

Kane, R, "Free Will: New Foundations for an Ancient Problem" reprinted in Pereboom, D. (Ed.). (2009). Free will. Hackett Publishing.

  • Can you please provide sources when you say that quantum mechanics provides evidence against determinism? Just saying, "because the uncertainty principle," is not sufficient, btw. – Daddy Kropotkin Sep 17 '18 at 18:49
  • @N.Steinle My reference was the Information Philosopher on that. I didn't write "because the uncertainty principle". For even more detail see the "Ten Dogmas of Determinism". – Frank Hubeny Sep 17 '18 at 19:04
  • You've cited the same article for everything... I have read that article, and he provides no evidence. He just cites other articles he has written. It's a closed loop! – Daddy Kropotkin Sep 17 '18 at 20:27
  • There's a chat room on free will. We can discuss it more there: chat.stackexchange.com/rooms/76868/… – Frank Hubeny Sep 17 '18 at 21:05
  • @FrankHubeny Thanks for the answer. I like the Pilot-Wave interpretation of QM, so I don’t see a need for indeterminism for anything. I think you know that this answer doesn’t say anything about emotions, and that’s what I’m really interested in. Has Kane ever mentioned emotions? – Cannabijoy Sep 18 '18 at 3:16

I've expressed the point I stick to here and here. Consciousness is responsible from the beginning because it is always counter of an experience: there is no experience in or of consciousness, but only for consciousness. From the start, it is engaged in everything there happens, by connivance.

As a consciousness, I can feel myself "angry" only to the extent I'm not enough or not truly angry. The very fact of appreciating the anger puts me in free position to that my emotion, because consciousness transcends everything it poses; therefore if reflection brings my anger as an object to the consciousness the anger incapsulates to be an ideal state [which is, not exists] but I can experience [exist, not be] it only as the lack of it. I can never, to myself, be angry and I can appear angry only thanks to that I only pretend to be angry. I cannot escape the fact that I'm angry (really) only in the sense that I see myself (as) angry, which means I'm thrown in my freedom against my emotion. I can have an emotion or other mental state in no other way than separated from it.

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