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On Free Will -- How To Better Exercise Our Ambitions

Updated: 6 days ago

An officer and a company of soldiers standing at attention.

"Whom we will obey is not as relevant as WHY we would choose to obey them all, being sentient beings thereby gifted with free will" -- John Duran

Free Will vs. Weakness in the Face of Choices

When the topic of free will arises, we often face a crucial distinction: what influences our decisions versus the inherent ability to make them independently. This distinction separates the mere act of choosing from the true essence of free will, which lies in the ability to act independently of any external or internal force that dictates our choices.

The harsh reality is that our free will is not as absolute as we might imagine. It hinges on our capacity to act upon our own volition, unyielding to internal weaknesses and external temptations, from addictive games to hatred, that can overthrow our decision-making process.

With countless temptations that life throws our way, it's tempting to conclude that many of us are simply too susceptible to succumb to them, rendering our free will casually compromised. Every internal struggle, every urge that pulls us towards actions we know we shouldn't take, reveals the potential fragility of our free will.

And having free will also means that we have the freedom to resist temptations and addictions, and not only to do whatever our desires tell us to do. Acting on reason is also a choice we have the freedom to make, which further expresses our free will. Acting on the sole tyranny of desire does not make us free. What makes us free is the ability to act without it as well, with enough tenacity and discipline.

However, it would be ignorant to overlook the significant influence of external factors on our ability to make truly free-will decisions. Unlike internal demons like temptation, these external forces don't actively make the choices for us, necessarily. They exist and interact with us, shaping our landscape of options. For example, while a teacher praising the virtues of military service may influence our decision to join, the final choice remains ours. The teacher merely expressed their perspective, leaving the actual decision-making power in our hands.

The concept of free will is not a binary, black-and-white assertion. It exists within a spectrum, where the interplay of internal and external forces determines the degree of our autonomy in choosing. Recognizing this spectrum, acknowledging the limitations of our free will, and striving to cultivate our internal strength to navigate these limitations, is perhaps the most genuine expression of our free will itself.

Free Will as Strength Training for the Mind

External influence differs vastly from internal conflict in its impact on our choice-making. To illustrate, imagine a wrestling match. The cheering crowd represents external influence, influencing your mood or motivation as a fighter, but not directly dictating your moves. In contrast, your opponent embodies the internal struggle, actively grappling with you to prevent your victory. While the crowd can sway your emotions, and therefore you, they don't decide the outcome. Similarly, external factors may shape our context but don't directly control our choices.

Empowering free will, then, demands fortifying our mental endurance against internal adversaries. Ideally, we should cultivate such immense willpower that temptations lose their tempting grip. This journey, however, is paved with a unique form of suffering: the internal struggle between our higher selves and our undesired urges. This necessary suffering is the container in which our free will is forged, a struggle against the tyranny of undesired urges that might as well be endless.

But this suffering needn't be endured passively. Just as physical fitness necessitates challenges, free will flourishes through controlled confrontation. Consider a mental "boot camp"... A set of attainable yet tempting challenges, like placing cookies on the table and resisting them for a designated period. By facing these inner adversaries head-on, we strengthen our resolve and expand our free will's dominion.

Ultimately, the key to harnessing free will lies in embracing and deciding depite the external influence and external struggle. Embrace the temporary discomfort as a catalyst for growth like a businessman would embrace a good opportunity. That's a sign that you're actively flexing your mental muscles, making them more capable to assist you making the decisions you really want to make, and not the decisions you're pressured nor tempted to make.

Remember, suffering, when channeled rightly, can become the fuel that propels you towards a free and empowered existence. In a way, that is how "the world can be yours".

Mr. Nathan Lasher's Feedback

Free will is an interesting topic. Business via marketing might influence what you do but not entirely. They do their best to have them as the first thing you think of when you need a certain action, or service, done.
Where free will exists is in you choosing to want a certain thing done. Free will does have its limitations though. People must keep their expectations of what they are able to do in line with their ability, financial or otherwise.
You have every right to do what you want to, legality aside, as long as you are willing to live with the consequences of doing something. Those consequences can be good if the right intent exists. Why they only ever refer to consequences in reference to negative things is beyond me. Do good work and the consequence is your value as a human increases. 
Let’s talk about good consequences for a minute. To younger individuals still in school the consequence of hard work is a good grade. Not all consequences are negative. They are simply the result of completing any action.
I would say that money is the determining factor in our free will. Can’t quite go out and buy nice things without it. So, possessions are the consequence of hard work [and] finding better actions to earn you money is what work life is all about. Understanding yourself fully also aids in this. You might discover your gifted and are capable of more than you originally imagined. 
There exists a reality of free will. You have no control over other people’s free wills. All you can do is decide how to let their free wills impact you. I personally understand free will as I discover everything I am capable of. When the world has no limits for you I have the free will to decide how I want the world to look. I get to build my dream life, that is the basis for what free will is.
You have the innate ability to control your entire life. Don’t like something, figure out a way to deal with it. Either by increasing your knowledge so it is no longer a problem or figuring out a way to remove it from your life. Those are really the only two options people have when another’s free will impacts your life. Or the third less advisable option would be to simply ignore it. 
You have a ton of free will compared to your limitations. Nobody is preventing you from going out and doing something. Just your own preventive constructs you build up in your own mind. Don’t want to do something, simply decide not to do it. Good things should be encouraged as people work on being the change they want to see in the world.
The ultimate lesson in free will: You can literally create any world you want to. Damned be anyone who tells you differently.

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Tomasio A. Rubinshtein, Philosocom's Founder & Writer

I am a philosopher from Israel, author of several books in 2 languages, and Quora's Top Writer of the year 2018. I'm also a semi-hermit who has decided to dedicate his life to writing and sharing my articles across the globe. Several podcasts on me, as well as a radio interview, have been made since my career as a writer. More information about me can be found here.

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