“Man is born free but everywhere he is in chains”
-Rousseau, Social Contract, 1762
Free will, which grants the ability to “choose” one’s own path, leaves much to be wanted, specifically because it contradicts with our innate and uncontrollable desires. The notion of free will is a human conception used to justify faulty reality and the existence of good and evil, which are in fact defined by the direction of these desires. Throughout history, humanity has tried to counter irrationality with the flawed creation of reason. This conflict between desires and rationale has become an intellectual war against the purest versions of ourselves prevalent in nature. The proceedings of these actions are consequences conjured out of survival of the self not exactly that of free will. The will of necessity is then proposed as the true end of this difference. That doesn’t tell the whole chronicle though. As Dante Alighieri’s pilgrim delved into the depths of hell he noticed something distinct about all nine circles: the stench of the punishments had origins in desires, synonymous to instincts. Victims of these devices, they had virtually, I argue, “no free will”. Descartes would disagree and cite the existence of God as the source of freedom. How very wrong he was. This is the very God of the book of Genesis who brought Adam and Eve to life but instilled in them inherent urges that would later be the “downfall” of these original humans. Where is the free will in that. The very God who could very much be flawed along with us.
The biblical story of our creation is a validation of the lack of fluidity in our decisions. Adam and Eve the “epitome” of human capacities made the “ largest” mistake of all, they delivered themselves to desire and ate the fruit of knowledge. They of innocence and “free will” succumbed to this feeling. But how is this possible? Simply put, we were created with imperfections and lack of choice, rendering our voice flawed.
These first humans had no sense of reason but had a greater power holding them by the scruff of their neck, not God but their inbuilt urges. Francesca, one of the lovers in the third ring of hell in The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri Inferno, was a valid acceptor of this truth. “ as doves, called by desire, with wings raised and steady come to their sweet nest through the air . . . Love, that can quickly seize the gentle heart, took hold of him because of the fair body taken from me – how that was done still wounds me. . . Love led the two of us unto one death. Caina waits for him who took our life” ( line 82-106). Lust, a phenotype of desire, was the puppet master of this predicament. To put it lightly, it’s futile to try to escape from the uncontrollable. Francesca sense of faith, intellect, and self-awareness gleaned from the tree in the beginning were fragile pieces of firewall that fell like ALL of the greatest creations of humankind. This is our way of survival. It is necessary for us to succumb to desires, it is necessary not use the human hoax of free will as contraception against our natural selves. It is necessary to comply by our sins. All this is for the right to continue society along the most natural path.
Irrationality is our founding component so how could we escape it? Descartes would state that on the contrary that” the will is free” . However, with his writing of Discourse on Method and Meditations on First Philosophy, his finding of freedom through his own method of looking within the self screams “restrictions”. He then suggests that it should be adopted by the masses. In the most political sense that very book is an attack on free will as it leaves only one manner of “acquiring” freedom. Descartes tries to use the example of God as a medium of perfection who left us be after creation to demonstrate that free will does exist. “ can I complain that the will or free choice I have received from God is insufficiently ample or perfect, since I experience that it is limited by no boundaries whatsoever,” ( Descartes pg 83). This is a God whose very presence and certainty doesn’t allow for this. A God who cannot lie or do any wrong is our very image of this entity. However, does this not put an inner restraint on God’s freedom. To not have the choice to do evil or other activities in that similar capacity in God’s arsenal gives to the point choice might not even be with the creator. So tell me, if God, the giver of “free will”, doesn’t have this will of choice why would we, his/her creations, have ability above that?
A benevolent God is what we love to label this largely strange entity. One who understands and foresees all but for some obscure reason free will is still present.
As an all knowing God, this being knows of its own actions in the past, present, and future, leading to the point all this acts of free will are all but stagnant blocks that aren’t allowed to move. If God was to deviate from these course of actions the claim of an omniscient will no longer be valid, as God would not know the outcome of events if this was to be true. This knowledge of all things is for the span infinity, surely leaving no space for free will. This then leaves evidence to believing that God is all but an observer of the universe, who has its own predestined action by none other than itself, the ultimate prison of the will.
Descartes in his Fifth Mediation stated “Certainly, the idea of God, or a supremely perfect being, is one that I find within me just as surely as the idea of any shape or number.” Descartes unwavering commitment to God’s perfection is admirable in the realm of the free will of choice. Of course to say that would make it known that God is “perfectly” good and does not indulge in any such things as second good or best. God MUST only be allowed into the realm of all moral goodness and nothing less. Any less would be presumably evil in the context of God. This entity can simply not harbor perfect benevolence and omniscient, as they cannot be expressed in the same body. They are paradoxically of each other. In order for free will to be with the creator omniscient must be present or rather benevolence as they give the tools for farther action through a multiplicity of choices. Our definition of perfection entails, however, these two traits must be present.God thus must be imperfect being in order to have the ability to exercise that will. Free will was supposedly given to humans, who are imperfect, as direct of images of God. It should portray that same trait. With God as a perfect being that will wouldn’t be possible. Perfection doesn’t allow for “mistakes” only for the “best” path leaving no room for choice, rendering us even more lacking of free will. The creator has not ounce of this trait and as lower beings we are light years deficit in this category.
As said by St. Augustine in his book On Free Choice of the Will “If you know or believe that God is good and it is not right to believe otherwise then he does no evil,” ( pg 1). God is one who moral sound. Descartes believes in the same notion as he writes that God is not a deceiver and all truth stems form its being. As the creator of all goodness there is virtually no choice to do other wise for he is perfectly moral. Because of that God must follow a narrow path. Some might point to the idea of moralility is drenched in choice as that is its very core. God must choose the best “ moral” choice, similar to a computer having to do what its coding states, essentially coming to the realization that it has no moral choice but rather robot-esque one processing system. This is a mechanical God for better choice of words, similar to one of deism, the clock maker of the universe. The clock maker conjures up a universe, brimming with “nuts” and “bolts’ and possibly a dialing crane. This creator is also filled with gears and coding for infinity. This very fact is contradictory to almost all religion.
We have “ absolute free will,” Satre has said proudly in a multitude of interviews. However, for the reason that we are created from another and not of ourselves seems not to be in accordance to this. If “free will” were of actual of value, willing ourselves into creation through this medium would be the ultimate end. Many have peered upon God as a source of assurance for this most true of truths. Laughably, we receive sin in return. “ All sin comes about when someone turns away from divine thing that truly persist and toward changeable and uncertain things.”(Augustine pg 54) The sin stems to original sin, the sin of desires. This sin has persisted in us for millennia. Adam and Eve, ones of proximal perfection, were thought to harbor our first glimpses of liberation but in reality were victims of themselves. This infringement provides the first layer of boundaries from freedom. One’s will is but an outward showing of desires. As a collective result of the ones before just as Adam and Eve are a culmination of the image of God, our free will is all but a illusion that even the creator doesn’t possess. We simply can’t be denied freedom of action as it was never present in our realm or that of higher beings. Irrationality is all but the answer. Our irrationality is what we are born from and from it we shall return.
Alighieri, Dante, Robert M. Durling, and Ronald L. Martinez. The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri. New York: Oxford UP, 1996. Print.
Augustinus, Aurelius, and Thomas Williams. On Free Choice of the Will. Indianapolis: Hackett Pub., 1993. Print.
Descartes, René, Donald A. Cress, and René Descartes. Discourse on Method ; And: Meditations on First Philosophy. Indianapolis: Hackett Pub., 1998. Print.
Sophocle, Robert Fagles, and Bernard MacGregor Walker Knox. The Three Theban Plays Antigone .Oedipius the King Oedipius at Colonus. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1984. Print.