Thursday, June 24, 2021

Do We Have Free Will?

 Our ability as human beings to recognize and think about ourselves and, perhaps more importantly, other people, is profound. With this level of self awareness comes too our ability to think about thinking itself, also known as metacognition. Much of these abilities seem to be innate for likely all neurotypical people. Much like how a bird cannot help but to forage, build nests, fly away from Winter, etc.; how a plant grows towards sunlight and sucks in water; or how an animal cannot help but express itself in ways that it knows how, so too are humans no different. Human beings act like human beings much in the same way that a dog behaves as a dog, or a cat acts like a cat - the genetic component has determined how the organism is structured, and that structure determines, in large part, how that organism behaves

Even though we are likely the most intelligent species to walk the face of the Earth, our intelligence is still, in large part, an adaptability product of our surroundings. We cannot help but to take in information; categorize; search for new info intentionally; socialize and interact with our relevant temperaments. Likewise, even our own acquisition of language is completely out of our control, as illustrated with Chomsky's Language Acquisition Device (LAD). For those who may not know, a brief aside, Chomsky's LAD suggests that all normally developed human beings have the capacity for acquiring the language of their culture, and that this device is highly useful in adapting. It can be argued that we would never had evolved our higher level thinking skills had language not allowed us to categorize and internalize objects and events more proficiently. Indeed, did any one of us decide to learn to speak a language?

Another way of looking at the issue of whether we have free will or not is to look at exceptional individuals. In the case of savants, that is, people who almost immediately master a skill with little to no practice, did they really have a sense of free will in that action, or are they developmentally and genetically predisposed to be of exceptional talent? In the case of people with intellectual disabilities, is any neuro-divergent person capable of thinking in a way that their brain is not structured to? Likewise then, in the case of average-intelligence neurotypical people, are any of them capable of being anything besides themselves? Even with things you "choose" to do, are you not choosing such things because of your predisposition towards them? Why, too, is it then that other people may have other interests they have "chosen"?

These ideas and more, while not all-encompassing, are in-line with Skinner's ideas on determinism.


Powell, R. A., Honey, P. L., & Symbaluk, D. G. (2017). Introduction to Learning and Behavior (fifth). Cengage Learning.


  1. I think the concept of free will is incredibly interesting to uncover and you did a great job exploring different aspects of it while leaving the reader with more to think about.

  2. Hi Kevin,
    I agree with Joseph that you did a really great job at exploring different aspects of free will. I also agree that we definitely have a predisposition towards certain things, but even then we can decide to pursue that further or not.