Free Will Vs. Self Determination

Free Will vs. Self DeterminationFree Will Vs. Self Determination

The notion that humans possess the concept of free will or self determination has been an ongoing debate since the development of both thought processes. This debate has explored since the beginning of recorded history (Tancredi, 2007). Do humans in fact possess free will, or self determination? This question has been entrenched with different religious, secular, philosophical, and psychological research viewpoints that have continued the long lasting battle of the debate. However, this debate has significantly conformed to modern advances of neuroscience and modern philosophical views (Tancredi, 2007).

Background Information

The belief of humans possessing free will and self determination has been debated since the times of great philosophers like Homer, Aristotle, and Plato (Tancredi, 2007). This has evolved into a more traditional western philosophy which involved moral decision-making and linking the decision making to humans as having free will and responsibility for their actions (Tancredi, 2007). For example, during the Homeric period, which occurred in ancient Greece, individual free will was not believed to exist (Trancredi, 2007). This was primarily due to the thought of outside influences being the sole factor of an individual’s decision making (Trancredi, 2007). This concept was also heavily influenced by the belief that the concept of self was not prevalent and that the existence was between gods and humans themselves (Trancredi, 2007).

Unlike Homer, who didn’t categorize people as having a psych that was capable of reflecting, thinking and feeling, Homer viewed man more as a victim and an instigator of their own personal actions (Trancredi, 2007). However, Plato viewed the concept of free will and self determination differently than Homer. Plato acknowledged some of the same beliefs as Homer, but Plato addressed the areas of social disorder and punishment as deterministic elements (Trancredi, 2007). Then as time passed and the Judeo-Christian traditions began, free will began to emerge, especially with the development of the Ten Commandments which focused on an individual’s responsibility for their own actions (Trancredi, 2007).

Free Will

Free will contains a lot of non-secular attributes that are attributed to the notion that God gave man free will to choose their desired path in life. Free will also provides the insight that an individual’s actions are conducted at their own will and that the individual becomes blameworthy for choosing to do the act (Ratheal & Wilks, 2006).

Opposing Thoughts to Free Will.

One of the big opposing arguments to the concept of free will is the argument of what the individual’s freedom to free will could actually be. What determines these causes and how can ones internal freedom actually exist (Gomez, 2007). For example if a county is ruled by a dictator then do they still have the ability to even have free will? Free will also possess the problem that individuals cannot be completely held responsible for all of their actions; resulting in the individual, or individuals not being able to completely control their environment (Gomez, 2007).With science continuing to advance, different concepts and theories have been researched and proposed to indicate that the brain is now being labeled as a machine (Trancredi, 2007). Science has also brought upon advances of neuroscience leaving most neuroscientists to believe that the brain creates the mind and consciences, thoughts and feelings (Trancredi, 2007). Other areas that are causing the notion of free will as being problematic are the developments of basic legal concepts which are specific to specific intentions of an individual during their crime, or crimes. For example, the term, mens rea is utilized during legal proceedings to categorize the accused/sentenced individual as having the “presence of a guilty mind” (Trancredi, 2007).

Self Determination

Self determination carries more of the thought that an individual will act independently and take a responsibility for their own actions. Self determination does not reflect the concepts associated with free will because the individual will not look at themselves as blameworthy despite the fact that they did something they know was wrong (Ratheal & Wilks, 2006). Self determination also contains the idea that nothing is unknown, due to there being no randomness in nature, or decision making (Gomes, 2007).

Self Determination of Autonomy

Self determination is not only apprehensive with the consequences of nature and autonomy, but also driven by specific biological decisions (Ryan & Deci, 2006). These biological and psychological tendencies are geared towards essential tendencies which lead us to certain susceptibilities of being controlled (Ryan & Deci, 2006). Recent studies indicate that people are susceptible to rely on others who support their same autonomy (Ryan & Deci, 2006).

Opposing Thoughts to Self Determination

Self determination is not popular amongst religious theorists because it argues what some feel that God is the almighty that created free will and that everything happens for a reason. Another apposition to self determination is the thought that self determination is an illusion (Ryan & Deci, 2006). This thought is due to self determination being viewed as whether all acts are determined non-consciously and if they are actions or thoughts are self-motivated (Ryan & Deci, 2006).


Philosophers for centuries have continued to debate between the notions of free will and self determination (Clark el al., 2014). However self determination is the leading cause to an individual’s process. By no means do I base my decision on this in a secular way; however, I base my decision due to the more realistic evidence I researched pertaining to both concepts. My viewpoints also stem from the psychological aspects of free will and self determination. The reason for this is primarily due to the fact that I believe that thoughts are unconsciously caused. I also believe that it’s difficult to think, or understand to a degree, that everything is mapped out to us, as if we are living a scripted life that has already taken place and we are fulfilling our life to a story that has already been created. If that’s the case, then one could argue that we as humans are essentially living in the past and watching a pre-scripted story of our daily lives. The general concepts and dynamics of free will has been altered and convoluted throughout history and used as a guideline to try an influences people to follow their various religious practices and adhere to their belief system/systems. The only exclusiveness between the two concepts I’ve discovered is the fact that both share a small similarity based from the discoveries that link the two and causes of ones actions.


Clark, C. J., Luguri, J. B., Ditto, P. H., Knobe, J., Shariff, A. F., & Baumeister, R. F. (2014). Free to punish: A motivated account of free will belief. Journal Of Personality And Social Psychology, 106(4), 501-513. doi:10.1037/a0035880

Gomes, G. (2007). Free will, the self, and the brain. Behavioral Sciences & The Law, 25(2), 221-234. doi:10.1002/bsl.754

Ratheal, J., & Wilks, D. (2006). Perceptions of Free Will, Determinism and Moral Responsibility Reexamined. Journal Of Professional Counseling: Practice, Theory & Research, 34(1/2), 88-98.

Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2006). Self-Regulation and the Problem of Human Autonomy: Does Psychology Need Choice, Self-Determination, and Will?. Journal Of Personality, 74(6), 1557-1586. doi:10.1111/j.1467-6494.2006.00420.x

Tancredi, L. R. (2007). The neuroscience of “free will”. Behavioral Sciences & The Law, 25(2), 295-308. doi:10.1002/bsl.749





6 thoughts on “Free Will Vs. Self Determination

  1. The Bible teaches that we are free to decide between doing good that is , to do the will of God, or do your own will, therefore evil. This Knowledge exists since waay before the greek philosofers, mentioned in this essay.

  2. Some of these thinkers draw the conclusion that God must be a sufficient, wholly determining cause for everything that happens; all suppose that every creaturely act necessarily depends on the explanatorily prior, cooperative activity of God.

  3. For human beings or any created persons who owe their existence to factors outside themselves, the only way their acts of will could find their ultimate origin in themselves is for such acts not to be determined by their character and circumstances.

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