Willful Choice

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    Dr. Herbener,

    During a recent discussion an interesting question arose, namely, are our actions the consequence of willful choice or is it predetermined. It might sound funny but here is the argument:

    If laws of the natural universe are absolute and constant and if every event has a cause, then these rules should also apply to man, since man is also made of the same particles. The question then becomes, do I move my hand because I chose to do so or because a series of events led to a certain constellation of molecules in my brain so that my moving the hand was an inevitable consequence of sequences of events prior to it. In other words, if the big bang theory is correct and if particles in the universe always interact in predictable fashion because of the constancy of natural laws, then all events from the big bang onwards are going to be conditioned by the initial state.

    This then implies that there is no such thing as free will because our choosing one thing rather than the other was always going to happen because of the laws that govern the universe. Empirically you cannot test it, since you would need a parallel universe to see if the same set of events can produce different human behavior. I also cannot answer this logically. All I can say say is that intuitively it seems wrong and inconsistent with my experiences. After all, that would mean that whatever we are doing is not our choice and life would really becomes meaningless.

    I’m not sure I was able to state the argument succinctly but I hope you can infer what I meant nevertheless. Much interested in your thoughts!


    Mises’ view on the topic…http://www.mises.org/humanaction/chap1sec3.asp


    Mises took the position that while it might be possible, in principle, to give a purely material explanation for human choice (and therefore, human action), no one has been able to do so up to now. And until someone gives such an explanation, we must treat human choice as not purely caused by material factors.

    Take a look at the relevant sections of Human Action:


    Rothbard took the stronger position that humans do have free will and argued against determinism.

    Take a look at The Mantle of Science:


    Either position provides scope for human action and economics.


    Thank you both for your answers!

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