In this day and time we as human beings value our beliefs very strongly. Nevertheless, a general question that still anger human beings, do we have free will? As human beings we have free will because we have a choice.
To have free will is to be morally responsible; if we have the power of choice then we can be held accountable for those choices. Free will can be defined as the power to choose between another course of action. Any authority other than God cannot diminish someone’s free will. Humans can always apply their free will when making decisions. However, when their choices come in conflict with the law set by a higher command, they could face consequences based on how they choose to use their free will. The more limitations forced upon someone’s free will, the more controlled his or her ability to make decisions become. The point to which someone may implement his or her free will can distinct his or her “freedom.”
Free will is distorted by a diverse society and how it affects their lives. In his essay “Shooting an Elephant” George Orwell argue that, “when the white man turns tyrant it is his own freedom that he destroys” (Orwell 856). As a result free will is imperishable.
According to Orwell his freedom was ruined when he took responsibility as an oppressor. His occupation was a sub-divisional police officer in Lower Burma. A disaster arose in which he was faced with a difficult decision to make. An elephant went on a rampage in the village, damaged countless huts and killed a man. When Orwell approached the elephant it was apparent to him that the elephant had calmed down and would cause no more harm to anyone. Orwell was faced with a choice; he could either shoot the elephant or wait until someone came to get him.
Although he had a higher command over the Burmans he was very concerned about what they thought he should do. He decided that he had to do as they wished for him. Orwell was debating whether or not to kill the elephant. He explains, “I perceived in this moment that when the white man turns tyrant it is his own freedom that he destroys” (856). Throughout his life he tries impress the public.
Orwell decided to take the position over the public and limit their free will. However, Orwell’s free will was never destroyed or hindered. At any time during this destructive event Orwell could have decided to do something different from what the crowd of Burmans wished.
Deep down inside Orwell did not want to shoot the elephant. He states, “ I did not want to shoot the elephant” (858). However, he decided to listen to the Burmans and not to his own conscience, which was an act of free will. As a result, free will is imperishable and present in all choices we make in life.
Obedience is a necessity of all mutual living and is the fundamental aspect of the formation of social living. In “The Perils of Obedience,” Stanley Milgram conducted a study that tests the conflict between obedience to authority and one’s own sense of right and wrong. During the experiments, Milgram discovered that the majority of people would go against their own decisions of their conscience to mollify the desires of an authority figure. The experiment first took place at Yale University and involved over one thousand participants at several other universities. Two individuals were to enter a psychology laboratory and participate in a study of memory and learning. One of them was to be the teacher and the other one the student.
The student was instructed to learn a list of word pairs and whenever the student made a mistake the result would be electric shocks with increasing power. “Three of the forty subjects did not go beyond the very lowest level on the board, twenty-eight went no higher than 75 volts, and thirty-eight did go beyond the first loud protest at 150 volts. Two subjects provided the exception, administering up to 325 and 450 volts, but the overall result was that the great majority of people delivered very low, usually painless, shocks when the choice was explicitly up to them.” (Milgram 891). Even though most people delivered low shocks, there are still those that went to a high level of shocks.
Although the issue assumed they had free will in their choices, the pressures of the authority figure required the individual into believing that they had no other choice but to continue. However, those individuals that believed that they had a choice to leave they still stayed and performed the shock even if they were hesitant. Milgram explains his results, “For many, obedience is a deeply ingrained behavior tendency, indeed a potent impulse overriding training in ethics, sympathy, and moral conduct” (893).
Today’s world is full of choices. In our highly sophisticated modern society, moral and ethical concerns mislead our choices each day. In the dialogue “Crito”, Socrates is faced with the proposal of escape from prison. Crito is a lifelong supporter of Socrates, and is extremely concerned at the outlook of Socrates’ future execution. Crito and other friends of Socrates have put together their assets to organize an escape for their friend and mentor. Crito is eager to make any sacrifice to save his life.
Since Socrates has lived in Athens all his life, he is obligated to stand his position and obtain what is given, even if the punishment is death. Socrates states, “do you think you have the right to retaliation against your country and its laws?” (Crito 840). His intelligence allowed him to make everyone see all sides of his argument.
Sometimes Crito is puzzled about his decision to free Socrates. Crito states, “do you think it possible for a city not to be destroyed if the verdicts of its courts have no force but are nullified and set at naught by private individuals?”(839). Socrates’ is very persuasive, but the whole dilemma was not destined.
In his essay “Is Determinism Inconsistent with Free Will?” by Walter T. Stace looks at the free will and moral responsibility. Stace tries to break away from this dilemma called soft determinism. He argues that there is a significant meaning of “free choice” which is consistent with determinism. Therefore, he attempts to compromise between hard determinism and libertarianism.
Stace show that “free will” is linked to determinism. He uses a comparison between Gandhi and man lost in a desert. Even though Gandhi and the man went without food for a period of time, Gandhi fasted as an act of protest whereas, the man lost in the desert was without food to eat.
He realized that the correct definition for free acts are “done without compulsion”(862). Stace concludes his essay connects with responsibility and punishment. Stace states, “That determinism is incompatible with moral responsibility is as much a delusion as that it is incompatible with free will” (865). As a result, to be held responsible is to be honestly punished or rewarded.
Martin Luther King Jr. letter from a Birmingham Jail was an extraction of his support for protest in opposition to customs, established laws and an explanation for his actions. In his letter from Birmingham Jail, King states, “ It was illegal to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at that time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers. If today I lived in a Communist country where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, would openly advocate disobeying that country’s anti-religious laws”(King 874). He was not in favor of the traditional outlooks and unreasonable laws, which discriminated him and his fellow people.
Working on the unjust laws and traditional beliefs to change it will result in a protest. He felt that without the protest the laws and traditions would not change. King’s letter was also an explanation of his actions.
King wrote this letter to his fellow clergymen, which, explains his actions were against the law for not having consent to protest. He expressed that he tried to do everything he can to make difference. Since he made a choice to protest his actions led to incarceration.
Some people may believe all societies in the world are built around a moral basis that holds a person responsible for their actions. However, a determinist would disagree and say that people are not free, and not at fault for their actions. Human acts are caused, and caused acts are of only one option. If there is only one option and no choices, then there is no freedom involved.
Our actions develop within our minds. Some of them we happen to understand, but these are the small choices of what goes on. However, without free will, much of what is part of our society and us seems to deteriorate. Part of the result of good and evil is formed by free will.
Throughout life we learn about various forms of cruelty and pressure and resent it when people use them to influence us. As human beings it is difficult to recognize something that we cannot control. The concept of responsibility, good and bad, self-discipline, choice, honesty and punishment are closely associated with free will. Whether our conclusions are predestined or not, we are the ones who make them. Certainly, we as human beings are exposed to certain things, and influenced by our experience. However, we do not know what we will choose in the future. Therefore, we have free will because we as human beings control our conscious actions and we are responsible for the consequences of those actions, whether it is good or bad.