Freedom of the Will?

Many people will argue vociferously that we have free will. “Our decisions are not coerced, we are free to choose what we want” they say.  I agree.  But let us not confuse the terminology.

I am free to choose what I eat, but yet I find anchovies revolting. I am repelled by anchovies – but not by choice.

I choose what music I listen to. But ahead of listening to them, can I decide which of 2 new songs I will like most? (Now that would be free will!) But until I listen, I honestly don’t know which one it would be.

We are heart-driven people. Our choices, whether we recognise it or not, are governed by desire or preference. We are intrinsically and inherently biased. Unless we have a preference, we can’t make a decision (see bigthink link below). And here’s the rub: we don’t get to choose what our desires or preferences are. We discover them.

This is what Augustine, Luther, and others would call a “bound will”. I am a prisoner to my desires (but a contented one, because they are my desires). For my will to be “free” it would have to operate outside of my desires; to be neutral. But if neutral, then every decision becomes 50:50. My choices become random because, cut off from desire, there would be no definitive cause: no reason or rhyme, no bias, no preference.

And yet decisions are fundamentally emotional:

Like it or not, we are emotionally-driven. Our wills are in bondage to our emotions. We operate within competing desires. Sometimes our ‘moral high ground’ wins when our desire to do right is stronger than our desire to indulge. Other times, the desire to indulge wins. But ultimately it is always our heart, or gut, which takes the decision*.

That is why we need to feed our hearts! “Lord, create in me a new heart. Restore a right spirit within me”.

*see how choices are made way ahead of the brain doing its part:

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