Is free will possible?
As we develop a more scientific understanding of our world and of our own body and mind, it is becoming clear that there are no independent entities, individuals or even thoughts in the universe. Everything is connected with everything else. Since every part of nature affects and influences every other part, there is no possibility of complete independence.
This brings us to the question of free will. Free will is the ability to think and act completely independent of our environment or culture. A person with free will can live in absolute aloneness and act on the world with total freedom. But is free will really possible?
We are not born as clean slates. We come into the world with our own particular nature, personality or temperament, which determines how we are going to respond to the natural and human-made world. The blueprint of future behaviour has been laid down even before we are born. Our nature is not rigid, however, because it contains a range of possibilities. It is the foundation upon which we build our lives. This nature is the result of countless past generations and their interaction with the environment. This is all transmitted through our parents’ genes.
After birth, culture begins to condition us to become people who can be assimilated and absorbed into society. In essence, a person is a product of both their genetic makeup and cultural conditioning. While genes create a general biological and psychological template, cultural and social influences fill in the specific details of the person. This mixture of nature and nurture forms the basic structure of the identity.
Is it therefore possible to think of a person as someone with free will? Can we become totally independent of the world and think, speak, choose and act completely free of any internal or external influence whatsoever? Free will is neither biologically nor psychologically possible. Free will is an illusion of the identity, a false understanding of the importance of the individual self within the universe. With the increasing dominance of identity in our lives, we forget our original nature. We use the identity as a shield against the fear of death, and gradually we live our lives within that illusory world. Instead of being a shield to protect us from fear, the identity becomes a prison that traps us and prevents us from perceiving a greater truth.