Essay: Delusions of ‘Free Will’

Delusions of ‘Free Will’:

Penalized Choices Smirk as Lesser Evils

by A.D. Shaffer

{Graduate Studies; originally written for Humanities 520 fall 2014}

Individual will is not free when it is harnessed to rules. Ancient texts praise the glorification of humanity’s ‘free will,’ yet construct delicate webs of regulations to trap the will into doing what the dominating force intended in the first place. Through the Jewish text The Dead Sea Scrolls, enlightened thought and empirical principles of Kant, ancient reason from Socrates, and creation myth bemused upon Milton this paper will discuss the nature of ‘free will’ and if/when such creature exists. Religion, a monster dependent on the illusion of ‘free will,’ utilizes the morals instilled in society to derail the autonomic self as means to establish right living. What definition of right is true? And, true for whom? The Dead Sea Scrolls demands that God is right, and His rules are guidelines to the path which leads to eternal worship and ultimate completion – the ability for the immortal soul to praise and celebrate God constantly in heaven after death. What does heaven mean to the individual? Why must the self be reduced so as to rise up the community? ‘Free will’ implies the individual exists a priori conceived thought. Why give ‘free will’ only to take it away through backhanded trickery? The on start of the Great Flood, God sees what decisions humanity has made with their ‘free will’ and He is not a fan: “So the LORD judged them according to a[l]l their practices, according to the designs arising from their [evil] hearts. He thundered against them in [His] might, [so that] the very foundations of the ear[th] were shaken {…} He destroyed them in the flood, every one of them {…} – [for] they had disobeyed [the commandments of the LO]RD” (DSS A Sermon on the Flood 419-420). The determent of ‘free will’ by Judeo-Christian standards cunningly reduces the autonomic self while praising its existence. I intend to explore the nature of man through his eternal struggle with what one actually feels and experiences versus what one is instructed to feel and experience. I ask to reconsider the value of the autonomic self and discover the ability to release ‘free will’ from her kosher jar.

God created man in His image and afforded him the ability to freely choose his path in life; for good or evil – ‘free will’ is humanity’s gift. As per Milton’s depiction, the angels were created before humans, also in God’s image, yet minus ‘free will.’ The angels are noted as perfect – categorizing ‘free will’ as a flawed characteristic. God created man as lacking in grace to balance out His perfection. God wants man to love and praise Him because man wants to, not just because God demands that it is so. Those that gladly accept the yoke of religious life are blessed by God; Samuel receives visions from God, and dedicates his life to serving Him: “I lived with him from festival to festival, and joined myself to him from [my youth…] I [never] sought to cultivate favor by means of wealth, money or bribery […] [I preferred to serve] my Lord, and chose to sleep at the foot of [Eli’s] bed” (DSS An Account of the Story of Samuel 235). Samuel held high concerns for the people of Israel. He believed God would save His people and feed off the non-believers:

“[…O LORD, please hear] Your servant. I have never yet held back until this time for […] O my God, [let] them be gathered to Your people! Be a help to them, and raise them up [from the pit of tumult! … Deliver their fee[t] from the miry bog, [and] establish for them a rock from of old! Surely they are Your praise [above all other na]tions. Let Your people find refuge [in Your house,] let [Your anoint]ed sanctify themselves [to You]. In the very fury of those who hate Your people shall Your glory gain strength; in lands and seas [shall Your honor increase;] fear of You shall intensify beyond that of any [god, people,] or kingdom. {…} […They are] Your hol[y ones,] who You have sanctified […]” (DSS An Account of the Story of Samuel 235).

Is this right living – to only manage the advancement of one sect of people at the sacrifice of all other sects? God will feed off the fear of humanity to increase the physicalities of His chosen people. God will take from all other nations to give to His Jewish followers. Why did the Jewish people not want to create something for themselves instead of boldly wearing entitlement as a second skin? Due to God’s extensive rule system the Jewish people were dubbed clean enough to love and praise God. By eating proper foods and maintaining personal hygiene, the Jewish people were deemed good enough for God’s standards of mortal man. The Jewish followers were the Chosen Ones, yet they fell victim to the judgment of God and fell victim to flavored ‘free will.’

Kant addresses ‘free will’ as a categorical imperative and structural law of morality. Highlighting the removal of choice, Kant says, “{…} we can at any time be free from the precept if we give up the purpose; on the contrary, the unconditional command leaves the will no liberty to choose the opposite; consequently it alone carries with it that necessity which we require in a law” (Kant 20). In other words, if God insists that His people follow a strict path then why bother with the illusion of ‘free will’ – God doesn’t want man to choose undesirable paths, but He allows man to discover that on his own by suffering the consequences. ‘Free will’s fabricated design is a comfort to mankind, the universal law of causation – action happens followed by a result – secures stasis, granting society a norm: “This seems to be the kind of determinism which worries the defender of free will, for if human action is subject to a universal law of causation of this type, there will be for any action a set of sufficient conditions which can be traced back to factors outside the control of the agent” (Foot 440).   Or, all action has predicted results as an individual will freely choose to follow the rules or break the rules.   If God’s rules are not followed to the detail, the non-conformist is devalued: “Surely he plows in the much of wickedness, so defiling stains would mar his repentance. Yet he cannot be justified by what his willful heart declares lawful, preferring to gaze on darkness rather than the ways of light. {…} Unclean, unclean shall he be all the days that he rejects the laws of God, refusing to be disciplined in the Yahad of His society” (DSS Charter of a Jewish Sectarian Association 118). The consequences greatly outweigh the benefits of deviation from God’s law – placing heavy impediment of the freedom of human will.

Suffering in itself is a deeply carved vein in ancient thought. Perhaps this is because mankind did not understand why he was made to suffer; Sanders wrote, “Thus the suffering of the righteous, which gives rise to the question of theodicy, was firmly connected to essential elements in Jewish religious thought in such a way as to solve that problem. Suffering is God’s chastisement for sin, but it has a beneficial effect, since it cleanses one of his transgression” (Sanders 333). Religion and society decided not to allow a grey murky cloud of unknown to glean too much power, so conformities were born – religion grew lungs and legs. Suffering, whether physical, metaphysical, or emotional, is noted as means to purge away the guilt of man, the failings of man in his inability to reach perfection. Great amounts of penance signified a great wrong that is in the process of being righted – the admitted guilt of deviation from God’s design. The more effort required, the more suffering to be had, then the better the experience: “Nature seems to have experimented to learn what attitude to take. If the law of the survival of the fittest is true, it seems to point to the conclusion that greater suffering has proven the greater good. The farther we follow the path of experiment the more of sensibility to pain and the less of protective armor we find” (Chamberlin 67). God ensures that man will suffer for the selections of ‘free will’ if man refuses the law of God. The stronger the refusal of the individual’s ‘free will’ then the longer and more intense suffering must be dealt as means of enlightenment to God’s infinite wisdom.

‘Free will’ in itself is the bold decision to choose one’s fate through categorical imperatives each individual mind subjectively constructs. The human mind will issue forth justifications and exceptions to permit the desired path to be followed rationally. ‘Free will’ allows the mind to see both set of facts and select one’s outcome. Situations, then, are one of two options: good or evil, true or false. The Jewish God entertains no grey matter. The Dead Sea Scrolls detail God’s creation of everything, even right and wrong: “He created humankind to rule over the world, appointing for them two spirits in which to walk until the time ordained for His visitation. These are the spirits of truth and falsehood” (DSS Charter of a Jewish Sectarian Association 120). Imagine the iconic little devil/little angel resting on the shoulders of man, encouraging him to follow the light or dark path. ‘Free will’ is the ability of the autonomic self to decide which angel – light or dark – to listen to, which direction to take. Limitations, however, cloud the designs of ‘free will’ – the choice can no longer be considered as an unbiased norm if the individual knows that God forbids the action. Like God’s law, the light and dark angels sway the individual’s desire based on realized factors dependent on reason. This is tempting to man – an obvious ‘off limits to you’ pricks man’s curiosity – why should something be forbidden? Once this battlefield is declared between ‘free will’ and God’s rules, the choice itself is not a priori – the choice is now offered inside a threat, post-priori. God is quick to judge and deal out punishments as retribution and praise for Himself, especially if another god is appreciated: “{…} you are neither to yield nor listen to that person, nor show] [pi]ty him, neither compassion. [You shall not protect him, but assuredly kill him; your hand must be] [the] first to execute him, then afterwards the hand [of all the people. Stone him to death, because [he sought to] turn you away [from the LORD your God {…}” (DSS The Temple Scroll 622). Human nature tends to lean toward wanting what one is not supposed to attain, possibly because ‘free will’ feels the brunt of forced decision and attempts to rebel, gorging itself on forbidden fruit. The object is not truly of importance – the ability to choose without restraints is the prize.

Manipulation of ‘free will’ is oftentimes seen in children growing up. Society justifies the bending of one’s will, children are deemed unable to reason the correct answers/methods required. However, Kant argues for autonomic a priori instinct ensuring the nature of man as good; he defines the principle of autonomy of the will: “The conception of the will of every rational being as one which must consider itself as giving in all the maxims of its will universal laws, so as to judge itself and its actions from this point of view- this conception leads to another which depends on it and is very fruitful, namely that of a kingdom of ends” (Kant 30). Namely, that an individual makes choices without the influences of others, a natural moral instinct which details the just decision – but how is this possible when ‘free will’ is subjected to such harsh judgment? For ‘free will’ to truly be free the individual should be permitted to bask in autonomic decisions – the for better or for worse should be discovered along the journey, not implemented by a jealous God, hell bent on declaring His dominance over mankind: “Any man who does not obey, but acts rebelliously, heeding neither the priest who stands there to minister to Me, nor the judge, must die. Thus you shall purge the evil one from Israel. All the people will hear of it and be afraid, and none shall again rebel in Israel” (DSS The Temple Scroll 623). An autonomic choice utilized through ‘free will’ should be presented without penalties. Autonomy notices: “Individuals matter – they are worth counting – because they are agents; they are as agents equally worthy even if their individual projects and values differ from one to the next” (Apperley 292). The value of the individual inside of the community is demonstrated with autonomical concerns.   Otherwise, the act of choosing is premeditated and heteronomical of nature. If the will is smothered by outside influences it should be referred to as ‘forced will.’

The notion of a ‘free will’ is preferred by society as the opposite insists the people as puppets without the spark of soul: “Probably the reason why people are so afraid of causal considerations is that they are terrified lest insight into the causes of earthly phenomena should expose man’s free will as an illusion. {…} Deeper insight into the physiological concatenation of my behavior cannot in the least alter the fact that I will, but it can alter what I will” (Morley 122).   The will, being forced by the desires of God through means of persuasion, direction, and punishment, is therefore subjected insistence – the Angels should not be jealous of mankind as both species must comply with God’s standards or suffer His wrath. Will does exist, though not necessary ‘free’ existence. The Nephilim, or Watchers, procreated with mankind despite God’s instruction for them to leave the mortals alone – they wondered what was so magnificent about mortals, and found themselves hung up on the human ability to choose. In Paradise Lost, the angels – specifically Lucifer – coveted the love and concern God gave to Adam and Eve. The angels are described as required to love God – yet half of the angelic army falls from heaven. Is the angelic fall comparable to encompassing the ability to choose to ignore or repel God’s grace? Lucifer said, “Me though just right and the fix’d laws of Heaven / Did first create your Leader; next, free choice, / With what besides, in counsel or in fight, / Hath been achieved of merit; at this loss, / Thus far at least recover’d, hath much more / Establish’d in a save unenvied throne, / Yielded with full consent” (Milton Book II 18-24).  With ‘choice’ for the angels the absence of God creates Hell – or hell is lacking God in their existence. In attempts to make the most of their synthetic ‘free will,’ Lucifer aggrandizes their position in Hell and cultivates a plot to expose the flaws of man – hoping for a lessening of God’s love for mankind. The Nephilim are holy ones, immortal, and gifted by God’s grace. The Watchers’ decision to illicit marriages or procreate with human beings is means of spoiling mankind for the simplistic grace of God – a reduction of man’s ability to find awe in the Creator when mysteries are explained by divine creatures through medicine, magic, diviners, and women; the Watchers are not able to create true human beings for the earth, they are not God (DSS Tales of the Patriarchs 91). ‘Free will’ of woman allowed for interspecies copulation, and under the influence of the greatness of the holy ones women were tempted to breed with the angels to produce better heirs, those of divine nature. However, God’s response to the ‘free will’ of woman and Nephilim was extinction, He let loose the Great Flood and annihilated man and angel from the earth. God felt threatened at the ability of choice to create a new race of mankind not of God but of Angel and woman. Noah is believed to be of angelic conception, and utilized by God to recreate the human race: “{…} I was planted for righteousness, and it was righteousness that I practiced all of my days. I continued to walk in the paths of the eternal truth, accompanied by a holy […] righteousness hastened on my paths, and to warn me about the […] of falsehood that led to darkness {…}” (DSS Tales of the Patriarchs 93). Lamech is argued to be Noah’s father, yet understandable, if he held divine lineage this would secure Noah’s importance as his is the only family of man who God is noted to preserve. God, then, is seen as saving Himself to issue forth a new prototype for mankind as the Adam model failed. The divine element in Noah’s heritage could be that of God as God specifically choses Noah for salvation; Noah said, “Again I blessed him because he had mercy upon the earth, and because he removed and destroyed from upon it all who work violence, evil, and deceit, but rescued a righteous man for […] for all creation, for his own sake” (DSS Tales of the Patriarchs 95). Noah’s will is that of God’s – he is a subservient man, humble to the greatness and abilities of God. Noah’s compliance with following God’s wishes is deemed the right applications of ‘free will’ and hosts the beneficial bounty of eternal life in heaven. Noah is offered as an example in The Dead Sea Scrolls, not as able to be replicated but as a model to mimic in hopes of God’s pleasure.

As noted numerous times in The Dead Sea Scrolls, punishment for those who refuse God’s law is violate and often terminal. These wicked and evil souls must be purged by righteousness through suffering in Dante’s Purgatorio: “Of its purity the will alone gives proof, / and the soul, wholly free to change its convent, / is taken by surprise and allows the will its way. // ‘It wills the same before, but holy Justice sets / the soul’s desire against its will, / and as once it longed to sin, it now seeks penance” (Dante XXI 61-66). In purgatory, the will of the soul is forced to suffer the sin over and over until broken to God’s ways and acceptable to His standards. The ‘free’ element of the will is thusly reduced to an illusion. The lost souls of purgatory lament the loss of God’s grace – but mostly because they must since the choice is eternal damnation or unknown torment. Dante illuminates the emotional weakness of man and his ease to give in to worldly pleasures: “But the power that wills cannot do all it wills, // for laughter and tears so closely follow feelings / from which they spring, they least can be controlled / in those who are most truthful” (Dante XXI 105-108). Once the soul has left the body and finds itself trapped in purgatory, it must suffer for the crimes committed while it was a living human being so as to purify the soul to be ready the greatness of God. The shades present in Purgatorio are powerless in regards to will, Guido Guinizzelli said, “say a Paternoster there for me, / as much of it as we have need in this our world, / where we no longer have the power to sin” (Dante XXVI 130-132).  A shade is no longer a mortal human being so the element of ‘free will’ is not a constant illusion, the shade must face its’ own suffrage dependent on levels of individual repentance to soothe the pride of God. Freedom in itself remains an illusion, Kant said, “Therefore freedom is only an idea of reason, and its objective reality in itself is doubtful; while nature is a concept of the understanding which proves, and must necessarily prove, its reality in examples of experience” (Kant 45-46). Freedom is not a natural concept but a forced persuasion to soothe the absurdity of dutiful inclinations to an invisible entity. In the assumption of the ‘free will’ to be able to conceive reason “we afterwards conceive ourselves as subject to these laws, because we have attributed ourselves freedom of will: for freedom and self-legislation of will are both autonomy and, therefore, are reciprocal conceptions, and for this very reason one must not be used to explain the other or give the reason of it {…}” (Kant 42). The misconceived notion of ‘free will’ is exposed as fraudulent. In fear of the lack of control acquitted with autonomic reign by permitting ‘free will’ to actually be free, Double notes the characteristics of the subjective free will, he said, “Free will subjectivism, like metaethical subjectivism, in principle allows unlimited rein in our selection of lower-level theories. This objection is parallel to the objection that accepting metaethical subjectivism opens the door to moral nihilism” (Double 419). Direct chaos is not a necessarily element of total freedom – the cause to this belief surely lies in the lack of faith in the good of mankind. With the authority of choice returned to the individual, the community must be formed then with ‘free willing’ members whom naturally wish the best for mankind. To assume this is not plausible is to shrug ignorance at the possibility for desired unity. Socrates insists that man is naturally good and just by design, Plato wrote that unity was the greatest good: “And this unity of feeling we admitted to be the greatest good, as was implied in our own comparison of a well-ordered State to the relation of the body and the members, when affected by pleasure or pain?” (Plato 173). Mankind is good; therefore ‘free will’ reaches for righteousness.

Philosophy demonstrates the love of knowledge and the ability to contemplate on areas of question in variant grains through logical thought and experience. In The Consolation of Philosophy, Philosophy eases the fallen poet with Reason and acceptance of justice for Fortune. Imprisoned, his will is limited and the illusion of ‘free will’ is far removed. Boethius mourns his materialistic losses yet laments for forgiveness, something he feels Fortune has denied him: “When you have freely chosen her as your mistress, it would surely be inequitable if you attempted to lay down terms for her stay or her departure? Refusal to bear with your lot would make it more bitter since you cannot change it” (Boethius Chapter 1 17-18). With his will to choose removed, Boethius feels his humanity is stripped, demanding he accept his lot. The once vibrant celebrated poet reduced to exile, his ability to make his own decisions robbed of his future.

The illusion of ‘free will’ acts as a balm for the mortal mind to permit societal conformities, and constructs a power tool to govern the masses under the false assumptions of heteronomical means. Society convinces the individual that their choices are made internally – yet the outcome is known before the individual is able to truly choose as the community sets the standards for acceptability. Only a strong will then holds the ability to ascertain itself under ‘free will,’ as a weak will is easily herded with the crowd and quick to conform to normalcy. ‘Free will’ is burdened with the requirements of right and wrong living, being the individual decision to select a path. Socrates addresses the concerns of which path is more pleasurable: “The universal voice of mankind is always declaring that justice and virtue are honourable, but grievous and toilsome; and that the pleasures of vice and injustice are easy of attainment, and are only censured by law and opinion” (Plato 46). Humanity must buckle to justice despite enjoyment or the quest for self-love actions, the law holds most value. Back again, then, to the law – through The Republic, we see that an angry sky-daddy god is not required for the construct of laws as ancient Rome held no allegiance to deity but replaced it with government. This is simply a slide of names and slight deviation from religion to politics – the bottom line is that rules are written to ensure mankind follows the design or suffers for the neglect of direction. ‘Free will’ is the action required of the individual to set one on the path of success or failure. The will selects good or evil, and should commit itself to full compliance to one’s path: “Then God, if he be good, is not the author of all things, as the many assert, but he is the cause of a few things only, and not of most things that occur to men. For few are the goods of human life, and many are the evils, and the good is to be attributed to God alone; of the evils the causes are to be sought elsewhere, and not in him” (Plato 67). ‘Free will’ is seen as cut and dry – good or evil. Socrates reaches for a universal will to recognize good and cling to it while repelling evil, and vice versa – fully demonstrating the individual desire to remain true to one’s choices.   In short, Socrates expects a good man to be 100% good and an evil man to be 100% evil as this will ensure the success of either path. This complies with being true to oneself, an absolute requirement to fulfill duty and attain happiness. Once ‘free will’ has picked a team, complete validation to the committed path is essential. Philosophically thinking, an evil man may in fact be a terrible thing, but he should remain true to his own will, being the best evil he can be. While Socrates favors justice, he instills the value of truth above all else – one must be true to oneself to achieve happiness.

In conclusion, with the return of consideration to the autonomic self, the freedom of ‘free will’ may be returned universally. ‘Free will’ should not be subject to absolute restraints: “{…} freedom is not a property of the will depending on physical laws, yet it is not for that reason lawless; on the contrary it must be a causality acting according to immutable laws, but of a peculiar kind; otherwise a free will would be an absurdity” (Kant 39). In a religious connotation, the righteous decision of ‘free will’ is to give into the demands of God, in utter praise and worship, to conform to the predetermined standards laid out as standard grid. The Sons of Darkness are slayed symbolically whenever man freely choses to love and follow God: “{…} His great excellence shall shine for all the times of e[ternity;] for peace and blessing, glory and joy, and long life for all the Sons of Light. On the day when the Kittim fall there shall be a battle and horrible carnage before the God of Israel, for it is a day appointed by Him from ancient times as a battle of annihilation for the Sons of Darkness” (DSS The War Scroll 148).   ‘Free will’ allots for the Darkness or the Light – God’s obvious desire to annihilate Darkness removes the ‘free’ from the will. Who would want to be annihilated? Many cracks and loop holes hold dear in religious texts – one major requirement must be held to place the meanings into focus: faith. Faith holds hopes’ hand and promises of eternal paradise: “Blessed is every m[an…] and he will not die in the days of evil. Woe to you, O fool, for your mouth will deceive you […] a sin deserving death” (DSS The Birth of the Chosen One 541). By following the righteous path of ‘free will’ under exact conformity to God’s law, mankind will – if a Chosen One – be guaranteed eternal grace in servitude to the Lord. For the rest of humanity: The paradigm shift from a heteronomic society to a truer autonomic one will allow the individual to select – unrestrained – the a priori goal previously denied, and possibly never envisioned; by embracing an autonomic society in accordance with a priori ‘free will’ leads to internal truth and natural authority.

Works Cited

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and Edward Cook. New York: Harper One, 2005.

Double, Richard. “The Ethical Advantages of Free Will.” Philosophy and

Phenomenological Research. Vol. 69, No. 2 (2004): pp. 411-22.

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unknown, 10 May 2014. *this is a print-out from an anthology not listed in hard

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Milton, John. Paradise Lost. Boston, MA: Phillips, Sampson, & Co., 1857.

Morley, S. G. “Free Will and Science.” Hispanic Review. Vol. 37, No. 1 (1969): pp.

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Plato. The Republic. Trans. Benjamin Jowett. New York: Books, Inc., 1943.

Sanders, E. P. “R. Akiba’s View of Suffering.” The Jewish Quarterly Review. Vol. 63,

No. 4 (1973): pp. 332-351.

Picture c/o:  https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/5f/The_War_Scroll_-_Dead_Sea_Scroll.jpg

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