Digest of terms

free will

that humans have free will has traditionally been taken to be a precondition of their capacity to respond to moral education and to act morally. However, the extent of free will is commonly understood to be constrained. The degree of constraint is perceived as varying according to the extent to which the individual is subject to conditioning by genetic inheritance, environmental influence, or the demands of others. Free will can be willingly inhibited by the use of alcohol or drugs, and unwillingly by brain-washing or through torture. The heightening of self-knowledge and awareness is undoubtedly a key ingredient for strengthening free will, or at least the capacity to be able to act as though it is real. Its reality is disputed by determinists, who assign every mental event to a prior cause (a position often combined with materialism/physicalism) of which it is a necessary consequence - yet this seems to fatally undermine our deeply held views about personal moral responsibility. Attempts to combine the two positions, a view known as compatibilism, have not gained wide acceptance. Indeed the nature of free will, and the question of its ultimate reality, remain among the most puzzling issues in philosophical psychology and neuroscience.

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