Free Will

Have you ever wondered if you’re truly in control of your own life?🤔💭 Ever think we might be living in The Sims? Neo sensed there was something off in The Matrix and discovered that someone or something else was in control of everything. If everything around us is being controlled, what good are our own choices?  What value do our choices have if they aren’t going to change the outcome?

Although we are probably not in a simulation (or let’s just assume we’re not), it is still unclear whether we are totally in charge of all we do. It feels like I woke up this morning, chose to snooze my alarm, then finally chose to get up and make coffee. But might those choices be less than free? What if I’m forced to do something? Is that choice still my own?

In this starter pack, we examine different views of our free or not-so-free wills. One problem is that philosophers have different definitions of what free will is! Some think of it as the act of doing one thing when you could have done something else. Others believe having free will is the same as simply believing you have it. Most, however, are pretty skeptical that believing you have something is the same as having it, but it’s still up for debate. Philosophical views on free will and determinism can be divided into three camps: those who believe in both (compatibilists), those who exclusively believe in free will OR determinism (incompatibilists), and those who believe neither. Perhaps after reading this starter pack you will have an idea of which group you agree with!


  • The Free Will Show

    Taylor Cyr & Matt Flummer

  • Drunken Philosophy: Episode #9 The Free Will Argument

    Connor & Dan

  • Does Free Will Exist? – What Is Will?

    Leo Gura

  • Making Sense with Sam: Episode #241 Final Thoughts on Free Will Harrison:

    Sam Harrison

  • In Our Time: Philosophy

    Melvyn Bragg


Pop Culture

Questions to Think About

  • Do we have free will?

  • Are my actions predetermined?

  • Is life a simulation?

  • Does God exist?

  • Does everything happen for a reason?

  • Are life and all the events in it predetermined?

  • If we don’t have free will, then what do we have?

  • Is there anything that we control? Is there anything we do not?

Similar Starter Packs

Key Terms

  • Free Will:
    The power of acting without the constraint of necessity or fate; the ability to act at one’s own discretion.
  • Responsibility:
    The opportunity or ability to act independently and make decisions without external authorization.
  • Fate:
    The development of events beyond a person’s control, typically regarded as determined by a supernatural power (be destined to happen, turn out, or act in a particular way).
  • Determinism:
    Events, including moral choices, are determined by previous events.
  • Hard determinism:
    Events/actions are completely determined by influences and forces over which a person has no control.
  • Soft Determinism/Compatibilism:
    Free will and determinism existing together. Agents are free to act as they choose only only to the extent that there are no outside forces or obstacles hindering them.
  • Agent Causation:
    Agents (this includes people and other non-event beings) can cause and shape events; compatible with free will.
  • Event Causation:
    Only previous events are capable of causing future events; compatible with determinism.

  • Arindam Chakrabarti

  • Susanne Bobzien

  • Patricia Chruchland

  • Friedrich Nietzsche

  • David Hume

  • John Locke

  • Thomas Hobbes

  • Aristotle

(“File:Patricia Churchland, 2015 (cropped).jpg” by Vera de Kok is marked with CC BY-SA 4.0. To view the terms, visit
(“Friedrich Nietzsche by Gustav Schultze, 1882. Image courtesy WikiCommons” by Royal Opera House Covent Garden is marked with CC PDM 1.0. To view the terms, visit
(“David Hume” by Stifts- och landsbiblioteket i Skara is licensed under CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit
(“Thomas Hobbes, philosopher” by lisby1 is marked with CC PDM 1.0. To view the terms, visit
(“Head of Aristotle. Vienna, Museum of Art History, Collection of Classical Antiquities.” by Sergey Sosnovskiy is marked with CC BY-SA 2.0. To view the terms, visit

Key Texts

Authors: Ariel Blunk and Grant Ryan; Editor: Benjamin Brock
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