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MAXIMIZING ‘FREE WILL’

by Barry Klassel

I remember discussing this topic in 9th grade with some precocious friends, but with the publication of Sam Harris’ book called (what else?) Free Will, there is new interest in the debate.  I think it’s important to present a humanist perspective.

What is the ‘will?’  To put it as simply as I can, it is the conscious power to make choices and control one’s actions.  I believe there is an important sense in which humanists should embrace the notion of free will for ourselves, our children and others, i.e. by increasing, as much as we can, the degree of freedom human beings have in exercising their wills.

Free will involves making decisions and decisions always have realistic constraints.  We can’t choose chocolate ice cream if only vanilla is available.  Someone may not be able to attend their college of choice if the financial aid doesn’t come through.  Average citizens can’t choose their leaders if their society isn’t democratic; women can’t vote if the law excludes them.  What we should support is…

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