What if Freedom and Freewill had nothing to do with each other?

Imagine if in some deep sense life were determined. Now, somehow avoid the immediate rejoinder that, “this means I am not typing this, because presupposed in every activity and every description of activity, including me describing the activity of believing to be determined, spontaneous will is presumed”. Instead, assume that what we mean by “spontaneous will” that we experience (we do, after all, experience ourselves as free) is simply an explanation of how it feels to be free, not proof that our will is radically free, i.e. somehow self-engendered rather than a result of natural processes.

Does this mean, “freedom doesn’t exist”? Or, does it mean that the assumption that freedom was the self-engendering spontaneous creative spark of the will, rather than a description of a certain form of the will’s activity. If there is an experience of freedom, then certainly it could be simulated – you could be wired up such that you experienced a set of actions as the result of your own will but n fact you were being controlled. This doesn’t mean “freedom doesn’t exist”, it just means it is primarily a moral political idea rather than a metaphysical one. Are people really “behind” their actions – perhaps in some sense not. But do people experience themselves as the cause of their actions –  yes! And this experience is not neutral – it points towards democratic political structures which respect this human need for free creative work.

It might be perfectly coherent to believe that humans are computers, and at the same time call for deeper, more meaningful forms of political engagement and an end to alienated labour. Certainly, it is no less coherent than to believe humans are computers and call for anything at all – because the potential nature of man as determined does not contradict any more with the desire for the potentially “false” feeling of free creation than with the desire for any other feeling – feelings need not be “true” to be desirable.

And is this not, in a sense, the lesson of Hegel? That real freedom is not freedom of the will, but the becoming adequate of social life to the nature of humans as desiring to be free – to engage in free creative activity, to have their own plans and carry them out. Freedom is the power to carry out the proper life of man as free. Radical freedom is the metaphysical correlate – that at any moment we can fail to be adequate to our nature by engaging in bad faith, i.e. by acting as if we did not have a choice, when in fact we did although that choice perhaps did not allow for the fulfilment of freedom as a self-creating life process.


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