Home Sociology Homo Prospectus
We have emphasized the constructive aspect of freedom thus far. We have said relatively little, however, about "willing" and we turn to this topic in this final section.
There is one sense of "will" that comes into play when we engage in the spontaneous or deliberate prospection of future possibilities. When the mind explores possibilities and finds one that stands out relative to alternatives, it feels like a "free willing" because what precipitates our action is our own desires. Nothing more, no additional act of will, is required to make the action "up to us."
The option that is settled on is in an obvious sense one's own because it came about through one's own unimpeded mental activity. This need not always be the case. Sometimes one confronts internal compulsion that is insensitive to what one prefers or external coercion that blocks one from doing what one most wants to do. So long as one's exploration of alternatives is not constrained by factors such as these, then no additional transcendental will is needed for the act to be "of one's own accord." No rational homunculus must enter the scene and ratify what one does. For when agents, after freely exploring options, settle their minds by following what "seems best," they have already done exactly what this rational homunculus is invoked to do.
So given that an agent has extensive prospective powers and has built an option set of substantial size, "freely willing" an option consists of running through these options until one feels that one's mind is made up, and then taking the course of action one has settled on and nothing more.
The philosophical debate about free will primarily concerns abstract issues of metaphysics. How does causation work in our universe?
What sorts of physical laws does it have? Would free will be possible if the laws of the universe were deterministic? These are important questions and the debate about them goes on, but the subject of our chapter has been something else. Our focus has instead been on an important comparative question about free will that hardly ever gets addressed: What are the distinctive psychological factors that explain why humans are free but simpler animals are not? The answer, we claim, is latitude. Humans are deeply prospective creatures who have powerful abilities for option construction. Humans can, thus, build option sets that contain numerous and diverse opportunities for selfexpression. It is because humans are unique in being able to roam far and wide in a vast space of options that humans are unique in being free.
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