QUESTION: “Is Freedom of Will Necessary for Life to Have Meaning?”

NOTE: Freedom of will, as used here, is not freedom of action. Freedom of action implies the lack of external constraints on our thoughts and behaviors, while freedom of will implies our ability to think or to determine our attitude regardless of external constraints. Freedom of action may be determined by outside factors; freedom of will, if it exists, is an autonomous faculty within ourselves.

If there is no freedom of will and therefore no autonomous faculty within ourselves, then our deepest mental processes are fully and totally determined by genetics, the environment, and the epigenetic relationship between them. This list of primary influences on our decisions and behavior seems complete. What other human faculty or physical process is there that would result in autonomy and thus confer freedom of will? The imagined concept of a metaphysical soul seems necessary to provide this autonomy, and this is, indeed, a leap of faith!

And so, if the freedom of will is necessary for meaning in life, then metaphysics seems essential to define the soul, the spiritual faculty that confers true autonomy. Otherwise, if freedom of will is an illusion, the belief in meaning for one’s life (as well as the belief in personal freedom of any significance) is also an illusion, one that is pre-programmed, fated, and determined.

ANSWER: “Yes, otherwise one’s life only provides the illusion of meaning.” 

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