“Am I Free?”
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.”
“The reality in which we live is determined by unreality which we believe to be real because it is rational.”
Otto Rank (“Beyond Psychology”)
“In the physical sciences, advance often comes through paradigms that build upon and then replace one another. The measurable value of these paradigms lies in their predictive capacity for material processes and events. In the social sciences, however, and often also in philosophy and religion, separate paradigms often tend to debunk or negate one another rather than build upon them. So today, the once great Sigmund Freud is largely negated by contemporary psychologists, often without reading his work. Freud’s disciple Otto Rank, on the contrary, built upon what was solid in Freud and created a paradigm of human behavior that expanded Freud’s insight, negating only that within Freud’s activity which could be shown to be in error. In this, Rank’s insights relative to Freud’s work are analogous to Einstein’s insights relative to Newton’s work; that is, they build rather than negate. This, I believe, is the key to advancement in any field of endeavor.” (dkreikneros)