Free will

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For the concept of free will or free will , there is no universally accepted definition. Colloquially one understands something different under free will than in legal or psychological language usage. In philosophy , the term is not defined uniformly.

In an interdisciplinary sense, free will includes the subjectively perceived human ability to be able to make a conscious decision among various options .

Philosophical positions

The concepts of the “ subject ” position of man and his “ autonomy ” or also his “ morality ” are based on the assumption of freedom of choice. The political ideas of “ freedom ” and “ democracy ” also presuppose this assumption.

But already in ancient Greece , but especially since the beginning of the Enlightenment , the idea of ​​free will was exposed to numerous doubts ( see also: History of Free Will ).

Conditional and unconditional free will

Conditional free will

According to the concept of conditional free will, a will is free if a person forms their will according to their personal motives and inclinations and can then do what they want ( freedom of action ). According to this idea, which of the competing desires of a person develops as will depends on his personality and on environmental influences.

Due to the complexity of the circumstances that lead to the formation of the will, the reasons for a decision are only partially visible . Nevertheless, freedom is spoken of here because the choice made corresponds to the inclinations and motives of the person and thus represents their own will and not one that is forced upon them.

There are, however, doubts as to whether the term freedom is appropriate here, since the causal causes of a decision are only partially recognizable for the decision maker himself. Schopenhauer's statement that man can do what he wants, but he cannot want what he wants, sums up this viewpoint.

As a special form of the 'conditional' free will, the ' asymptotic ' (approximate) free will can be viewed: On the one hand, there cannot be an absolutely free will from all constraints, and on the other hand, conscious human thinking or the knowledge of the individual ( That is, the human personality as a whole) can significantly influence individual actions and decisions, Philip Clayton suggests the concept of asymptotic free will. This is not simply given, but it develops and perfects itself to the extent that the respective individual perfects himself humanly, without ever achieving absolute freedom of will.

Absolute free will

According to the concept of unconditional free will, there are no restrictions on freedom. Such freedom can only be conceived if a will is not conditioned by anything. The problem with this freedom is that if the will is not conditioned by anything, it must be considered accidental and unmotivated. It is then subject to pure chance what develops into the will. It is no longer in harmony with nature and the inclinations of the acting person. He was detached from her and no longer attributable to her.

Compatibility of determinism and free will


The concept of determinism is based on the assumption that all events that happen are both causal consequences of previous events and are uniquely determined by them.


The position that determinism is compatible with free will is called compatibilism . Compatibilists like Thomas Hobbes define free will in such a way that a person acts freely when he wants an action and could also act differently if he wanted to act differently. Within compatibilist positions there are different views as to whether determinism and free will are only compatible with each other or whether determinism is even a prerequisite for free will. The former is referred to as soft , the latter as hard compatibilism.

The view that it does not matter whether the decisions are deterministic is called soft compatibilism . According to this view, the will is free, since the acting person does not fully know the determining factors. For representatives of this position, freedom of will ultimately means acting on grounds of which the actor is not fully aware. The freedom experienced in making a decision is therefore only an apparent freedom.

The view that free will is only possible if a decision is conditioned by events in the past is called hard compatibilism . According to this, a will is free when it is motivated by reasons that are in harmony with the values ​​and convictions of the willing and acting person. The freedom experienced in making a decision is actual freedom. According to this understanding, an unfree will would be an action-guiding will that would be experienced as imposed, for example due to obsessive thoughts or influence by other people.

Modern representatives of compatibilism are u. a. Harry Frankfurt , Daniel C. Dennett , Michael Pauen and Peter Bieri .


Some philosophers see the concepts of free will and determinism as incompatible. If the will, like everything else in the world, is conditioned, it and all decisions and actions proceeding from it cannot be free. This philosophical view is called incompatibilism .

Incompatibilists assume that a person has free will precisely when they are the only causal reason (initial trigger) for the action and they can make various decisions in a decision-making situation. In addition to the causation through events ( event causality ) or by chance, there is also a third one, the so-called actor causality ( substance causality , agent causality ). Actions are then traced back to the agent's wishes and beliefs, which he weighted differently and which thus provide the reasons for his actions. This definition corresponds to unconditional free will . Determinism is not necessarily dismissed as incorrect by incompatibilists, but if it were, every choice we make would be conditioned by previous events.

Incompatibilists can therefore be divided into two opposite positions:

  1. “Hard determinists” like Baron d'Holbach or Derk Pereboom , who consider determinism to be correct and deny that there is such a thing as free will.
  2. Libertarians like Peter van Inwagen , Robert Kane or Geert Keil , who reject determinism and affirm the existence of free will.

Indeterminism and free will

As indeterminism is called the the determinism opposing view that (at least some) are events that are not caused by previous events.

Libertarians are of the opinion that undetermined actions are not purely accidental, but arise from a substantial will , the decisions of which are undetermined. This approach is widely viewed as unsatisfactory because it only takes the problem one step back (to the substantial will ) and fails to explain what that substantial will is and what laws it is subject to in contrast to conventional concepts of mind .

Causality and free will

Even before the more recent probabilistic understanding of life processes , Arthur Schopenhauer saw an argument against free will in the fact that it means a violation of the principle of causality, one of the foundations of human thought. The free will is an illusion, in truth the will is controlled by chaotic (i.e. extremely complex) influences outside and inside the subject.

Dissemination of the positions

In a survey carried out in 2009, the degree of dissemination of the positions presented among philosophers was determined. The survey interviewed members of a total of 99 philosophical faculties that were classified as high-ranking by the Philosophical Gourmet Report , 90 of them in English-speaking countries. Of the 931 participating philosophers, the options (options) "I accept" or "I tend to" were divided into four categories as follows for the question "Free will": "Compatibilism" 59.1%, " Libertarianism " 13.7% , "No free will" 12.2%, "Other" 14.9%.

Scientific models and findings

In the course of the history of the natural sciences, numerous attempts have been made to underpin or to question the prevailing conceptions of free will using empirical-scientific models and findings. Depending on the underlying conception of free will, different conclusions can be drawn from the contributions of the empirical sciences (see also compatibilism and incompatibilism ).


The world view of classical mechanics sees the world as deterministic. It contains the notion that if the information is sufficiently precise, the future can be predicted with any precision. In quantum mechanics , on the other hand, it is no longer possible to predict the course of a process with regard to all measurable quantities, even if all information about its initial state that is basically accessible is known (see Schrödinger's cat ). According to the current (but not uncontroversial) interpretation , natural occurrences are not completely determined, but are in a fundamental sense partially subject to chance. The mathematician John H. Conway and the physicist Simon Cooking tried to use their Free Will Theorem to establish a connection between human freedom of choice and quantum mechanical fuzziness (indeterminacy).

brain research

The use of modern imaging methods, particularly PET and fMRI , has made it possible to roughly observe neural processes that can be assigned to the decision-making process. The results so far suggest that some decisions are made in the brain before the person is aware of them. However, up to now the decisions in these experiments have been spontaneous decisions without consequences. B. which hand is used to grip. Critics therefore object that a perceived freedom of decision could be real insofar as the feeling person could control and monitor the execution of the action and in this process would have the opportunity to interrupt or modify the action. This was expressed in the suggestion that the consciously sentient person might have some kind of " veto right". Later experiments, however, indicated that veto decisions are also made unconsciously and are only felt as free decisions afterwards.

According to the current explanatory model of brain research on the control of voluntary motor skills , many, especially fundamental, drives for human behavior have a subcortical origin - they arise in the limbic evaluation and memory system . This activates the basal ganglia and the cerebellum , which in turn set the cortical processes in motion. Only then does the feeling of wanting something set in. This agrees that in voluntary actions, neuronal activity occurs first in the basal ganglia and in the cerebellum and only then in the cerebral cortex .


Psychologist Daniel Wegner conducted a series of experiments in which people experience an illusion of control and the feeling that their will is shaping events that are actually determined by someone else. He argued that the ease with which this illusion can be created shows that the everyday feeling of free will is an illusion and that in reality both behavior and will are the product of other, unconscious mental processes. Wegner defined free will as a function of priority (the thought must come before the action), consistency (the thought must match the action), and exclusivity (the thought cannot be associated with other causes). Wegner did not deny, however, that conscious thinking can induce action, rather he emphasized that any connection between conscious thinking and action should be determined through scientific research and not through unreliable introspection and feelings.

Experiments on free will

A much discussed experiment ( Libet experiment ) in this area was carried out by Benjamin Libet in 1979 . The subjects were asked to lift their finger at any moment while watching a kind of clock hand. At the same time, a certain brain activity linked to the movement of the finger was recorded. According to Libet's interpretation, the experiment showed that the brain activity that caused a person to move their finger began about 550 ms before the moment that person thought they made a conscious choice. This preceding and unconscious brain activity was described as early as 1964 by William Gray Walter and in 1965 by Hans Helmut Kornhuber and Lüder Deecke , and the measurable correlate is referred to, among other things, as the readiness potential or preparation potential. Libet himself concluded from this that the assumption that humans have no free will must be wrong: a "veto" is possible within the proven time window between potential for readiness and consciously felt decision to act. In a 2016 study, Libet's veto was examined in more detail using a brain-computer interface . It was shown here that intentional, voluntary motor actions can be prevented up to about 200 ms before they are actually carried out, and can be changed or canceled even after the onset of muscle activity.

The experimental research results from Daniel Wegner's psychology matched the physiological findings of Benjamin Libet. Wegner and Wheatley were able to show in the trend-setting "I-Spy" experiment that actions are always experienced as being caused by one's own thoughts if the thought is experienced immediately before the action, this is consistent with the action and there is no other plausible cause for the act gives.

A follow-up experiment by Haggard and Eimer from 1999 expanded the original approach, in that the test subjects could not only decide when to move their hand, but also which hand. In this way, the researchers countered a frequently raised objection to the Libet experiment, according to which the test subjects could not make any real decision in terms of a choice between different options and the results were therefore not typical for human practice. Haggard and Eimer 's results confirmed Libet's data that the willingness potential precedes the conscious decision.

Regarding the possibility of a "veto" proposed by Libet within a certain time window (see above), experiments from 2009 on the awareness of voluntary decisions by Kühn and Brass indicate that veto decisions are also made unconsciously and are only felt as free decisions afterwards.

As a follow-up to the Libet experiments, a group led by Alvaro Pascual-Leone carried out an experiment in 1992 in which the subjects were asked to move their right or left hand at random. He found that by stimulating the different hemispheres of the brain with magnetic fields, the choice of the person could be strongly influenced. Typically, right-handed people choose the right hand about 60% of the time. However, when the right hemisphere was stimulated, the left hand was selected in 80% of all cases. (The right hemisphere of the brain is essentially responsible for the left half of the body and vice versa). Despite this demonstrable outside influence, the subjects continued to report that they believed they had made the choice freely.

fMRI images of the brain

In 2013, a research group led by John-Dylan Haynes at the Berlin Center for Advanced Neuroimaging (BCAN) demonstrated that not only decisions about a hand movement, but also decisions about the selection of an abstract thought task (arithmetic task) have specific, temporally preceding brain activity. Statistical analyzes of mapped brain activities showed that certain activity patterns occurred with an over- random frequency about four seconds before the moment at which the test subjects themselves could be aware of their decision. The properties of the activity patterns were each typical for the type of subsequent decision. After the study was published, Haynes pointed out on Deutschlandfunk that the results showed "how strongly our decisions are influenced by unconscious background processes. What is actually interesting is that we have the feeling that I am making a decision, but that something in the brain does happened unconsciously before. "

The exact connection between the unconscious brain processes and the conscious decision made seconds later is still unclear. What is needed now is "20 years of research on the subject of brain mechanisms of free will".

Latest (as of 2015) experimental research results and a. von Haynes point out, however, that such brain activities - after they have been started involuntarily - can be willingly stopped: "The test subjects are not uncontrollably subject to the early brain waves. They were able to actively intervene in the decision-making process and make a movement to cancel, "says Haynes. "This means that the freedom of human volitional decisions is much less restricted than previously thought. Nevertheless, there is a point in the timing of decision-making processes at which a turnaround is no longer possible, the 'point of no return'."

Free will and self-control

A special manifestation of free will is the self-control of an acting person. It is of great importance in all social areas. It is researched in the empirical basic research of psychology.

For example, several surveys - recently also very extensive - have shown that the degree of self-control during childhood has a strong influence on later successes in life, for example in the areas of health , material well-being and satisfaction , regardless of intelligence and social status . At the same time, greater levels of self-control during childhood resulted in lower social costs from medical treatment , benefits, and law enforcement later in life .

The feeling of free will is taken for granted in all of these studies, and it is regarded as irrelevant for the results of the investigation whether the persons recorded have views on whether the freedom of their will is real or imagined.

Autonomous Systems in Artificial Intelligence

According to VDI guideline VDI / VDE: 2653, “A technical agent () is a delimitable (hardware or / and software) unit with defined goals. A technical agent strives to achieve these goals through independent behavior and interacts with its environment and other agents. ” Hardware agents (e.g. robot soccer , autonomous driving , military robots ) and software agents can therefore make independent decisions and independently take action (act), unaffected by human intervention. You can act appropriately to the situation in order to complete given tasks (alone or in a team).

A distinction is made between different agent types (with software agents ).

  • Adaptive agents manage a model of their own process and parameter structure and can adapt based on their own history and external conditions.
  • Analogously, cognitive agents manage a model of their environment. This enables targeted action in this environment.

In the case of autonomous systems, a distinction is also made between reactive actions (reaction to the environment) and proactive actions (independent, goal-oriented behavior with personal initiative).

  • Deliberative (software) agents (deliberative agents) evaluate their options for the best possible target achievement before they act (automatic selection of the most favorable solution). It is about the decision which goals are to be achieved (deliberation) and how they are to be achieved (means-end reasoning). The result is intentions.
  • BDI agents (beliefs = world knowledge / desires = goals / intentions = intentions) are software agents who can have any number of desires (wishes?), But then commit themselves to one intention (will?) After selection is pursued further (effective for action?)

Philosophy applies as a criterion for a free decision

  • Condition of being able to act differently or to be able to make different decisions
  • Authorship condition (the autonomous system decides for itself and the decision depends on its wishes, beliefs and considerations)
  • Self-controlled decisions without external constraints (control condition)

If one replaces the terms person with agent or actor, desire with desire and will with intention, commitment or goal, these requirements are obviously also fulfilled by certain agents, although the (overriding) goals are given here. It is questionable, however, whether these desires and motives are not also genetically (or ontogenetically) given in people and are therefore only free to a limited extent ( Maslow's hierarchy of needs ). Beckermann does not think it makes sense to say that nature manipulates us in this way or makes us unfree by giving us these wishes. Rather, our freedom is based on the fact that in the course of time we humans have developed the ability to become aware of our wishes and to think about them. Personal decisions result from this. A will is then seen as striving towards self-determined goals and putting them into practice.

This leads to the question of whether the necessary conditions for freedom of will, decision-making and freedom of action are also met when autonomous agents find suitable actions in a modeled world through strictly determined, algorithm-based planning and reasoning in order to select a goal and get closer to it even without accompanying awareness? Or is the ability to (self) localize a preliminary stage of self-confidence? Can one also equate the results of machine planning and reasoning with the result of human considerations? And does wanting presuppose conscious desires and ideas and is there even a need for wanting and consciousness in the human sense when a decision is made between alternatives in order to achieve goals?

In the case of autonomous systems (especially in autonomous driving), the question arises as to what influences (justifies) behavior and how trustworthy it is, as well as the question of the responsibility and liability of technical systems.


In a biological sense, a person's will is also determined by genetic makeup and environmental influences. A controversial debate in biology is the question of whether human behavior is determined based on its evolutionary history ( phylogenesis ) or based on its personal ( ontogenetic ) character . So: How defining are human genetics and biological foundations for the freedom of human behavior and thought in contrast to being shaped by culture and environment? Genetic studies have identified many specific genetic factors that affect an individual's personality, and therefore freedom. Examples of this are Down syndrome to more subtle effects such as the statistical disposition for schizophrenia . In the latter and many other cases, there is an interplay between disposition and the environment that restricts individual freedom of thought and action.

Humanities perspectives


Self-determination theory

In the self-determination theory (SDT) advocated by Richard M. Ryan and Edward L. Deci since 2000, the term autonomy is of central importance. It was defined here as a feeling of complete voluntariness (urge to be causal agent of one's own life), i.e. as a subjectively perceived own free will. From the point of view of this theory, autonomy, along with competence and social integration, is one of the three universal basic psychological needs that are important for the quality of behavior and the associated well-being. These basic needs have emerged in the course of human evolution as the mechanisms with which the individual can best adapt to the requirements of his social and physical environment. The need for autonomy describes a deeply rooted tendency in the organism to self-regulate one's own actions and coherence of its behavioral goals.

In self-determination theory, a concept of motivation is used to describe behavior, which not only has the strength of motivation as a parameter, but also the degree of autonomy, which is also understood as a continuum. This ranges from externally regulated behavior, for example through external rewards or coercion, through only limited internalized regulation (avoidance of feelings of guilt or fear), to autonomous motivation, in which the behavior is fully integrated into the self-awareness. Compared to externally regulated behavior with the same motivational strength, autonomously regulated behavior is characterized by greater efficiency, especially with regard to problem-solving behavior and perseverance, as well as greater well-being.

Extreme left criticism

Representatives of the extreme left use the discussion about free will to accuse current psychology of political incapacitation of the citizen. From Freud's psychoanalysis to Skinner's behavioral psychology, psychology is reactionary because it focuses on the subconscious, ignores political factors and denies the individual free will, including the ability to consciously act politically:

"[...] a certain consciousness of wrong practice of absolutely free will is nothing other than a series of events in which the individuality is the commandments of the capital and its state adds . There is no need to deny freedom, and certainly not the laboriously assembled power of the unconscious to make the success of domination and exploitation on the globe understandable. "


The word freedom does not always find exactly the same use in theological discussions as in philosophical discussions, but also includes certain aspects that depend on a religiously based understanding. There is no widespread consensus on the details of the concept of freedom any more than in philosophy.

Critics of certain religious-philosophical and theological interpretations of freedom often cite a problem for the assumption that human freedom can exist without contradictions against the background of divine omniscience : If God is omniscient, how can man be free in his decisions? Because if God knows all the facts, he also knows what decision a person will make at a certain point in time. Because of divine knowledge, there are no alternative options for action. However, these are precisely what characterize a decision made freely. This dilemma is exacerbated when - as is the case in many religions - one assigns God as an overpowering being, beyond merely observing foreknowledge, a function that directs or assists the fate of the world or the fate of the individual (belief in providence ) or even assumes that the final moral and religious determination or the salvation of a person's soul is inevitably determined in advance by divine counsel ( belief in predestination ).

Even the opposite thesis, divine omniscience and human freedom of choice, would in no way contradict one another. B. when God (as an observer withdrawn from space-time) only foresees the decision, but not influences it, was and is represented in theology and philosophy. Various late scholastic positions on this are summarized under the heading of voluntarism .

Opposed to these views is the theological concept of a reality as a whole, which is composed of both natural (this world ) and transcendent reality ( hereafter ). Both realities also exist in humans, which is why the processes of finding action are both biologically and divinely motivated. In each case, two basic motivations would produce options for a possible choice, with which the person can at least freely choose between these two basic motivations for actions.

A classic treatment of the problem can already be found in the theodicy by Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz , who deals with the question of the extent to which God can be held responsible for the malum morale , i.e. for people's decisions about evil.


In Christianity, the question of free will in the narrower sense has an important position because it addresses the problem of the extent to which a person can become just before God on his own and can turn to salvation. In the Christian context, the question of free will deals with the relationship between freedom and God's grace.

The Bible contains both verses that underscore man's freedom to choose and those that limit or abolish that freedom. Paul ’s remarks on the sovereign determination of man for salvation or disaster by God should be mentioned in particular ( Rom. 9 : 20–23  EU ). In the dispute with Pelagianism , among other things, Augustine took the position that there is no absolute free will. Man lost this ability through the Fall. In De Civitate Dei (De Civ. XII, 6-9) and in De libero arbitrio (De lib. Arb. I, 12. III, 3), however, Augustine argues that man can choose by the grace of God because his knowledge is imperfect. Voluntary decisions are not causally caused. This is true even though God is omniscient and on the basis of this can foresee human decisions. “The will that triggers any action is only gained through an idea. What a person chooses for himself, what he rejects, is in his power. It must be admitted that the mind is touched by both higher and lower ideas, and the rational being chooses from either which it wills, and that from the merit of that choice there are both misery and bliss. ”( lib.arb, III, 74)

In his work De servo arbitrio, Martin Luther emphasized the lack of freedom of the human will with regard to salvation and, in principle, the impossibility of free will. During the Reformation, this position led to a public rift between Martin Luther and Erasmus of Rotterdam . Johannes Calvin went further than Luther and advocated the doctrine of a double predestination , against which later a. a. the Reformed theologian Jacobus Arminius turned. Unlike the radical Reformation Unitarians , who in the Rakau Catechism, first published in 1605, spoke out in favor of free will and against original sin. Free will is also emphasized in the catechism written by József Ferencz in 1864 for the Hungarian and Transylvanian Unitarians.

Within the broad spectrum of Christian churches, theologians of some denominations today tend to emphasize free will more than others. Roman Catholic theologians emphasize the free will of man: it is up to each individual to prefer divine love as a motivation for actions or to accept the gifts of God and he can freely choose to reject it (this emphasizes, for example Karl Rahner ). Most of the free churches that did not emerge from Pietism also regard human free will as a given. Lutheran and Calvinist churches tend to oppose this.

Most churches recognize the restriction of free will, for example through psychological compulsions. The Catholic Church assumes that in the event of possession by demons or spirits, the free will of the possessed is also restricted or abolished.

Other religions

In Islam Prädestinationslehren are widely used, but have Qadarites and Mu'tazilite the free will of man taught. In Hinduism , too , some currents assume predestination, while others emphasize human freedom. The Buddhism denies the absolute freedom of the will, while the idea of free will in Judaism a central dogma represents (see Deut 11:26  EU ).

Legal situation in Germany

The constitutional guiding principle of human dignity ( Article 1, Paragraph 1 of the Basic Law , also Article 1 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union) is based, in the opinion of the Federal Constitutional Court, on freedom of choice: “The protection of human dignity is based on the idea of ​​the human being as a spiritual and moral being which is designed to determine and develop itself in freedom. ” From this approach, the Federal Constitutional Court then also derives the constitutional status of the guilt principle , which is at least relevant for German criminal law .

The German (federal) legislature also presupposes the ability of adults to make free decisions:

Thus, under § 104 no. 2 BGB , the legal incapacity as "the free formation of exclusive state" as part of the free will of the individual as a discontinuation border only in exceptional cases basic property ahead. Without this premise, the principle of private autonomy , on which German private law is essentially based, would be seriously questioned.

Likewise, the Criminal Code is based on the requirement of free decision: Only "who is unable to see the wrong of the act or after this insight when committing the act because of a pathological mental disorder, because of a profound disturbance of consciousness or because of feeble-mindedness or another serious mental abnormality to act ", acts according to § 20 StGB" without guilt "

From a decision of the Bavarian Supreme Court : “The appointment of a supervisor ex officio , i.e. without an application by the adult and, as here, against his will, requires that the person being cared for is unable to freely determine his or her will due to a mental illness. The law does not expressly say this, but results from a constitutional interpretation of the law. Because of the corresponding constitutional provisions, the state does not have the right to improve its adult citizens who are capable of free will or to prevent them from harming themselves ” . See also the new version of Section 1896 (1a) BGB (since July 1, 2005). In principle, every decision by the supervisor must be made in accordance with the free will of the supervised person. This is required by the basic right to self-determination anchored in Article 2, Paragraph 1 of the Basic Law .

Ethical importance

Philosophical positions

Hard determinists reject the concept of moral responsibility. How can you hold someone morally responsible when there is only one way to act in any situation? The fact that decisions are not made under restriction of freedom of action does not change the fact that determinism releases the agent from moral responsibility. The opposite position says that despite the existing determinism, an individual must bear moral responsibility for his or her actions and, in this respect, social and legal consequences may be justified.

Compatibilists , on the other hand, argue that determinism is precisely a prerequisite for moral responsibility. Nobody can be held responsible for something unless their actions are determined by their character, motives and values.

Libertarians hold fast to the idea of ​​free will and thus also to moral responsibility.

Moral responsibility

Proponents of moral responsibility assume freedom of choice or are of the opinion that our social order would collapse if no one felt morally responsible for their actions.

It is also argued that the legal principle of “no punishment without guilt” would no longer be applicable if freedom of choice and thus personal guilt were rejected.

However, there are also opinions that ascribe moral responsibility to a person even in determinism. Essentially, it is about the question of authorship. Anyone who claims that he is not the author of his action, but that his neurons and the physical processes taking place in his body have brought about the deed, fail to recognize that neurons and physical processes are part of him and thus enter into a contradiction. The concept of responsibility as the individual attributability of behavior does not lose its meaning in a deterministically determined world. Determinism therefore does not provide any justification for our legal system to be changed, and some determinists have been arguing for a deterministic criminal law for some time.

Wolfgang Prinz is of the opinion that in the area of ​​social interaction as well as in morality and law it does not matter whether people actually have free will. Rather, it is important that people have an intuition of freedom that, in their perception, is just as real as the actual existence of free will. This intuition of freedom leads to the fact that people are ready to take responsibility for their actions and to ascribe responsibility to other people for their actions.


Baltasar Gracián y Morales SJ (1601 near Calatayud - 1658 Tarazona , Aragon ): Spanish writer, university teacher and Jesuit .

“Finding everyone's thumbscrew: This is the art of setting the will of others in motion. It takes more skill than strength. You have to know where to get everyone. There is no will that does not have a peculiar inclination which, according to the variety of tastes, differs. All are idolaters, some of honor, others of interest, most of pleasure. The trick consists in knowing this idol of everyone in order to determine him by means of it. If one knows which is the effective impetus for each, it is as if one had the key to his will. One must now go back to the very first spring spring or the primum mobile in it, which is not the highest of its nature, but mostly the lowest: for there are more badly than well-ordered minds in this world. Now one has to work on one's mind first, because one word gives him the impetus to finally make the main attack with his favorite inclination; so his free will is infallibly checkmated. "

- Baltasar Gracián : Hand oracles and the art of sophistication, 1647, translation: Arthur Schopenhauer

"In the same way the most determined fatalist who it is, as long as he surrenders to mere speculation, nevertheless, as soon as he is concerned with wisdom and duty, he must act at all times as if he were free, and this idea also brings about." really produces the deed that is unanimous with it and can produce it alone. It's hard to put people off completely "

- Immanuel Kant : Review of Schulz's attempt at a guide to moral teaching ..., 1783, AA VIII p. 13

"The desire for 'freedom of will', in that metaphysical superlative understanding that unfortunately still reigns in the minds of the half-educated, the desire to bear all and ultimate responsibility for one's actions and to God, the world, To relieve ancestors, chance, society of it is nothing less than to be that causa sui and, with more than Münchhausen's boldness, to pull oneself out of the swamp of nothing by the hair into existence. "

- Friedrich Nietzsche : Beyond good and evil, first main section: on the prejudices of the philosophers

"I laugh at your free will and also at your unfree: what your will means is madness to me, there is no will."

- Friedrich Nietzsche : Estate, summer 1883, 13 [1-36], Zarathustra's holy laughter

“I honestly don't know what people mean when they talk about freedom of human will. For example, I feel like I want something; but what that has to do with freedom, I can't understand at all. I feel that I want to light my pipe and I do that too; but how can I connect that to the idea of ​​freedom? What is behind the act of will that I want to light my pipe? Another act of will? Schopenhauer once said: 'Man can do what he wants; but he can't want what he wants. '"

- Albert Einstein : I trust intuition. The other Albert Einstein. Spectrum Academic Publishers Heidelberg, Berlin, Oxford, p. 176.

“Let's say you have absolutely free will. It would be a will that does not depend on anything: a will that is completely detached and free from all causal connections. Such a will would be a ludicrous, absurd will. His detachment would mean that he would be independent of your body, your character, your thoughts and feelings, your fantasies and memories. In other words, it would be a will unrelated to anything that makes you a particular person. In a substantial sense of the word it would therefore not be your will at all. "

- Peter Bieri : Unconditional freedom: a mirage. In: The craft of freedom.

See also



Systematic representations

Freedom and determinism
Psychological aspects
  • Martin Heinze, Thomas Fuchs, Friedel M. Reischies (eds.): Freedom of will - an illusion? Naturalism and Psychiatry. Pabst / Parodos, Lengerich / Berlin 2006, ISBN 3-89967-337-9 .
  • Josef Lukas (ed.): Special issue: How free is our will? In: Psychological Rundschau. 55/4, 2004, ISSN  0033-3042 , pp. 161-206. (Comments on this in: Psychol. Rdsch. 56/3, 2005, pp. 220–239)
  • Wolfgang Prinz : Open Minds: The Social Making of Agency and Intentionality , MIT Press 2012, 358 S. ISBN 026230094X - German translation by Jürgen Schröder: Selbst im Spiegel. The social construction of subjectivity . Suhrkamp, ​​Berlin 2013, ISBN 978-3-518-58594-8 , 502 pp.
Aspects from brain research
  • Peter Bieri : Does the direction of the brain undermine the freedom of will? In: Martin Heinze u. a .: Free will - an illusion? 2006, ISBN 3-89967-337-9 .
  • Christian Geyer (Ed.): Brain research and free will. To interpret the latest experiments. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt 2004, ISBN 3-518-12387-4 . (es 2387)
  • Thomas Goschke : The conditional will. Free will and self-control from the perspective of cognitive neuroscience. In: Gerhard Roth , Klaus-Jürgen Grün (eds.): The brain and its freedom. Contributions to the neuroscientific foundation of philosophy. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2006, ISBN 3-525-49085-2 , pp. 107-156.
  • Ingo-Wolf Kittel: Brain Research and Free Will. In: bvvp-Magazin 3, 2005 , pp. 12-14.
  • Michael Pauen : Illusion of Freedom? Possible and impossible consequences of brain research. Fischer, Frankfurt 2004, ISBN 3-10-061910-2 .
  • Reinhard Werth : The nature of consciousness - how perception and free will arise in the brain. C. H. Beck, Munich 2010, ISBN 978-3-406-60594-9 .
Freedom of action, culpability and legal aspects
  • Christof Gestrich , Thomas Wabel (Ed.): Free or unfree will? Freedom of action and responsibility in the dialogue between the sciences. Supplement 2005 to the Berlin Theological Journal.
  • Martin Hochhuth : The significance of the new free will debate for the law. In: Legal journal. (JZ) 2005, ISSN  0022-6882 , pp. 745-753.
  • Thomas Stompe, Hans Schanda (Hrsg.): Free will and responsibility in law, psychiatry and neurosciences. Medical Scientific Publishing Company, Berlin 2010, ISBN 978-3-941468-23-8 .
  • Rolf Dietrich Herzberg : Unfreedom of will and accusation of guilt , Mohr-Siebeck, Tübingen 2010, ISBN 978-3-16-150635-2 .
  • Thomas Hillenkamp : "Free will determination" and law. In: Legal journal. (JZ) 2015, ISSN  0022-6882 , pp. 391-401.

Web links

Commons : Free Will  - Collection of images, videos, and audio files



Individual evidence

  1. Philip Clayton: The Question of Freedom. Biology, culture and the emergence of the spirit in the world , Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2007, ISBN 9783525569818 , p. 111 ff.
  2. ^ Hermann Helbig : World puzzle from the point of view of modern science. Emergence in nature, society, psychology, technology and religion , Springer-Verlag, Berlin 2018, ISBN 9783662562888 , p. 343.
  3. ^ A b Ansgar Beckermann, Katrin Raschke: Philosophy understandable - actor causality. Retrieved February 3, 2020 .
  4. David Bourget and David J. Chalmers. What do philosophers believe? . In: Philosophical Studies. 2013, p. 15.
  5. ^ John H. Conway and Simon B. Cooking: The Strong Free Will Theorem. In: Notices of the AMS. Volume 56, Issue 2, February 2009.
  6. a b Simone Kühn, Marcel Brass: Retrospective construction of the judgment of free choice. In: Consciousness and Cognition. 18 (1), 2009, pp. 12-21. PMID 18952468
  7. ^ Susan J. Blackmore: Daniel Wegner . In: Conversations on consciousness . Oxford University Press, November 15, 2005, ISBN 978-0-19-280622-2 , pp. 245-257 (accessed March 21, 2011).
  8. Thomas needle Hoffer: Moral Psychology: Historical and Contemporary Readings . John Wiley and Sons, June 11, 2010, ISBN 978-1-4051-9019-0 , p. 236, (accessed March 21, 2011).
  9. ^ Daniel M. Wegner: The mind's best trick: how we experience conscious will. Archived from the original on May 22, 2013. In: Trends in Cognitive Sciences . 7, No. 2, 2003, pp. 65-69. doi : 10.1016 / s1364-6613 (03) 00002-0 . PMID 12584024 .
  10. John O'Shaughnessy, Nicholas J. O'Shaughnessy: The Undermining of Beliefs in the Autonomy and Rationality of Consumers . Routledge, December 10, 2007, ISBN 978-0-415-77323-2 , p. 3 (accessed March 21, 2011).
  11. ^ A b D. M. Wegner, T. Wheatley: Apparent mental causation: Sources of the experience of will . In: American Psychologist . 54, No. 7, 1999, pp. 480-492. doi : 10.1037 / 0003-066x.54.7.480 . PMID 10424155 .
  12. Manfred Stöhr, J. Dichgans, Ulrich W. Buettner, CW Hess, Eckart Altenmüller: Evozierte Potentiale. SEP-VEP-AEP-EKP-MEP. 3. Edition. Springer-Verlag, Berlin 1996, ISBN 3-662-07146-0 , p. 567.
  13. CHM Brunia, GJM van Boxtel, KBE Böcker: Negative Slow Waves as Indices of Anticipation: The Readiness Potential, the Contingent Negative Variation, and the Stimulus-Preceding Negativity. In: Steven J. Luck, Emily S. Kappenman (Eds.): The Oxford Handbook of Event-Related Potential Components. Oxford University Press, USA 2012, ISBN 978-0-19-537414-8 , pp. 189–207, pp. 189 ff.
  14. Michael Trimmel: Applied and Experimental Neuropsychophysiology. (= Teaching and research texts in psychology. Volume 35). Springer-Verlag, 2013, ISBN 978-3-642-75892-8 , pp. 216-230.
  15. a b M. Schultze-Kraft, D. Birman, M. Rusconi, C. Allefeld, K. Görgen, S. Dähne, B. Blankertz, JD Haynes: The point of no return in vetoing self-initiated movements. In: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences . Volume 113, Number 4, January 2016, pp. 1080-1085, doi: 10.1073 / pnas.1513569112 . PMID 26668390 , PMC 4743787 (free full text).
  16. ^ DM Wegner, T. Wheatley: Apparent mental causation: Sources of the experience of will . In: American Psychologist . 54, No. 7, 1999, pp. 480-492. doi : 10.1037 / 0003-066x.54.7.480 . PMID 10424155 .
  17. P. Haggard, M. Eimer: On the relation between brain potentials and the awareness of voluntary movements. In: Experimental Brain Research. 1999. PMID 10333013 , pp. 126, 128-133.
  18. ^ JP Brasil-Neto, A. Pascual-Leone, J. Valls-Solé, LG Cohen, M. Hallett: Focal transcranial magnetic stimulation and response bias in a forced-choice task. In: Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry. 55, 1992, pp. 964-966. PMID 1431962
  19. ^ CS Soon, AH He, S. Bode, John-Dylan Haynes : Predicting free choices for abstract intentions. In: Proc Natl Acad Sci US A. 110 (15), 2013, pp. 6217-6222, Free Full Text. PMID 23509300
  20. Volkart Wildermuth : Mental arithmetic predicted: The brain pattern in mathematical decisions , Deutschlandfunk - research current of March 20, 2013.
  21. Berlin scientists examine basic patterns of decisions, Charité press release of December 17, 2015
  22. Terrie E. Moffitt , L. Arseneault, D. Belsky, N. Dickson, RJ Hancox, H. Harrington, R. Houts, R. Poulton, BW Roberts, S. Ross, MR Sears, WM Thomson, A. Caspi: A gradient of childhood self-control predicts health, wealth, and public safety. In: Proc Natl Acad Sci US A. 108 (7), 2011, pp. 2693-2698. PMID 21262822
  23. ^ Terrie E. Moffitt , Avshalom Caspi, Richie Poulton: A better life thanks to early self-control. In: Spectrum of Science. 12/2014, pp. 40–47, (
  24. Review article on the Dunedin Study website: Children with more self-control turn into healthier and wealthier adults. ( Memento of January 13, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) on: , January 25, 2011.
  25. VDI guideline 2653 sheet 1: Agent systems in automation technology - basics , 2010
  26. Ipke Wachsmuth: artificial intelligence methods. Retrieved March 2, 2020 .
  27. a b Jörg Müller: Lecture Multiagent Systems - Lecture Autonomous Intelligent Systems 2. AGENT ARCHITECTURES, KNOWLEDGE REPRESENTATION AND REASONING. Retrieved February 3, 2020 .
  28. ^ A b Bernhard Jung, Stefan Kopp, Nadine Leßmann: Seminar: Cognitive modeling of animated agents. BDI Architecture (Beliefs - Desires - Intentions). Retrieved February 3, 2020 .
  29. Jörg Müller: Lecture Multi-Agent Systems - Lecture Autonomous Intelligent Systems 2. AGENT ARCHITECTURES, KNOWLEDGE REPRESENTATION AND REASONING. Retrieved February 3, 2020 .
  30. Ansgar Beckermann: Philosophy understandable - do we have free will? Retrieved February 3, 2020 .
  31. Gero Zimmermann: The philosophy of the mind as mirrored in computer science and complexity theory . 1st edition. Tectum Marburg, 2011, ISBN 978-3-8288-2740-0 , p. 288 .
  32. Ansgar Beckermann: Free Will - Everything Illusion? Retrieved February 3, 2020 .
  33. Gero Zimmermann: Do autonomous soccer robots want to score goals? A contribution to the discussion about free will. Retrieved February 3, 2020 .
  34. VDI: Topic special AI and autonomous systems Ten open questions. Retrieved February 3, 2020 .
  35. ^ Eric Hilgendorf: Autonomous Systems and New Mobility: Selected Contributions to the 3rd and 4th Würzburg Conference on Technology Law . Ed .: Eric Hilgendorf. 1st edition. Nomos, Baden-Baden, ISBN 978-3-8452-8166-7 .
  36. ^ Edward L. Deci, Richard M. Ryan: The "What" and "Why" of Goal Pursuits: Human Needs and the Self-Determination of Behavior. In: Psychological Inquiry. 11 (4), 2000, pp. 227-268.
  37. ^ Edward L. Deci, Richard M. Ryan, Self-Determination Theory: A Macrotheory of Human Motivation, Development, and Health. In: Canadian Psychology. 49, 2008, pp. 182-185.
  38. Karl Held (ed.): The psychology of the bourgeois individual ; Results Verlag München 1981, ISBN 3-929211-04-1 ( Lecture based on the book (PDF; 423 kB), audio document (MP3; 28.8 MB), Munich July 1980.)
  39. Donald H. Wacome: Divine Omniscience and Human Freedom
  40. Lazarus Adler: Thalmudische Welt- und Lebensweisheit or Pirke Aboth (sayings of the fathers). Fürth 1851, p. 522.
  41. Dominik Perler: Predestination, Time and Contingency: Philosophical-historical studies on Wilhelm Ockham's Tractatus de praedestinatione et de praescientia Dei. (= Bochum studies on philosophy. Volume 12). Gruner 2000, p. 92.
  42. ↑ In detail Friedemann Drews: Human free will and divine providence with Augustine, Proklos, Apuleius and John Milton. Volume 1: Augustine and Proclus. de Gruyter, Berlin 2009, pp. 98, 191 ff., 223 ff.
  43. Ivo baths Butschle: Brittle foundations. A revision of the doctrine of justification. Lit-Verlag 2017, ISBN 978-3-643-13671-8 , Bäder-Butschle traces Luther's rejection of free will with reference to Augustine and takes a critical position on it.
  44. Stefan Fleischmann: Szymon Budny - A theological portrait of the Polish-Belarusian humanist and Unitarian (approx. 1530–1593) . Böhlau, Cologne / Weimar / Vienna 2006, ISBN 978-3-412-04306-3 , p. 17 .
  45. ^ József Ferencz: Unitarian Catechism. (pdf)
  46. Free will in Buddhism. Retrieved January 27, 2019 .
  47. BVerfG, judgment of 30 June 2009, Az. 2 BvE 2, 5/08, 2 BvR 1010, 1022, 1259/08, 182/09, BVerfGE 123, 267 - Lisbon, Rn. 364; see. BVerfG, judgment of June 21, 1977, Az. 1 BvL 14/76, BVerfGE 45, 187 - Life imprisonment, p. 227.
  48. Manfred Wolf, Jörg Neuner: General part of civil law . 11th edition. CH Beck, Munich 2016, ISBN 978-3-406-69698-5 , p. 96 , § 10 Rn. 11 .
  49. Manfred Wolf, Jörg Neuner: General part of civil law . 11th edition. CH Beck, Munich 2016, ISBN 978-3-406-69698-5 , p. 96 , § 10 Rn. 13 .
  50. BayObLG, decision of December 13, 2000, Az. 3Z BR 353/00, full text .
  51. With reference to BVerfG, judgment of July 18, 1967, Az. 2 BvF 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8/62, and a .; BVerfGE 22, 180 , 219 f .; BayObLG, judgment of July 25, 1994, Az. 3Z BR 97/94, BayObLGZ 1994, 209, 211.
  52. Eugen Muchowski : The unity of the person On the question of the justifiability of responsibility in determinism. (PDF; 190 kB). In: contradiction. Munich Journal of Philosophy No. 47/2008.
  53. Eduard Dreher: The free will. A central problem with many sides. CH Beck, Munich 1987, ISBN 3-406-32360-X , p. 11 ff.
  54. Wolfgang Prinz : Critique of Free Will: Comments about a social institution. In: Psychological Rundschau. 55 (4), 2004, pp. 198–206, online PDF ( memento of the original from September 24, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  55. Peter Bieri : The craft of freedom. About discovering your own will. Hanser, Munich 2001, ISBN 3-596-15647-5 . (Licensed edition as "Fischer TB 15647 " Fischer, Frankfurt 2003, ISBN 3-596-15647-5 , chap. 7, p. 230).