Question #10 Libertarian Free Will and Mind/Body Interaction

I’m really liking the website, it looks nice.
I grew up in a pretty secular home, but now I’m looking for some answers that I haven’t been able to find. Your blog has been really informative.

My question might be better suited to it’s own post but here it goes. In this post and others you mentioned libertarian free will. What do you specifically mean by this? Wemind body have our mind, which is immaterial, and it has free will. But how does the will and mind interact with our material body?

That’s a pretty big question, but I think you’ll be able to help me understand it.




Hello Jared and Thank you for the question. I am encouraged to hear that the material has been a help in your quest for answers. Lets tackle your questions

By libertarian free will I mean the ability to make a choice without being causally determined by something prior or external to oneself (i.e. you, the subject).  For example if the atheistic world view of physicalism is true then all you are is a physical substance who’s behavior is fixed by your brain structure, biology, genes, chemistry and so forth. Much like a computer acts only based on the internal physical structure and the input that is fed into it. Physical objects must act according to physical laws. A bullet cannot choose to swerve up or CAUCUSUSdown because it feels like it. Now take us as humans for example. If I choose to lift my right arm, it can only be counted as a free choice if nothing determined me to do it and if I could have refrained from doing so. Take for example a mad scientist who injected you with something while you were asleep which gave him control over your bodily movement without you knowing it. Then say you go to an auction and the first bid is something you want so you know when the auction starts you know you will raise your hand. Well say the mad scientist wanted you to raise your arm as well so when he pushes a button you raise your hand, but it also so happened that you wanted to raise your hand. Now imagine the next item for bidding is something you do not want. But lo and behold your arm goes up and you have no control because the scientist is pushing the buttons to make your arm go up. In either case you did not have full “libertarian free will”. Why?  For the two reasons mentioned above which were the fact that you were determined to do it and that you could not have refrained from doing it if you didn’t want to. One more analogy. Say you were in a room and you chose to stay in there all day. Well little did you know the door was locked and even if you had wanted to leave you couldn’t so whether you wanted to stay or not, you had no choice.  This is what is meant by libertarian free will.

Now your second questions was in regards to how the mind interacts with the body. This is known as the study of dualism. Now some have argued that if the mind and soul interact with the body that there must be some intermediate link. But that can not necessarily be true because then we would have an infinite regress of links for that link and then a link for the link and so forth. So if you’re looking for a link there is none to look for. What can be said is that the mind/soul use the body much like a musician uses an instrument. The talent is not located in the instrument, but rather in the musician. It is pianooften argued that if our mind is immaterial and not our brain then why does brain trauma effect  our memory that is in our mind? Well lets follow with the analogy.  If the instrument breaks, the talent is not lost, but the instrument through which the talent flows is incapacitated to convey it. Also, imagine you are trapped in a car and can not get out. It would then follow that your ability to be mobile would depend on the car. So if you want to go left or right you must operate the car in that way. But what happens if the car breaks down and you can’t move?  Does this then mean you are the car? Of course not.  So we can see that if we are to have libertarian free will then we must have something immaterial to our existence that acts on the physical. This can be seen much like a driver in a car or a musician using an instrument . And then to have libertarian free will it means we must 1) act without anything determining us to do so along with the 2) freedom to have refrained from doing so had we chosen not to (like not being locked in a room).  I certainly hope this helped and thank you again for your thoughtful question.

-Eric Hernandez


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3 thoughts on “Question #10 Libertarian Free Will and Mind/Body Interaction

  • January 15, 2015 at 12:13

    We are locked in a room. The “room” we are “locked” in is called time or space time…aka the physical world. I am not free to move about in time. My position in it is fixed or “locked”. Contrast that with God Jesus and all other spiritual beings who exist primarily outside the ” locked room” of space time or “the earthly” to be more biblical. Thus,this is the primary limiting factor on our free will, namely the natural laws that God has established to govern our realm. These laws do not allow for complete “free will”. Simply put, no matter how “free” my will is I cannot choose where I was born, my family members, skin eye color, country culture government in which i m born or live in. If I was born blind and wanted to see, no amount of “free willing” is gonna open my eyes. Or if in my “free willing” I decided to fly. When I jumped off that cliff I would no very soon that my will is not free but limited. We do not have a free will. We have a limited will because like Eric said if the outcome is not truly subject to our decision (i.e. u can’t actually leave the room) then we r not free. I can sit in the room play in it dance n sing study and think. But no amount of this will open the door. Only the One with the key takes us beyond our limited will and let’s our feet hold fast while walking over the surface of the water.

  • January 15, 2015 at 12:13

    Well if I may comment on that, I believe you are confusing free will with circumstances. Free will entails choices and actions made, not rights or circumstances desired. So being incapacitated to see does not in any way effect our free will or choices. Seeing is not a choice and being blind is not taking away someones freedom. So to say I can not fly, therefore I am limited in my free will wouldn’t be a proper analysis of free will. I can choose to not have a desire to fly or choose to have a desire to fly. Whether or not I can fly is in no way dealing with freedom of the will but rather with capability. So free will is not taken away if a choice was never given in the first place such as where one was born or what race one is. As I said in the blog, to have free will one must simple choose freely to act on something with out anything causing it to do so and with the option to have done otherwise.

    In regards to your statement about time, we can’t “move” in time, I’d first have to say that we shouldn’t think about time as a spacial area. God Himself is in time as we are. Being in time simply means that you are engaged in a sequence of events. God engages in events, so do we. We are in time. But it is not a thing like space where we can “move about” in it.

    So all that being said I do believe we have complete free will in the sense that we are the ones that decide to act our on our desires, thoughts and morality and we are not determined to do so and we have the option of refraining from doing so.

    I appreciate your feedback and hearing from you

  • January 18, 2015 at 12:13

    That is a very good description of libertarian free will. It makes it pretty clear.

    The second question is the one I’m more interested in. I see how both of your analogies make sense from the perspective of libertarian free will. But it doesn’t exactly get to the heart of the question.
    In both scenarios the person is the soul, and the car or instrument is the body. And in both of these scenarios, supposing we couldn’t see the person, we could still see the effects of the person directly on the object. We could see the guitar string bring pressed, even if we couldn’t see what was pressing it. We see the steering wheel turn and the petals depress. Is there something like this we see in the brain?

    I don’t think this implies a link, like you said that would make an infinite regress. But we must have some type of interaction like above, right? Clearly the soul must use the brain in some way, thats the only way the instrument and car metaphor work.


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