Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Free will

"Deliverance is out of time into eternity, and is achieved by obedience and docility to the eternal Nature of Things. We have been given free will, in order that we may will our self-will out of existence and so come to live continuously in a “state of grace.” All our actions must be directed, in the last analysis, to making ourselves passive in relation to the activity and the being of divine Reality. We are, as it were, aeolian harps, endowed with the power either to expose themselves to the wind of the Spirit or to shut themselves away from it." - Aldous Leonard Huxley

"We humans are here because God wanted to behold God. He created us in His image and gave us free will to behave one way or another, to choose between doing the job of reflecting Him and doing what looks more exciting." - Sinéad O’Connor, fully Sinéad Marie Bernadette O'Connor

"Man’s free will differs from every other force in that man is directly conscious of it, but in the eyes of reason it in no way differs from any other force. The forces of gravitation, electricity, or chemical affinity are only distinguished from one another in that they are differently defined by reason." -

"If there is free will, all things do not happen according to fate; if all things do not happen according to fate, there is not a certain order of causes; and if there is not a certain order of causes, neither is there a certain order of things foreknown by God - for things cannot come to pass except they are preceded by efficient causes - but if there is no fixed and certain order of causes foreknown by God, all things cannot be said to happen according as He foreknew that they would happen... But it does not follow that, though there is for God a certain order of all causes, there must therefore be nothing depending on the free exercise of our own wills, for our wills themselves are included in that order of causes which is certain to God and is embraced by His foreknowledge, for human wills are also causes of human actions; and He Who foreknew all the causes of things would certainly among those causes not have been ignorant of our wills." - Saint Augustine, aka Augustine of Hippo, St. Austin, Bishop of Hippo NULL

"Things as they are are changed when we demonstrate a new reality. A very small change in perception can result in a change in behavior and, cumulatively, in a very large change in cultural patterns. Our purpose and destiny are encoded within us. But they do not automatically propel us to the next act in our day, let alone the next stage in our evolution. Our Fourth Instinct allows us to see that next stage, and our free will enables us to act on it so that it can become a reality." - Arianna Huffington, born Arianna Stassinopoulos

"Art is a kind of innate drive that seizes a human being and makes him its instrument. The artist is not a person endowed with free will who seeks his own ends, but one who allows art to realize its purpose through him. As a human being he may have moods and a will and personal aims, but as an artist he is "man" in a higher sense- he is "collective man" - one who carries and shapes the unconscious, psychic forms of mankind." - Carl Jung, fully Carl Gustav Jung

"Without our faith in free will the earth would be the scene not only of the most horrible nonsense but also of the most intolerable boredom." - Arthur Schnitzler

"Every one has time if he likes. Business runs after nobody: people cling to it of their own free will and think that to be busy is a proof of happiness." -

"The first paradox of our lives is that nothing is fixed; and yet nothing is random or accidental, either. We co-create with our spiritual source. We have free will, and yet we are not in control. The second paradox is that when we set our intention for what we desire, we achieve it usually only after we have released our need to have it. This is the paradox of intention (personal desire and will) and surrender (letting God or the universe provide what is best for our highest good). You are both a finite earthly being, and an infinite soul of greater spiritual dimension. Your are both/and. You are the drop of water and the wave. You direct yourself, and you are directed." - Carol Adrienne

"When we contemplate the meaning of life, we are thinking on the plane of action, of practical decisions and choices we have to make. No matter what the metaphysicians say about free will, we have to experience the world as one with choices and dilemmas and we have to resolve them as beings able to think them through and make decisions" - Julian Baggini

"True liberation comes through grace and not through free will." - Nikolai Berdyaev, fully Nikolai Alexandrovich Berdyaev, also spelled Nichlas Berdiaev

"He produces not only our choice, but also the very freedom that is in our chance... In order to understand that God creates our free will in us, we must understand only that He wills us to be free. But He will not only that we should be free in power, but that we should be free in its exercise." - Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

"Grace does not destroy our liberty by its certain efficacy; rather by that very efficacy divine grace moves the free will without doing violence to it." - Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, fully Réginald Marie Garrigou-Lagrange

"Free Will does not say that everything that is physically conceivable is also morally possible. It merely says that of alternatives that really tempt our will more than one is really possible." - William James

"Behind all faith... lies the plain fact that man, as a creature of free will, cannot shirk the ultimate responsibility for his own fate." - Paul Elmer More

"A linear medium cannot represent the simultaneity of processing that goes on in the brain – the mixture of language and image, the intimation of diverging possibilities that we experience as free will. It cannot capture the secrets of organization by which the inanimate somehow comes to life, by which the neural passageway becomes the thought." - Janet H. Murray

"God will not do everything, in order not to deprive us of free will and the portion of glory that falls to our lot." -

"[Man’s] self-conscious existence as man forces on him a choice of uses for his faculties... This choice is what is called free will. Free will, therefore, not only a prerogative but an obligation for man. Free will thus understood, has nothing to do with destiny. It is a power which man is compelled by his own nature to use, whether the use he makes of it is predestined or not... the responsibility of deciding rests with me just the same whether the outcome is predetermined or not. If it is predetermined, it is my own past habit-forming and character-forming decisions in this and previous lifetimes which have predetermined it; and this decision in its turn will help to condition my mind, thus determining future ones." - Arthur W Osborn

"The alternative to the illusion of an ego is the Reality of inexhaustible, radiant Being. So long as the appearance of an ego remains, so long does the appearance of free will; in fact they are mutually dependent." - Arthur W Osborn

"There is no free will in the human mind: it is moved to this or that volition by some cause, and that cause has been determined by some other cause, and so on infinitely." -

"Find out who it is who has free will or predestination and abide in that state. Then both are transcended. That is the only purpose in discussing these questions. To whom do such questions present themselves? Discover that and be at peace." - Ramana Maharshi, fully Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi

"Free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love of goodness or joy worth having." - C. S. Lewis, fully Clive Staples "C.S." Lewis, called "Jack" by his family

"This metaphor of a mountain path allows us to reconcile an ancient paradox about whether we truly have free will or whether our life is somehow predestined. At the moment of birth we are each given a specific inner mountain to climb, reflecting the force of predestination. How we climb and the time we take are up to us, reflecting the power of free will. In other words, we're given the playing field, but we choose how to play the game. We always have the power of choice, discipline, responsibility and commitment. No life path is harder or easier, better or worse, than any other, except to the degree we make it so." - Dan Millman, born Daniel Jay Millman

"Life is a compromise between fate and free will." - Elbert Green Hubbard

"No one can rob us of our free will." - Epictetus "the Stoic" NULL

"Free will is not the liberty to do whatever one likes, but the power of doing whatever one sees ought to be done, even in the very face of otherwise overwhelming impulse. There lies freedom, indeed." - George MacDonald

"The doctrine of Chance in the eternal world corresponds to that of Free Will in the internal." - Henry Thomas Buckle

"A free will and will subject to moral laws are one and the same." - Immanuel Kant

"That in the order of ends, man (and with him every rational being) is an end in himself, that is, that he can never be used merely as a means by any (not even by God) without being at the same time an end also himself, that therefore humanity in our person must be holy to ourselves, this follows now of itself because he is the subject of the moral law, in other words, of that which is holy in itself, and on account of which and in agreement with which alone can anything be termed holy. For this moral law is founded on the autonomy of his will, as a free will which by its universal laws must necessarily be able to agree with that to which it is to submit itself." - Immanuel Kant

"We have to believe in free will. We have no choice." - Isaac Bashevis Singer

"Life is like a game of cards. The hand that is dealt you represents determinism; the way you play it is free will." - Jawaharlal Nehru

"Take heed lest passion sway thy judgment to do aught, which else free will would not admit." - John Milton

"Our actions follow from our characters [but] we are exactly as capable of making our own character, if we will, as other are of making it for us. The free will doctrine, by keeping in view precisely that portion of the truth which the word “necessity” [“determinism”] puts out of sight, namely the power of the mind to cooperate in the formation of its own character, has given its adherents a practical feeling much nearer to the truth than has generally (I believe) existed in the minds of the determinists." - John Stuart Mill

"A person is unlikely to take risks and work for the common good unless he or she believes that it will make a difference... The idea of free will is s self-fulfilling prophecy; those who abide by it are liberated from the absolute determinism of external forces." - Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, native form is Csíkszentmihályi Mihály

"By [free will] I can either enlarge or restrict my capacity for Thy grace." - Nicholas of Cusa, also Nicholas of Kues and Nicolaus Cusanus NULL

"Free will and determinism, I was told, are like a game of cards. The hand that is dealt you represents determinism. The way you play your hand represents free will." - Norman Cousins

"Take away free will and there remaineth nothing to be saved... Salvation is given by God alone, and it is given only to the free-will; even as it cannot be wrought without the consent of the receiver it cannot be wrought without the grace of the giver." - Saint Bernard of Clairvaux NULL

"Grace is necessary to salvation, free will is equally so; but grace in order to give salvation, free will in order to receive it." - Saint Bernard of Clairvaux NULL

"Our free will can hinder the course of inspiration, and when the favourable gale of god’s grace swells the sails of our soul, it is in our power to refuse consent and thereby hinder the effect of the wind’s favour; but when our spirit sails along and makes it voyage prosperously, it is not we who make the gale of inspiration blow for us, nor we who make our sails swell with it, nor we who give motion to the ship of our heart; but we simply receive the gale, consent to its motion and let our ship sail under it, not hindering it by; our resistance." - Saint Francis de Sales NULL

"It has hitherto seemed that physics comes down heavily on the side of predestination. The quantum theory has entirely removed this bias. Whatever view we may take of free will on philosophical grounds we cannot appeal to physics against it." - Arthur Eddington, fully Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington

"Free will was granted to humanity. Man became conscious of good and evil, and his power of free choice. He acquired simultaneously Freedom and Responsibility. Henceforth he could help or he could hinder." - Oliver Lodge, fully Sir Oliver Joseph Lodge

"Everywhere the human soul stands between a hemisphere of light and another of darkness on the confines of two everlasting hostile empires - Necessity and Free Will." - Thomas Carlyle

"We are conscious automata, endowed with free will in the only intelligible sense of that much-abused term - inasmuch as in many respects we are able to do as we like - but none the less parts of the great series of causes and effects which, in unbroken continuity, composes that which is, and has been, and shall be - the sum of existence." - Thomas Henry Huxley, aka T.H. Huxley and Darwin's Bulldog

"There is no free will in the human mind: it is moved to this or that volition by some cause, and that cause has been determined by some other cause, and so on infinitely." -

"No one will deny that an interaction between mind and body takes place whenever we consciously perform a movement. We now make the additional affirmation that our will — the core of consciousness, wherein the self proclaims its being most emphatically — interacts with the body in a special way when it makes a decision and deliberately activates the body. In pre-quantum days, when philosophy was dominated by Laplacian determinism, in which a state classically defined without recourse to probabilities rigorously entailed all future states (of an isolated system), free will was a paradox and an illusion. That is to say, either it could not be explained, despite the immediate, empirically accurate evidence that affirmed it, or its affirmation was false. This situation has changed by virtue of the discovery of quantum mechanics. The new discipline provides. the possibility of a solution by removing the impediment of old-style determinism." - Henry Margenau

"Human character is never found "to enter into its glory," except through the ordeal of affliction. Its force cannot come forth without the offer of resistance nor can the grandeur of its free will declare itself, except in the battle of fierce temptation." - James Martineau

"When you take the free will out of education, that turns it into schooling." - John Taylor Gatto

"I am a hidden meaning made to defy. The grasp of words, and walk away With free will and destiny. As living, revolutionary clay." - Mohamed Iqbal or Sir Muhammad Iqbal, aka Allama Iqbal

"To see the universal and all-pervading Spirit of Truth face to face one must be able to love the meanest of creation as oneself. And a man who aspires after that cannot afford to keep out of any field of life. That is why my devotion to Truth has drawn me into the field of politics; and I can say without the slightest hesitation, and yet in all humility, that those who say that religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion means. Identification with everything that lives is impossible without self-purification; without self-purification the observance of the law of Ahimsa must remain an empty dream; God can never be realized by one who is not pure of heart. Self-purification therefore must mean purification in all the walks of life. And purification being highly infectious, purification of oneself necessarily leads to the purification of one's surroundings. But the path of self-purification is hard and steep. To attain to perfect purity one has to become absolutely passion-free in thought, speech and action; to rise above the opposing currents of love and hatred, attachment and repulsion. I know that I have not in me as yet that triple purity, in spite of constant ceaseless striving for it. That is why the world's praise fails to move me, indeed it very often stings me. To conquer the subtle passions seems to me to be harder far than the physical conquest of the world by the force of arms. Ever since my return to India I have had experiences of the dormant passions lying hidden within me. The knowledge of them has made me feel humiliated though not defeated. The experiences and experiments have sustained me and given me great joy. But I know that I have still before me a difficult path to traverse. I must reduce myself to zero. So long as a man does not of his own free will put himself last among his fellow creatures, there is no salvation for him. Ahimsa is the farthest limit of humility." - Mahatma Gandhi, fully Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, aka Bapu

"God will not do everything, in order not to deprive us of free will and the portion of glory that falls to our lot." - Niccolò Machiavelli, formally Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli