free will

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English[edit]

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Noun[edit]

free will (uncountable)

  1. A person's natural inclination; unforced choice.
    • 1603, John Florio, translating Michel de Montaigne, Essays, II.12:
      I say therefore, there is no likelyhood, we should imagine, the beasts doe the very same things by a naturall inclination and forced genuitie, which we doe of our owne freewil and industrie.
    • c. 1606, William Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra, First Folio 1623:
      Good my Lord, / To come thus was I not constrain'd, but did it / On my free-will.
    • 1611, Bible, Authorized (King James) Version, Ezra 7:13:
      I make a decree, that all they of the people of Israel, and of his priests and Levites, in my realm, which are minded of their own freewill to go up to Jerusalem, go with thee.
    • 1839, Charles Dickens, Nicholas Nickleby:
      I am impelled to this course by no one, but follow it of my own free-will.
  2. (philosophy) The ability to choose one's actions, or determine what reasons are acceptable motivation for actions, without predestination, fate etc.
    • 1869, R Norman Foster, translating Emmanuel Swedenborg, The True Christian Religion:
      What is free will but the power of volition and action, and of thought and speech, to all appearance as of one's self?
    • 2012, ‘Free will and politics’, The Economist, 12 Jan 2012:
      The new challenge to free will comes from a different direction: neuroscience's discovery that people's brains are a collection of diversely oriented modules, and that our understanding of our own intentionality is to a great degree a legitimating fiction which one module in the left hemisphere of the brain retroactively imposes over the decisions different modules make.

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