Onkar Ghate on Free Will

What is free will? In this episode of Yaron Brook’s Living Objectivism, Onkar Ghate, senior fellow and chief content officer at the Ayn Rand Institute, calls in to discuss Ayn Rand’s unique perspective on the nature of free will; the validation of free will; why determinism is self-refuting and incoherent; free will as axiomatic; why free will is associated with mysticism; Objectivism on materialism and idealism; the nature and significance of the primary choice, and other issues. (Clicking on any of the phrases above will take you to the spot where that issue is discussed.)

Here’s an edited transcript of Ghate’s introductory remarks on what’s unique about Objectivism’s view of the nature of free will:

The basic phenomenon, everyone’s familiar with. So, what Ayn Rand says, and what you get in Objectivism, is: the phenomenon is self-evident. And what the phenomenon is, is you make choices, and that’s what free will is — you make choices. And “choices” means you’re selecting between alternatives, and that means more than one. You could select a, or b, or c, or d. And that, everybody’s familiar with — which is why the people who say there’s no such thing as free will say there’s an illusion of free will: “You have choices, but you don’t really have choices.” That’s what it means.

Objectivism says you have choices and they are choices. But to conceptualize fully the phenomenon that you’re aware of — and that you’re aware of internally or, as Objectivism will put it, introspectively — that’s what’s difficult. And what Objectivism says about how to conceptualize it is in various ways distinctive, I think. But what [Objectivism] takes seriously is the phenomenon of choice, and it says it’s real and is not to be explained away as an “illusion.”

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