FROM LUKE 2:8-20:
Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
“The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential… these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence.” – Confucius
On Frankfurt's analysis, I act freely when the desire onwhich I act is one that I desire to be effective. This second-orderdesire is one with which I identify: it reflects my trueself. (Compare the addict: typically, the addict acts out of a desirewhich he does not want to act upon. His will is divided, and hisactions proceed from desires with which he does not reflectivelyidentify. Hence, he is not acting freely.) My will is freewhen I am able to make any of my first-order desires the oneupon which I act. As it happens, I will to eat the candy bar, but Icould have willed to refrain from doing so.
The will has also recently become a target of empirical study inneuroscience and cognitive psychology. Benjamin Libet (2002) conductedexperiments designed to determine the timing of conscious willings ordecisions to act in relation to brain activity associated with thephysical initiation of behavior. Interpretation of the results ishighly controversial. Libet himself concludes that the studies providestrong evidence that actions are already underway shortlybefore the agent wills to do it. As a result, we do notconsciously initiate our actions, though he suggests that we mightnonetheless retain the ability to veto actions that areinitiated by unconscious psychological structures. Wegner (2002)amasses a range of studies (including those of Libet) to argue thatthe notion that human actions are ever initiated by their ownconscious willings is simply a deeply-entrenched illusion and proceedsto offer an hypothesis concerning the reason this illusion isgenerated within our cognitive systems. Mele (2009) and O'Connor(2009b) argue that the data adduced by Libet, Wegner, and otherswholly fail to support their revisionary conclusions.
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