Paul and Courtney discuss free will: is free will an illusion? Do we really have power to shape our lives, to be self-determiners of our choices, action, and characters? In this episode, we will explore these questions and see if it is possible to have a coherent model of free will in which we could have behaved differently in the past and in which our thoughts and actions in the present are in fact due to our own mental lives and willings.





Key Terms

  • Determinism is (broadly) the idea that the future is fixed. The idea is that the past plus the laws of nature determine the future.
  • Compatibilism is the view that being determined is consistent or compatible with freedom.
  • Incompatibilism is the view that being free is inconsistent or incompatible with being determined.


How should we think of the power of Free Will to shape one’s life?

What are the conditions necessary to shape one’s life? To answer this question, we need to explore the relationship between free will and the good, free will and reasons, and free will and moral character.

Free Will and the Good

  • The Guise of the Good Thesis = we only freely or intentionally do what we perceive as good in some way.


Free Will and Reasons


Free Will and Moral Character

  • Our moral character affects our exercise of freedom.


What is So Good about Free Will?

Free Will allows us to become a certain kind of person, and in turn, it connects us with genuine relational goods, including our highest good, which is to know God.

Genuine happiness consists of at least four great relational goods: (1) union with God (our highest good), (2) being rightly related to our end, (3) being rightly related to each other and the world around us, and finally, (4) being rightly related to ourselves (i.e., being a virtuous person).

Freedom is that power or ability to shape one’s life, including one’s character, so that we become increasingly more free to do what we ought to do, to be the kind of person we ought to be, and to unite with the many great relational goods that are constitutive of human flourishing.




  • Gregory Ganssle, Our Deepest Desire
  • Sam Harris, Free Will
  • Ken Keathley, Salvation and Sovereignty: A Molinist Approach
  • Kevin Timpe, Free Will in Philosophical Theology

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