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Free will isn't free

According to Sears, Calderon's definition of free will is as follows:

It is a decision informed by something, a judgment (whether for good or ill) that conditions the direction taken (281).

In accordance with this definition, then, "free will is emphatically not freedom" (283) as Sears puts it. To clarify this a bit, I argue that free will is not freedom from consequence. Free will is still free in the sense that everyone can choose to do whatever they want--they can choose to throw someone out the window and no one will stop them, as Segismundo does in Life is a Dream. Thus, the individual is still "free" to act in any manner; however, this freedom of choice should not be construed with a freedom from consequence. This is the lack of freedom that Calderon seems to imply in his play. While Segismundo is free to act upon his will to throw the soldier out the window, he is not free from the consequences such an action creates, as evidenced when King Basilio puts him back in the tower as a result of his cruelty. Thus, "free will is emphatically not freedom." Instead, it is "a power to act and obey" (Ellul qtd. in Sears 284) (or disobey) the laws of nature, the governing moralities of mankind. We are free to obey or disobey these rules as we please, but we can never escape the consequences of our actions, good or bad. This raises the question then, Are we really free? To gain true freedom--the ability to do what we want when we want without consequence--would we all have to become hermits? What is true freedom and is it attainable in society? Is such a level of freedom even desirable?

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Comments (2)


I didn't even think to look at it this way, I agree with you. Every decision you make, even if it's the right one (such as stopping a friend from hurting themselves) will result in some kind of consequence, that friend could be angry at us for stopping them but maybe later realizes that you did the right thing.

Ellen Einsporn:

Very true, Sue. Perhaps it is a fear of consequences that causes to hesitate when we act. And vice versa: if we act immediately, do we not fear the consequences of our actions? I think these two sides of the coin are visible through Segismundo's actions: at first he doesn't fear the consequences for his actions and throws a servant out the window. Once back in the tower, though, he stays his own hand when he is once again tempted kill Clotaldo because he he has learned that the tower will be his reward for such violence.


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