A modest proposal: Free will is real

Kennon M. Sheldon*, Frank Martela

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
89 Downloads (Pure)


We present a hybrid philosophical/psychological argument in defense of ‘free will.’ The argument builds on the proposals in philosopher Christian List’sbook, Free will is real. We show that List’s psychological account of free will–that it requires the ability to consider alternatives, to make a choice, and to enact that choice–has already been proven, via research into goal functioning. Thus, the real question is: ‘can we use our free will wisely?’ Self-concordance research and implicit/explicit motive discrepancy research suggest that sometimes, we can’t. Ironically, the same fact that makes us free–that our choices are based on our imaginative capacities–also makes us free to be clueless, i.e., out of touch with ourselves or with reality. In building our argument we also discuss self-determination theory, the evolved symbolic self, system 1 versus system 2 functioning, and the hierarchical organization of human existence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)271-280
Number of pages10
Issue number2
Early online date16 Dec 2021
Publication statusPublished - 4 Mar 2022
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Human nature
  • organismic valuing
  • self-determination


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