page contents


Chapter 1 Conscious Human Action

step 25, 26 & 30 revised 10/13/17

1. Conscious Human Action

Compare Freedom with Lawful Necessity

The traditional idea about ourselves is that we are free to decide what we want to do and then do it, at least some of the time. This naive belief in free will is not normally questioned, even though spiritual leaders, philosophers and scientists have warned us about the illusion of freedom.

"Is a human being free in his thinking and action, or compelled by the unyielding necessity of natural law?" TPOF 1.0

Human Freedom
Freedom: Is a human being free in his thinking and acting? Moralists declare freedom an obvious fact, because without it there can be no moral responsibility.


Lawful Necessity
Necessity: The human being is compelled by the unyielding necessity of natural law. Science says we are a part of nature, so we too are subject to the universality of natural law just like the rest of nature

Many distinctions are made to explain how freedom can be compatible with determinism in nature.

STEP #25 (1.1)
Compare Freedom Of Indifferent Choice with Lawful Determinism

Indifferent Choice Lacks Moral Value
Freedom: We are not concerned with the freedom of indifferent choice. When the choice is ‘indifferent’, it is not a factor in determining the moral value of human conduct and character. A person who is indifferent and just doesn’t care has no ethics or character.


Free Of Lawful Determinism
Lawful Necessity: An indifferent choice is free of lawful necessity. It is to impartially choose, entirely at will, between two courses of action without having a preference. The indifferent choice is made without being compelled by any reason. The will is free of any kind of lawful determinism.

Moral Responsibility
Conscious Action: We learn about cause and effect in elementary science. The ‘will’ is always determined by a cause, a specific reason, whether we are aware of it or not. A person is morally responsible for this lawful necessity of their will.
STEP #26 (1.2)
Compare Freedom Of Choice with Necessity Of Desire

Freedom Of Choice
Freedom: Freedom of choice is to make our own choices according to our own preferences. Those who oppose human freedom direct their main attacks against freedom of choice.

Compelled By Desire
Lawful Necessity: The essential principle concealed in the dogma of free will is that our choices are compelled by our desire. An analysis of consciousness shows are not free because we are not at liberty to desire or not to desire, as we please.

Desired Choice
Conscious Action: Our desire expresses our preference.
STEP #27 (1.3)
Compare Free Expression Of One’s Nature with Necessity Of External Causes

Free Expression Of One’s Nature
Freedom: This view believes freedom is not located in free decision, but rather in free necessity. If we know our self, and exist and act solely out of the necessity of our “own” nature, we are free, even though we exist in a necessary way. We must remain true to our nature.

Necessity Of External Causes
Lawful Necessity: Everything is created by external causes to exist and to act in a fixed and exact way. Human nature is both inherited and the result of environmental conditioning. We strive to the best of our ability convinced we are free, but what we express is merely our conditioning. Because a person is only conscious of his action, he falsely looks upon himself as the free originator of it.

Knowing The Cause Of Action
Conscious Action: A person is not just conscious of his action, he can also be conscious of the causes that guides his action. Human actions are not all the same. There is a profound difference between knowing and not knowing why I act. A motive of action fully known to me, compels in a different way than the urges of nature.

STEP #28 (1.4)
Compare Freedom Of Character with Necessity Of Characterological Disposition

Freedom Of Character (free of outside influences)
Freedom: We build up our own character with learning and life experience. Before we act on an idea given to us from the outside, it must first meet the approval of our character so that the idea arouses in us a desire to act. In this way a person is motivated from within, and free of outside influences.

Necessity Of Characterological Disposition
Lawful Necessity: Even though we must first adopt an idea as a motive, this is not done arbitrarily. An idea is turned into a motive of action according to the necessity of the disposition of our character. We are anything but free.

Consciously Adopt Idea As My Own
Conscious Action: Here again, the difference between motives is ignored. There are ideas given from the outside that I accept only after I have consciously made them my own. Other ideas I follow without a clear knowledge of them

STEP #29 (1.5)
Compare Question Of Free Will with Question Of Knowledge

Is The Human Will Free Or Compelled?
Freedom: Should the question of free will be posed narrowly by itself, in a one-sided way? A deeper investigation is needed before freedom can be understood.

Is The Motive Conscious Or Unconscious?
Lawful Necessity: There is a difference between a conscious motive and an unconscious motive. An action cannot be free if it springs from an unconscious motive as blind urge. A free action is the result of a conscious motive.

Do We Act Out Of Knowledge?
Conscious Action: An even deeper investigation asks why is it important to have knowledge of the motive? Too little attention has been given to what it means to 'know' a motive, because we normally split people into the knowers and the doers. But the knower may have knowledge of what to do, but does not act. While the doer may not know what to do, but acts anyway. The one that matters most is the knowing doer, because he acts out of knowledge.

STEP #30 (1.6)
Compare Free When Controlled By Reason with Rational Necessity

Free When Controlled By Reason
Freedom: It is said that man is free when his reason rather than his animal cravings control his action. Or freedom means to determine one’s life and action according to purpose and deliberate decision.

Rational Necessity
Lawful Necessity: The real issue is whether reason, purpose, and decision exercise the same compulsion over a human being as his animal cravings. If, without my involvement, a rational decision occurs in me with the same necessity as hunger or thirst, then I must obey it. My freedom is an illusion.

Rational Necessity
Conscious Action: If  I am involved in the rational decision it will compel me in a different way than natural urges.
STEP #31 (1.7)
Compare Freedom Is The Ability To Do with Necessity Of Strongest Motive

Freedom Is Having The Ability To Do
Freedom: Freedom is not found in our will, since our will is always determined by motives. Instead, freedom occurs when we have the ability to do what one wishes. Freedom depends on having the right external circumstances and technical skill to successfully carry out our idea of action.

Necessity Of Strongest Motive
Lawful Necessity: Our motives vary in strength, with some being stronger than others. The will is determined by the ‘strongest’ motive from among the others, so it is not free. And if I am forced by the motive to do something I find unreasonable, I will even be glad if I am unable to do it. This is not freedom.

How Does The Decision Come About?
Conscious Action: Here again only motives in general are discussed, without taking into account the difference between conscious and unconscious motivations. All motives do not work with inescapable necessity. The question to ask is how the decision comes about within me.

STEP #32 (1.8)
Compare Spontaneous Unconditioned Will with Necessity Of Invisible Cause

Spontaneous Unconditioned Will
Freedom: Just as spirited horses run free across open plains, the spontaneous human will is free. The cause of the horse running, with no sense of restraint, is the unconditioned will; it is an absolute beginning. It is the same for spontaneous human action.

Necessity Of Invisible Cause
Lawful Necessity: The causes that determine the horse’s acts of will are internal and invisible. The horse is not free and neither are we. We do not perceive the determining cause, and so believe it does not exist.

Conscious Of The Reason To Act
Conscious Action: Here too, human actions in which there is consciousness of the reasons is ignored. There are actions, not of the horse but of the human being, where between us and the deed lies the motive that has become conscious.

STEP #33 (1.9)
Compare Knowing The Reason with Knowing What It Means To Know

Knowing The Reason For Action
Freedom: Obviously, an action cannot be free if the doer carries it out without knowing why. An action is free when the reasons are known.

What Does It Mean To Know?
Lawful Necessity: An action is free if we know the reasons, but what does ‘knowing’ actually mean? To discover what it means to ‘know’ requires an investigation into the thinking activity of the mind. We ask, “What does it mean to think?” and “What is the origin of our thoughts?”

Self-Determined By Inner Truth
Conscious Action: What does it mean to know? There is a difference between outer truth and inner truth. Outer truth is given from the outside, while inner truth appears within the individual. When we make the reason to act completely our own through the activity of thinking, the idea of action lives within as inner truth. When inner truth is the source of action, compulsion ceases and we become self-determined, the master of our conduct. When you know why you act, you become conscious of your freedom.

STEP #34 (1.10)
Compare Driving Force Of The Heart with Thought Motive

Driving Force Of The Heart
Freedom: Freedom consists of more than abstract judgments produced by the calm deliberations of reason. Love, compassion, and patriotism are driving forces for deeds that cannot be explained away with cold intellectual concepts. For an action to be truly human, the heart-felt sensibility must prevail.

Heart Responds To Thought Motive
Lawful Necessity: Human motives are always shaped by thoughts. The heart and its sensibility do not create the motives of action. Motives are present prior to being received into the hearts domain.

Mind And Heart Work Together
Conscious Action: Compassion appears in my heart after the thought of a person who arouses compassion occurs in my mind. The way to the heart is through the head.

STEP #35 (1.11)
Compare Act Of Love with Idealize The Beloved

Act Of Love
Freedom: We are free when our action is an expression of love for what we are striving for. We act out of love. 

Idealize The Beloved
Lawful Necessity: Here, again, it must be pointed out that the way to love is through the head. Love depends on the thoughts we form of the beloved. The more idealistic these thoughts are, the more blissful is our love.

Thought And Feeling Work Together
Conscious Action: Thought is the father of feeling.

STEP #36 (1.12)
Compare Seeing The Good with Perception-Picture Includes Good Qualities

Seeing The Good
Freedom: It is said that love makes us blind to the flaws of the loved one. But we can turn this around and say love opens our eyes to the good qualities. Many pass by these good qualities without noticing them. One, however, sees them, and just because he does, love awakens in his heart.

Perception-Picture Includes Good Qualities
Lawful Necessity: The reason we see the good is because we form a perception-picture of the person filled with the good qualities that others have ignored.

Negative Perception-Picture
Conscious Action: Others do not experience love because their perception-picture lacks the good qualities.

Next Question: What Is The Origin Of Our Thoughts?
The illusion of freedom occurs when we are conscious of our striving, but unaware of the causes. By gaining knowledge of why we act, motives compel us in a different way than if they remain hidden. The motives that direct human action are shaped by thoughts, so before we can answer the question of whether we are freely self-determined or not, we must investigate the origin of our thoughts. The discussion will turn to this in the next chapter, The Desire For Knowledge.

Email me when people comment –

You need to be a member of The Philosophy Of Freedom to add comments!

Join The Philosophy Of Freedom

© Tom Last 2017