Oct. 9, 2010, at 2:25am
5. The Evidence of Freedom Obtained by the Experience of Overwhelmingly Many and Fundamental Human Acts of Everyone that not only Presuppose but Show Free Will
A fifth and closely related way to reach the knowledge that human persons are free is to investigate the conditions of an overwhelmingly large number of basic human acts each of us performs daily, acts directed at our own or at other persons. If we look at the object and subject of these acts, such as asking for something, thanking someone, reproaching him, or repenting our sins, we existentially encounter our own and other person’s freedom. And none of us could live a day or even an hour a normal human life without presupposing and seeing freedom.
Thus one could show how not only the act of vowing or promising, but also the essentially self-directed act of repentance of one’s own sins or the essentially other-directed act of gratitude or forgiveness, and many further fundamental human acts presuppose the evidence of freedom not only in the subject-person but also in the object-person of these acts. In the act of gratitude, for example, we find that it is rooted in an evidence of the freedom of both the subject-person (a forced gratitude would be no gratitude at all, but a “wooden iron”) but also in the object-person to whom we are grateful and who gave us a freely given gift. For it would be senseless to thank anybody if we did not understand and believe that he acted freely as well as kindly towards us or to persons dear to us. We cannot thank a machine or marionette. Also in the act of repenting we find the evidence of our freedom at its root: it would be absolutely senseless to repent what our nature compelled us to do. Likewise, when we reproach another person, or when we forgive her some wrong done to us by her, we necessarily presuppose that she is a free agent. But when we look more deeply into it, we find much more: that in these acts we possess a large degree of evidence that we or other persons, and that human persons as such are free. The same is true when we exhort or praise, admonish, chide, condemn, or encourage other persons.
Hence, in this five-fold way we can indeed know that we are free and answer the question “Are we free?” with the unambiguous answer: “Yes, we are free!” and what is the best: all of us, at least deep down, know this immensely important truth from childhood on which philosophy can only bring out from the dark into the light as a midwife helps the already existing child to reach the light of the day. So I hope that each of you only understands more clearly what you all knew all along: “Yes, I am free!”