Free Will: the First Principle of Natural Law

[NOTE: This will be the first of a series of posts intended to work out the principles of Natural Law.  It will draw from the body of works and understandings of those who have come before me, but it is largely the result of my own effort to work out the principles that govern human behavior.  Unless I cite another source, I am asserting that all parts of the extended argument which will follow are my own.  If I happen to argue something that parallels or agrees with something from another source, I can assure you, it is only because that source and I were on the same path and, should there be such convergences (and I already know there are), it only serves to validate our common conclusion(s): that there does exist a Natural Law to human interaction in this universe; that it can be discovered through human reason; and that is establishes a universal moral code by which we ought to live.]

Many people have started from the assumption that we own our life, but while I agree with this assumption, I disagree that it is the first principle of Natural Law.  As I look to history, study human nature and even the holy books of all the world’s major religions, I find there is a central theme running through every one of them: that man has free will.  There are those who would argue we cannot know this, but they are wrong.  We can know this because we each think.  This is part of the brilliance of Descartes’ simple phrase:

“I think, therefore I am.”

Not only does that phrase prove we exist, it proves we exist as individuals, and that we have free will.

No one forced Descartes to think those words; he did that of his own free will.  Nor did the random happenstance of this universe cause him to think those words.  While it may be fashionable in some intellectual circles to believe that everything that has or will ever happen was pre-ordained by the circumstances of the universe at the first moment it was born, logic dictates that this cannot possibly be the case of our reality.  If it were, then how could we ever imagine something that has no basis in any reality?  This is a difficult concept to understand, but it is one we must examine because it is the most common avenue of attack for those who seek to deny the existence of free will.

The logical point here is easy to state, but not so easy to comprehend.  If you are nothing but a collection of matter and you are hopelessly bound to do whatever the forces acting upon you from the first instant of time dictate you must do, then how can you imagine something that does not, has never and can never exist in this universe?  A perfect example would be the world of Harry Potter.  Magic does not exist in this world, yet, a human imagined something that does not and cannot exist.  Logically, this is impossible – unless you have free will.  It is a logical extension of another philosophical principle: that which is finite cannot imagine or understand the concept of infinite.  If you think about it, this is the primary difference between us and the animals: we know there is a past, present and future.  We can even understand that which is infinite.  The fact that you are reading and understanding these words is proof of this as the logic governing the English language is infinite.  It existed before this universe began and will exist even after this universe ends.  So, what all of this means is that we do – in fact – have free will and it can be demonstrated through reason.

There is another aspect of free will that will help bolster my argument.  The ability to create is a function of free will.  If we look at our example of harry Potter again, that story is not only a creation, but an example of free will.  If we were just matter doing what physics dictates, then there would be no way for us to imagine anything outside the actual existence of this universe.  The best we could do would be to re-arrange the things we see in our universe, but little more.  And though we might call this “creation,” a re-arranging is all it would actually be: putting that which already is together in different ways.  It would not actually be a “creation.”  But Harry Potter goes totally outside everything we know of this universe and the laws that govern it and truly creates a new world, a world that lives only in our imaginations.  That is an act of free will.  This then means that the idea we are just matter going through the motions dictated by the universe is a creation, which affirms the existence of free will.

There is one more aspect of human existence that speaks to the existence of free will.  Humans can not only discover and learn to understand the laws that govern this universe; we can harness them to serve our desires.  That not only demonstrates that we have the ability to understand the infinite, but that we have free will.  Desire, itself, is a manifestation of our will, as are the actions we take to satisfy that desire.  So, when you turn on your computer to read this post, you benefit from man’s ability to understand, harness and manipulate the principles governing electromagnetism (among other things).  At once, this demonstrates the ability to understand the infinite, to manipulate natural laws, to create and – ultimately – free will.  Everything about our existence speaks to the fact that we have free will.

Now for the most important aspect of free will.  It is free will.  That means you control what you think and believe.  While outside forces may influence you, ultimately, you are the only one who can control your thoughts and your beliefs – your heart.  You make or break yourself depending upon how strong you are.  If you would rather go along to get along, you can be easily controlled – but that was still your choice.  However, if you are strongly rooted in what you believe, you may resist attempts to control you unto death, and many have done just that.  And that – again – speaks to the existence of free will, for how could the universe dictate self-destruction?  It cannot.  That would take an act of free will by a being capable of acting outside of the universes laws of physics.  In other words, it would require a being with free will.

Finally, for those of faith who may be reading his, there is one more point I would make.  In most religions of which I am aware, the Creator grants us free will.  Now, do not misunderstand: I am not saying the Creator is not sovereign over all things, because He is.  If He were not, then He couldn’t be the Creator.  But even though He is sovereign, He has still granted us free will.   It has to be that free will is the one thing the Creator has given us over which He has chosen not to exercise complete control.  He can take our wealth, health, freedom – even our lives.  But He has chosen to allow us free will.   If this were not the case, we could not worship Him; we could not love Him; we couldn’t even reject Him or refuse to believe in Him because all of those things require free will.

Therefore, the first principle upon which all Natural Law must rest is that of free will.


6 responses to “Free Will: the First Principle of Natural Law

  1. Pingback: Defining Natural Rights | THE ROAD TO CONCORD

  2. Reblogged this on aurorawatcherak and commented:
    This if the first in a series. I reblogged the second post a day or so ago. Joe is doing an excellent job explaining natural rights and how they work. Check it out.

  3. I like your analysis, and look forward to more in this series.

    One of the best Natural Law resources I have come across is an 8-hour presentation by Mark Passio, in 3 parts on his videos page here:, and the associated slides.

    In it he goes into Rights – how they are defined in the apophatic (negative) sense, basically by defining the Wrongs (don’t Murder, Rape, Steal, Harm). It really boils down to living the Golden Rule (treat others as you want them to treat you). It’s also as simple as 1) understanding the Non-Aggression principle (don’t initiate violence, violating Rights of others), and 2) the Principle of Self-Defense (you have a right to defend yourself and dependents). You have a Right to take ANY action that is not one of the Wrongs (causing harm to others).

    I can’t wait to read more of your analysis.

    • Liberty,

      Thanks for the link. I’ll do my best to watch it — as time permits. The only question I can see between the brief you have given of Passio’s argument and mine is that there must still be a higher authority setting what is right from wrong as — even with what you have told me about Passio — we could still use Mill’s arguments of morality to define Passio’s version…AND Hitler’s. You see, man is incapable of defining right/wrong, and therefore, rights. There must be a Creator to do this, or these things do not exist at all. I hope to find an allowance for this in Passio’s argument 🙂

  4. Joe – I think you’ll find much of Passio’s work in-line with what you convey here in your writings. It is a rich mine of intellectual gold. He’s a man who has done years of deep research, and is doing his best (much like you) to serve Truth and do the Great Work, sharing the knowledge with others in hopes of waking them up and ultimately realizing a better world for us all as people increasingly begin to live in alignment with Natural Law.

    And your point is dead on in this comment. Yes, Passio explains what many collectivists don’t want to hear. Morality is absolute – black and white, no shades of grey. No moral relativism. No making up what is ‘moral’. The Creator made the Laws, we get to live by them. Period.

    The problem you will quickly face as you absorb his material (or work through this in your writing, as you will inevitably arise at many of the same conclusions…it is Truth after all, thus discoverable), is this process
    1) Understand Natural Law, the Wrongs (and avoid them), and thus your Rights
    2) Live in accordance with Natural Law
    3) (the hardest part) Realize that your job has just begun. You now must begin the Great Work, the process of educating others.

    What rocked my world as I went through this process was an understanding of what the Great Work really is, and the implications for me. I thought the challenge was getting to #2 and just diligently right living in my own life. It completely blew my mind to think I might have a responsibility to others to begin to take the material out there, and share it, DESPITE that many would rather remain ignorant.

    Joe – you are clearly well on the path of #3, undertaking the Great Work, as evidenced by this blog. I applaud you for putting this blog and your writings out there.

    BTW – another excellent must-read booklet is “The End of All Evil”, by Jeremy Locke. It’s tiny, only 98 tiny pages in all, and you probably could read it in a night.

    If you’ve ever wanted clear, concise language about freedom, evil, human liberty, principles vs. law, and more, this booklet is for you. The first page included here, since it puts it so much better than I could:

    The definition of freedom is the infinite value of the human being. The definition of evil is the destruction of freedom. Everything that is evil teaches people that they have limited value.

    Truth is always simple. All people recognize truth because all people are intelligent beings. It is the nature of evil to create artificially complex ideas. It does this to hide or obfuscate the freedom it destroys. If you remove the complexities and fears from your life you will find a plain and beautiful truth. This truth is the nature of your worth.

    Value of man
    To understand freedom is to understand the value of a person. Everything that evil wants is to disguise and destroy your value. All authority is created by evil men to disguise your worth. To understand your own worth is to understand the nature of liberty

    • Liberty,

      It would seem you are enjoying my humble effort to do my part to explain Natural Law and Natural Rights to those who will listen. I assure you, I will look at all the material you have mentioned (as soon as my work load permits). But I am wondering: everyone you have named, and everything that you have explained they argue all seems to beat around the edges of what — at least for me — is the essential Truth. Without God, nothing exists: no right/wrong, no good/evil — not even Truth. For without God, everything we think is right/wrong, good/bad is nothing but the product of force, and might then becomes right, which then derives truth. And in such a world, the only thing that can possibly result is destruction — as, sadly, we are starting to witness in the world today.

      So, let me just ask you: do you acknowledge the Creator? I am not trying to be combative or offensive. This is why I did not try to tie you to which Creator. I simply asked whether you acknowledge that there is a God and He does concern Himself with human affairs?

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