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Are Persons Free to Choose?

Are Persons Free to Choose?

(p.107) Chapter 3 Are Persons Free to Choose?
Human Nature & Jewish Thought
Alan L. Mittleman
Princeton University Press

This chapter explores a key dimension of the portrayal developed in Chapter 2—namely, moral agency. Against the hard determinism of modern scientism, classic Jewish sources affirm in a nuanced way the concept of free will. Since these sources have also sometimes endorsed a “soft-determinist” view (sometimes known as compatibilism), there is some common ground to be found on this complicated issue. How can we continue to embrace a belief in free will, with all that such a belief entails, and still give credence to the new sciences of the brain that qualify or even negate free will at the same time? Although ultimately Jewish sources must affirm personhood, agency, and moral responsibility, there is more than one simplistic way to do so.

Keywords:   moral agency, scientism, free will, human nature, Jewish philosophy

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