Freedom of the will Schopenhauer’s most extended treatment of the notion of the freedom of the will is to be found in the prize essay which he entered for the competition organized by the Norwegian
Scientific Society in 1839 (and which he won, as was not to be the case with On the Basis of Morality, submitted to the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences in the following year). The essay On the Freedom of the Will was meant to answer the question set-whether it is possible to prove the freedom of the human will from its own self-consciousness. To this Schopenhauer answered by giving a resounding ‘No’. There is no such thing as what he called liberum arbitrium indifferentiae-an absolutely free will. Schopenhauer carefully analyses what is at stake in that suggestion, and sets against it his own view of necessity as expounded in The Fourfold Root, according to which actions are determined by motives. There is, he says (FW, pp. 36-7), a relative free will made possible by deliberation, which brings about a relative freedom from an immediate determination to action by those objects perceived as present and as motives for the will. Immediate action, that is to say, may be put off by deliberation. The thoughts that the deliberation produces still function as motives, however, so that there is even here no final freedom from the causal necessity that motives provide. It is at least in part this relative freedom, however, that people confuse with real, absolute freedom.