Can I choose what to do or what not to do? Or is it in nature that I have to do what I do? Or does a god control what I do? What are some thoughts on this?
There are many thoughts on this. Free will as posited by Christians can not exist as God is said to know the future and thus we are predestined and could not change our decisions if we wanted to.
Some believe that we can not control our thoughts. What color is an apple? Did you think red? Did you have any choice in what came to mind? This is what is being spoken of.
Others believe that if we are cognizant of our brains natural tendencies then we can have an actual influence on how we think subconsciously and thus possible have some free will.
I would recommend the book "Free Will" by Sam Harris.
I lean towards Compatibilism:
"Compatibilism is the belief that free will and determinism are mutually compatible and that it is possible to believe in both without being logically inconsistent. Compatibilists believe freedom can be present or absent in situations for reasons that have nothing to do with metaphysics." Wikipedia
I have not made up my mind regarding determinism, it seems to me to be a highly anthropomorphized concept, and a kind of fundamentalism. I tend to think that there is no reason why nature has to be uniform, which is why David Hume questioned the laws of causality.
We think we do but we do not. Even from all outward appearances we look like we do but we do not. The option we chose is based on our own individual past experiences, observations, our own unique way of thinking based on all that has affected us since the beginning if our existance. We may calculate our options in our brains giving the impression that we are deciding but we are not. We will feed the information and options into our brain like a computer but ultimately our processing system is only able to come up with that one answer. Sooooo for each of us there is only one decision that we will make each time no matter how many options. It is cause and effect everytime.
Unlike most others who have replied I believe we do have free will. I believe I make choices every day....freely and without influence of any other external being. These choices may be influenced by various factors such as consideration of others views or in the case of whether I choose to do certain activities outdoors, the weather could be a factor. I choose whether to obey the laws laid down by society and if I don’t, I know and accept I will suffer the consequences. I could still choose not to obey these laws as some others do, that is their choice and they do so using their free will. I don’t believe anything is predetermined and that our lives take the paths that we choose, our destiny is ours to control and our actions are ours and ours alone. I reject any notion that there is a god controlling anything and believe it is a cop-out to believe that we cannot be blamed for our own wrongdoing. I take ownership for everything I do, good and bad.
You might be able to "freely" do whatever you want (within highly constraining practical limits, of course), but even then you can't control what you want. Where does "what you want" come from? It comes from someplace prior to "you". Actually, since what you want is part of what makes up who you are, that is, the "I" in the original question, that question is poorly formed since it is circular. There isn't even an "I" with a "will" at all; those are just constructs we've made up for our convenience.
Also, when you ask whether you can "choose" and then equate that with the question of "free will", that is ambiguous. A thermostat can "choose" which temperature to set the room, among many possible selections, based of course upon it's externally programmed settings. However, the fact that a selection is made has nothing to do with "will", whether it be free or otherwise. If I say you cannot make any choices, that is patently false. When presented with an apple or an orange, you will select one. The real question is why you selected one or the other. Was it due to pre-progammed settings like the thermostat, or due to something more "free" than that. I would argue that our selections or choices are closer to the thermostat, because everything we "want" is programmed (whether pre-programmed or programmed on the fly), and that very quality of wanting what we want is part of who we are in the first place - which is, of course, something over which we could not have any control. There is no evidence that we existed "before" or "outside" of ourselves like spirit-believers would have us think, so who we are is totally dependent on forces outside our control.
Sorry to go against the grain here, but yes, you have free will. There is no god. You can do whatever you want. You may not like the consequences. For those that suggest that you don't have free will...can you commit suicide (yes, all people can stop eating if that's the only way to do it) ? If you can end your life freely, why can't you do whatever else you want? You may be prevented from doing what you want by someone else's free will or some other stumbling block, but using the definition "the faculty by which a person decides on and initiates action" yes, we all have that.
No one has free will.
Our decisions are a product of a vast number of factors, summarized under the labels nature and nurture.
When you are making a decision there is no "free" element involved. You will take the road you deduce to be better, based on what kind of person you are.
Since we change as we grow and experience new things, people fall under the impression we can make different choices at any time. We can't.
Biological free will. The way I see free will is that when the brain evolved in animals, it was originally just subconscious reactions. As more functions evolved, there would ultimately be functions that go against one another. That wouldn't be beneficial for survival as a stalemate of the subconscious would mean death in the natural world. Through evolution, a function appeared that allowed for the ability to override subconscious funtions, consciousness. That function is your biological free will, or rather your free will is a function of your consciousness.
even people who believe in gods (and i am not one of those people) generally do not believe that we are just puppets played by a puppetmaster god.
free will is not something anyone can answer convincingly here, or perhaps anywhere. philosophers have been debating this for ages. the more certain a respondent is, the more likely s/he is to be wrong, because the one thing we should all know is that we don't know. "i don't know" is the only appropriate answer here. you can talk about the likelihood of free will, partial free will and destiny (or whatever you want to call it) but no one knows, and anyone who claims to know doesn't understand the question.
I lean toward thinking that our bodies are automatons and that they have no conscious awareness. How can a bunch of particles stuck together have awareness? The idea makes no sense to me, and no one seems able to explain how it could happen. Without conscious awareness obviously there can be no free will. The body/brain makes choices based on instinct, learned behavior, mental analysis, or just randomness. A computerized robot can be made to do the same thing.
Yet we do have both conscious awareness and free will. It is something that we experience continually. If you have direct experience of free will and awareness how can you say it doesn’t exist? Of course it exists. Perhaps it is all that exists.
The question becomes, “What are we?”