To have free will is to have at least two choices fully open to us when we have to choose and also not to be forced into this choice. Free will is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as "spontaneous will, unconstrained (to do or act)" 1and as "the power of directing our own actions without constraint by necessity or fate"2. Freedom is defined differently in the same publication, as "exemption or release from slavery of imprisonment; personal liberty"3 and as "exemption from arbitrary, despotic or autocratic control; independence; civil liberty" 4and as "the state of being able to act without hindrance or restraint; liberty of action"5.
By taking this into account, one can see that although here is a difference between the two, they essentially take place hand in hand. I intend to consider how Newton's discoveries affected the Aristotelian concept of freedom, which had been long outdated. For Aristotle, the universe is a kind of life form which is commanded by a higher authority, that laws of nature preside over our world. The notion of freedom is devised as above all, communal. The order of things is commanded by this higher, divine authority.
The material world (our world) is just a copy of this divine world, and a poor copy at that. Aristotle's views on matters concerning freedom, and what its implications for broader moral issues were explained in his writings on politics and ethics. Freedom, while not explicitly examined with much depth or regularity in 'The Ethics' or 'The Politics', in nevertheless a crucial concept because of its profound association with virtue. By exploring what Aristotle means by slavery, we circuitously determine what he means by freedom, which is the opposite of slavery.
A natural slave is one "who participates in reason only to the extent of perceiving it, but does not have it"6 Slaves were part of the family in these times and it was seen that they were born naturally inferior to their master. A slave was seen as a tool and "despite being human, he is a piece of property; and a piece of property is a tool for action that is separate from its owner"7 Freedom demands acting in agreement with the deductions of right reason, and right reason indicates that one should decide upon virtue; as a result true freedom consists in being virtuous.
To sum up, according to Aristotle, the man who is most obviously fee is one who undertakes the best achievable human action successfully, therefore, it would not be a free man who set a goal which would be his final end; it would be 'slavish' to work for the sake of any good less than a virtuous and righteous existence. With the revolutionary concept of nature brought about by Galileo and Newton, a novel idea of natural right emerged.
Newton changed the trends of thinking in the 'Scientific Revolution' through his laws of mechanics (inertia, force and change in velocity, action and reaction), his use of mathematical proofs and of experimental observation and his conception of God's role in nature. Henceforth, Aristotle's physics was seen as a basis for one of the worst codes of belief about the natural. The reason that it took so long for Aristotelian views to be overturned is perhaps that people were more restricted in their thought, during the medieval times, free thought was not allowed.
Newton had less fear of being labelled a heretic and imprisoned. He was able to imply that the universe is a huge mechanical system within which everything is exposed to deterministic mathematical laws and therefore predictable and foreseeable from first principles. It was now modern man who could master the truth. Galileo and Newton destroyed the concept of final cause (Galileo discovered planets out of reach of man's eye- using the telescope which had only recently invented, and he developed it further- this contradicted Aristotle's conjecture that everything was made for man's pleasure).
With these concepts disappeared the good, right moral which was no longer paralleled with the Perfect, Symmetric, Ordered. As the Newtonian universe is a huge mechanical machine, hierarchy can only emerge from straightforward underlying communications. There is no opportunity for customs, only for a source of value. Right could no longer be thought of within a cosmological perspective based on the concept of purposeful cosmos and divined by the infinite mind.
Newtonian nature is dispossessed of values and qualities and man's connection to nature is now quantitative, but in the principle of measurement and numbers. The order of humans is now realised to be a product of human intellect. Law therefore becomes based on reason and opinion. To take this into more detail; matters stick the laws of Isaac Newton, quantum physics, etc. Chemical elements and simple life forms do not choose to react in a particular way differently from one day to the next.
What happens is that the environment and circumstances advantages for development occur which means that the organism flourishes. We unconsciously accept our ability to choose and it is very difficult to see how different life would be without conscious choice. We should not be blinded to the fact that we are the only life form with this free will; many organisms in this case are useless in the mechanical universe as they do not have free will.