The underlying issue is: Do we have some control over our actions, and if so, what sort of control, what extent?
On one hand, humans have a strong sense of freedom, which leads us to believe that we have free will. On the other hand, an intuitive feeling of free will could be mistaken. It is difficult to reconcile the intuitive evidence that conscious decisions are causally effective with the scientific view that the physical world can be explained to operate perfectly by physical law.
The conflict between intuitively felt freedom and natural law arises when either causal closure or physical determinism (nomological determinism) is asserted. With causal closure, no physical event has a cause outside the physical domain, and with physical determinism, the future is determined entirely by preceding events (cause and effect). The need to reconcile freedom of will with a deterministic universe is known as the problem of free will or sometimes referred to as the dilemma of determinism. This dilemma leads to a moral dilemma as well: How are we to assign responsibility for our actions if they are caused entirely by past events?
The connection between autonomy (self-determination) and the ideal of developing one’s own individual self was adopted within the psychology of Abraham Maslow, who saw the goal of human development as “self-actualization”. For Maslow, the most developed person is the most autonomous, and autonomy is explicitly associated with not being dependent on others. For others, true free will must involve self-realization, which is a maturing of the self that allows the dissolution of one's counter-productive obsessive, internal pre-occupations and assumptions, including unrecognized peer-pressure and the like,—all of which reduce our actual choices, thus reduce our freedom.
Classical compatibilists have addressed the dilemma of free will by arguing that free will holds as long as we are not externally constrained or...