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 coerced. Modern compatibilists make a distinction between freedom of will and freedom of action, that is, separating freedom of choice from the freedom to enact it. Given that humans all experience a sense of free will, some modern compatibilists think it is necessary to accommodate this intuition. For example, some modern compatibilists in psychology have tried to revive traditionally accepted struggles of free will with the formation of character. Compatibilist free will has also been attributed to our natural sense of agency, where one must believe they are an agent in order to function and develop a theory of mind.
A different approach to the dilemma is that of incompatibilists, namely, that if the world is deterministic then, our feeling that we are free to choose an action is simply an illusion. Fundamental debate continues over whether the physical universe is in fact deterministic. Physical models offered at present are both deterministic and indeterministic, and are subject to interpretations of quantum mechanics - which themselves are being constrained by ongoing experimentation. Yet even with physical indeterminism, arguments have been made against the feasibility of incompatibilist free will in that it is difficult to assign Origination (responsibility for "free" indeterministic choices).