Fate and Free Will: Whose side are you on?

imagesIn the world today it’s almost impossible to view a life in which we cannot control. We have so many options on a day-to-day basis that our choices seem limitless, but are they? It’s even been stated that the idea of free will is just an illusion. Needless to say free will is a long debated subject in philosophy.  There are several different views and terms associated with free will. Let’s dive right into it then, Shall we?

Fatalism

The whimsical idea of fatalism coincides with destiny. This means that everything in our lives is predetermined by fate. In other words, everything we have done, are doing now, and will do, cannot and will not be changed in any way. Fatalism is a common idea in theology, dealing with one’s destiny. This seems like sort of a bleak outlook on life and if it were true, it almost seems that we are utterly useless in the decision making role. Aristotle explained through The Sea Battle Analogy that fatalism is possible through the idea of necessity.  Here’s a shortened version:

If I were to suggest that a sea battle will occur in 100 years in the Atlantic ocean and you were to suggest the opposite, it is necessary for the sea battle to either happen or not happen. Therefore, it is fated for the sea battle to either happen or not happen, but whatever happens occurs out of necessity.

As you can see, this works all right, but it’s not too convincing.  One of the problems with this whole idea is that if everything was predetermined then no one would be morally accountable for his or her actions. Since everything happens “out of necessity” as Aristotle says, then there is no reason to punish anyone for his or her wrong doings.

Philosophical Libertarianism

This is the view that grants us free will. All of our choices are direct products of our will and our own minds. Most of  us would like to believe this is the case, because this would mean that we are free to forge our own futures.  This works wonderfully with the concept of morals because everyone can then be held morally accountable for his or her actions.

I’m sorry to say this to all you free will advocates, but free will has some problems. The undeniable account of the human condition is that we all share a certain set of morals that seems to be unchanged according to culture and upbringing. For example, you wouldn’t have sex with a bear because it’s just plain wrong. If you had free will though, nothing would prevent you from doing that. But bestiality is wrong and no one can deny that. This may seem ridiculous but it’s one instance of how the human being doesn’t just do whatever it wants, but rather has a whole underlying system that it follows without even realizing it. Along with that, there is a huge flaw in libertarianism creates an unfathomably large paradox. But for me to bring that argument to light, I must first explain the final term of the day.

Determinism

Determinism is similar to fatalism in the way that our future is determined. Though, it’s not the same in its definition — fate has nothing to do with determinism. Determinism is the idea that everything is the result of causality and physical law. Basically, everything leading up to what you’re doing right now is determined by the ongoing chain of events in your life. You went on the computer to go on the Internet. You went on the Internet to learn about free will. You’re reading my site to understand free will. You did this all because the last thing you did led you to make this next choice. This chain of events is unbreakable and it goes on and on and on. We can observe determinism in the universe itself which seems to follow a predictable pattern. Physical law would not, and could not, allow anything else to occur.

Back to the paradox

Now that you know what determinism is, let’s go back to that paradox, which is as follows:

  1. The universe seems to be governed by a deterministic long chain of causal events that are explained by scientific laws.
  2. We all perceive the notion of having free will.

Ah! Paradox! That is, we can’t possibly have both, but both seem to occur.  Because of this, different views have arrived to try and fix this problem, yet none are universally acceptable.

Types of Determinism

Hard Determinism – This is the view that everything, no matter what, is governed by physical law. It’s pretty much fatalism only represented by the rules of causality. It is also called incompatibilism because it is incompatible with free will.

Soft Determinism – This is a little different because it, like hard determinism, is based on the laws of causality but differs in that it allows for a little bit of choice in certain situations along with luck and chance. Another name for this is compatibilism, because it is compatible with free will.

Conclusion

There are many views on free will. Unfortunately though, there is no possible way to test if we have free will or not. Hard determinism claims that the perception of free will is just a complete illusion. If this is so, then we can study it all we want and still be completely wrong. The inverse is true as well. So in the end, nothing is for certain, but nothing is impossible. Who knows when the truth may rear its metaphysical head.

Until then, keep thinking folks!

Posted in Philosophy.

6 Comments

  1. Wow what a great post. The choices that I make are based on the previous events, so how is that free will entirely.

  2. Hey! I just wanted to say your blog is one of the nicely laid out, most inspirational I have come across in quite a while. Thx! 🙂

  3. Sorry, I can’t resist:

    Why exactly would having sex with a bear be wrong?

    I can’t think of a good argument for it. I can think of many reasons why people would not want to do it, but not why it would be “wrong” per se.

    • Thanks for asking Rikker, I’ll try to answer as best I can. There is nothing metaphysically or universally wrong with it, but my guess is you wouldn’t go running through the woods looking for a bear to copulate with. I wouldn’t be suprised if the rest of the population felt the same way. In some ways this argument shows that humans don’t just do anything. Their actions are fairly consistant and uniform rather than sporadic and random. The universe in all its vastness, follows a similar pattern as well. It doesn’t deviate from the norm. This is why complete free will is discarded by several philosophers. If there was free will everyone would do whatever they wanted without any predictable pattern to follow.

  4. Near the end you say “nothing is impossible” which I fully agree.
    If this is true then Fatalism and Determinism cannot be for both prevent something otherwise they are meaningless.
    If all who believed in Fatalism and Determinism would jump off a cliff we would all believe in free will. After all if they were fated to die by jumping off the cliff then they would die otherwise the fall couldn’t harm them.

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