Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course


Contemplations of Metaphysics part 1: free will/determinism

Free will is defined as: the power of acting without the constraint of necessity or fate; the ability to act at one’s own discretion.

Simply put, it is the ability of a sentient being to make a choice uninfluenced by any factors.

It might seem like a given that free will exists, that we make our own choices, that we alone are the dictators of our fates. But are we? Is it really possible to make a choice without any influence, either external or internal? When you choose to do something, do you not always have a reason for making that choice? Even if it’s as simple a choice as what to eat for breakfast, even if you don’t put much thought into it, there are always factors influencing that decision. Factors such as what you like to eat, what you have available, the time it will take to prepare each option and how much time and/or energy you have available. It may appear on the surface to me your decision, but did you make a conscious decision to like what you like? To have as much energy and time as you do? Sure you probably had a hand in what food is readily available to you but that decision also was influenced by your preferences. Even if you did get to choose what foods you like, your choice would still be influenced by other factors, such as availability, price, nutritional values, ease of preparation. Why would you choose steak to be your favorite food if you live in an area where steak is difficult to get or extremely expensive? If we could all choose what we liked, wouldn’t we all choose to like foods that are healthy and readily available? Every single choice we make is heavily influenced by multiple factors, even if you tried make a decision randomly, the choice to choose randomly would have been decided for a reason, such as to prove that free will does exist. Further, by resigning the decision to chance, you effectively remove your personal involvement and the resulting decision from the random choice is no longer your choice. We’re you to make a choice opposite that of your preferred choice as per your biases, the choice would still be a result of your biases, as you are purposely picking the opposite of what you would in order to prove a point. The very concept of free will is absurd, it contradicts what we know as causality or “cause and effect” as it implies that you can have an “effect” (the choice) without a “cause” (influencing factors).

So if all our choices are a result of our biases coupled with the influence of external factors, are they really “choices”? And if we could make a choice without any influencing factors, Without our memories and experiences, would it really be OUR choice?

On the surface it seems as though the existence of free will is obvious, and that the idea that it doesn’t is preposterous, but the reality of the concept is that it is simply incompatible with what we observe to be true about the world around us. Logically it simply doesn’t make sense.

“Determinism is the philosophical position that for every event, including human action, there exist conditions that could cause no other event.”

Essentially, whatever happens is the only thing that ever could have happened.

So if we live in a deterministic universe wherein there is only one possible linear chain of events, wherein every event in our lives is destined. Does that necessitate the existence of some higher conscious power to be the architect of our destinies? Does it give life more meaning if there is some prewritten story that we are destined to live out, or is there less meaning because we are unable to choose our own destinies? Should we be more worried by the prospect of a random and chaotic future governed by an indifferent universe, or by the prospect of an unchangeable destiny that we have no control over?

If there is some conscious higher power that dictates our destinies, are they free of the reins of causality? Or are they too slaves to destiny?


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