Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course

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Free Will, Determinism, and Destiny – Lyle Hendriks

Is free will real?

    1. Are events determined by ‘destiny’?
    2. Is every event just a result of statistical probability, the past, and laws?
    3. Is any choice our own?

This morning, I made a choice on what to wear. It probably won’t change my day much, but what if I did decide to wear something else? If I were to be fall in love with someone that I had instant chemistry with because they liked something I was wearing, some might say that it was ‘destiny’ that I wore that outfit on that day. However, when I was getting dressed in the morning, I had the choice to wear anything I wanted. Was destiny controlling me?

I aim to look at free will, and the agents that hope and claim to have it. In my series of blog posts, I’ll be focusing on human agents. I have done some reading on the subject that was pretty dense and hard to understand – let me try to condense a couple things I found interesting. One theory that gives an interesting idea to the philosophy of free will is called ‘Casual Determinism’. The very short version of this complicated theory is that if humans had perfect knowledge of every event in the past, and perfect knowledge of every law that affects events (physics, evolution, etc), and had perfect, infallible logical reasoning, then they could predict the future. This seems like a stretch, and personally I disagree with this theory. It doesn’t account for some things that I see to be unpredictable, especially the human aspect of life. Humans are unpredictable, motivated by intangible constructs like greed, sex, narcissism, jealousy, anger, and others. Even if you have perfect knowledge of what every person has done in the past, mental health issues could come up that totally change who they are and how they act.

The other theory I found interesting is called the ‘Reasons-Responsive View of the Will’. This can be explained with a quote:

“A reasons-responsive view of the will says that Allison’s volition to walk her dog is free if, had she had certain reasons for not walking her dog, she would not have decided to walk her dog. Imagine what would have happened had Allison turned on the television after waking from her nap and learned of the blizzard before deciding to walk her dog. Had she known of the blizzard, she would have had a good reason for deciding not to walk her dog.”

-Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

What this means for human agents having free will is that they can always choose whether to do or to not do something, which leads to new yes or no choices. With my example of what I chose to wear today, Reasons-Response View of the WIll says that I have the choice to put on the clothes I am wearing, or to not choose them. Then I look at the next option in my closet, say yes or no, and then the next if necessary, etc. I think that this is a pretty close match to my own views on free will. I don’t believe that humans have a destiny, simply a dichotomous tree that begins at birth and ends at death, with billions of unexplored pathways, and one fulfilled to completion.

This has been a very interesting introduction to an extremely complex topic. Although a lot of the reading that I have done so far is dense and difficult to understand, it offers many different viewpoints to one question: “Do humans have free will?” Find out next time (probably not but I need to keep my readerbase up)!

 

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