Free will and fate

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The denial of free will is a curious thing. One almost has to wonder why there would be a question in the first place. I suppose it is because we all have limitations and therefore construe that we are not “free.”

On the other hand, when one overcomes a challenge, we realize we are capable of more than we thought. We are not at the mercy of fate. We are unstoppable and we choose our destiny.

I think that the free will deniers simply take exception to the term “free will.” They would say we are limited by our circumstances. Not everyone can be a professional athlete and there are only so many options. I believe that they would prefer the term “limited will.”

That is fair enough, and strictly speaking, true. You can’t flap your arms and start flying if you wish hard enough. You did not will your birth; you did not will your circumstances. However, this misses the broader point that choice exists.

I suspect that many people know darn well what is meant by free will. It means you can either choose to do something or choose not to do something. If you do X, Y will happen; if you do B, A will happen.

You could just as easily cast a straw man the other way, and liberals do this on a regular basis. You cannot blame me for anything, I have no free will. Criminals? It’s just their genetics, there’s nothing that can be done. We are all helpless, hapless victims of reality. Why leave the house? Why deny myself another candy bar? If I don’t eat food I will die — I’m enslaved by the Culinarchy!

Absolute helplessness goes hand in hand with the demand for absolute freedom. If we are not absolutely free, we take it out on the concept of free will. We feel better about our helplessness now. The denial of free will becomes the alibi and backwards rationalization of our bad decisions and lack of both assertiveness and restraint.

I propose we stop nitpicking the term “free will” and go with it for tradition’s sake. The concept is already too well established to cede ground on this. The bottom line is that free will means choice and capacity for assertiveness or restraint. If you give in on a technicality the rationalizers of helplessness win.

15 Comments

  1. Repair_Man_Jack says:

    I like this. You have as much free will as your choices allow. Choose wisely, and you still have options long past your young adulthood. Choose poorly, and you are like the man who shot people at Fort Hood recently. For all intenst and purposes, your life is done before you turn 40 and you are a slave of your prior mistakes.

    Free Will is something you can keep – if you choose wisely.

  2. LoreTek says:

    The true magic of this world lies in what can be achieved by pure force of will.

    The utilization of free will, specifically the creativity it enables, and luck go hand-in-hand.

    Likewise, the most unbeatable strategies come from letting these flow unhindered by what you perceive to be their limits.

  3. John says:

    I would like to suggest that the free will disagreement arises from the belief in an all knowing, omnipotent God. If God is outside of time and knows our choices before we make them, does that imply a system in which our choices are inevitable or just easily viewed? Our predilections, our biases, our inclinations etc… There is a philosophical argument about what constitutes free will. It is understandable that thinking people of faith would question the extent to which any choices we make are ‘free will’ or inevitable based on our experiences and previously existing inclinations. We may be free to choose whatever we wish. However, an all knowing supreme being would easily know our hearts and know which way the wind was blowing. Philosophical question: Could we make a decision that would surprise God?

    1. crow says:

      God has no means by which to be surprised.
      Nor any means to be human, or behave as humans do.
      God is not human. But humans may emulate God.

      1. Hauer says:

        God, by definition, is the creator. Therefore, humans emulate God when they create.

  4. MeToo says:

    So, did we ever have a choice in whether or not to believe in free will VS predestination? Because it all flows from that.

    1. Ted Swanson says:

      In retrospect everything looks like predestination/fate. In looking forward, I believe in free will. Our fate creates our choices, our choices create our fate.

      1. crow says:

        Wow, it’s Ted! I was wondering where you’d gone.
        Free will, yes. One certainly has it if one cares to exercise it.
        It gets weak and feeble if one doesn’t.

        1. Ted Swanson says:

          Squawk!

      2. MeToo says:

        Our choices create our fate? I used to think so, too. Then I found out that Lazar Kaganovich never stood trial for his crimes; he died at age 97 in his comfy armchair in his “exclusive, tree-shaded apartment house.” And he had a housekeeper, too. His last years consisted of going for walks in a lovely park, etc. Yup, what a fate.

        1. crow says:

          If the body is all you see, you are right.
          If you see the other 99%, you are wrong.

          1. MeToo says:

            Ah, you clever dog, you! You are telling me, “Heads I win, tails you lose.” W00t!

            1. crow says:

              Not really. I am telling you what I know about the way things are. You must have noticed how miserable so many people are, and how limited. It matters not, their physical situation.
              What they do, and how they see life, has a direct influence upon their well-being. And whether or not they will continue once their bodies no longer do.

        2. Ted Swanson says:

          So then what do you believe? How does the world work according to you?

          1. MeToo says:

            I must say I’m flattered that you would even ask me my opinion. Ted, you were talking to me, weren’t you?

            When I feel a bit crazy, I think there’s a judgment day a la Christianity where you have to somehow “pay” for your sins on earth by way of purgatory or hell.

            When I feel a bit crazy in the other direction, I believe in reincarnation. You’d have to be of a tough mental conformation to believe, though, that after doing this Earth trip over & over, about 300 times, then you achieve some kind of bliss and perfection.

            However, I simply can’t stop myself from thinking that everything happens for a reason, and that sometimes it’s all very obvious, other times somewhat comprehendable – but other times it is not. I accept that I am limited in my understanding of “how the world works”. It could just be the usefulness of no-use.

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