“Feel free to choose your dead-lines” said my philosophy teacher. “It can be anytime from now to the end of this year and please choose it according to your comfort.” I looked at the sign-up sheet and saw the various dates I could choose from. I was very relieved by the fact that we were free to choose our own deadlines. But as I stared at the rectangular boxes on the sheet where I was supposed to write my choice, I was dragged into a vortex. My mind was swirling helplessly. I was a free man until these choices were given to me.”
-Personal diary entry, 12 January 2010
Having just filled in my philosophy IA deadline, I thought that I had made many other choices before. All of us make choices. After all we are free humans, not slaves or robots. After the particular incident mentioned above, many thoughts pondered in my mind. Are we really free to choose what we want, without any consequences? Is the act of choosing the deadline for my IA a free action? Does free will exist or we are just faced with the illusion of choices? We encounter this dilemma in our day to day activities. Could the decision I made yesterday about wearing a red t-shirt be influenced by some decision I made a few weeks ago?
In order to answer this question we need to understand what free-will is. Free will is the ability of rational agents to make free choices amongst various alternatives without any sorts of constraints and restrictions. Many philosophers believe that the concept of free will is related to ethics and moral responsibility. If a person could not have acted in any other way, how is it possible to hold him responsible for the action? The central problem is knowing whether and to what extent we are free to make choices.
The one side of this issue which claims that free will doesn’t exist is known as determinism. Determinism is the theory that everything in the universe is governed by casual laws. It asserts that whatever happens at one specific moment is the outcome of something that happened at a pervious moment. All our actions are thereafter fixed as a matter of natural law. The roots of determinism can be explained with the theory of sufficient reason, i.e. everything in principle can be explained and has a sufficient reason for being. As Robert Blatchford said “Every event has a cause; every cause is also an event; human behaviour is an event; thus, all human behaviour is a cause; if an event is caused, it is not free; thus, no human behaviour is free, and free will does not exist” Here, Blatchford is trying to argue with consequence. He means that every action we do can be traced back to another action that we did in the past which caused the current action we are doing. For.eg is the act of writing this essay free? No, according to Blatchford it’s not as it wasn’t me who decide to do this. I wouldn’t have to write this essay if I didn’t want to study and I could have dropped this class in order to not write this essay. Thus this essay is not an act of free will because I’m doing it in order to continue studying philosophy. Therefore the act of writing this essay is already determined by my action of studying philosophy. And furthermore, my action of studying philosophy was also pre-determined by some other action of mine in the past. We must remember that determinist believe that everything is governed by the natural laws of physics and in no way it supports and believes in the existence of any supernatural entity like the soul or spirit and as a matter of fact, not even fate.
The theory that refutes free will on the terms that some events are irrevocably fixed and humans can’t alter them is known as fatalism. This theory comes in to existence because of the belief that the nature of the universe far exceeds our power to understand and control it. Greek and Roman philosophers like Aristotle believed that our future is always beyond our control and we can’t do