Free will vs. determinism is an argument as complex, intertwined, and co-dependent as nature vs. nurture or the age-old question of whether it was the chicken or the egg that came first. Philosophers have contemplated the question for ages, and arrived at no satisfactory answer.
While considering which topic to address for this assignment, I posed the question of free will vs. determinism to a philosopher friend, whose response was “I don’t care.” He feels that the question is not worth asking because it will not impact our actions anyway. Which ultimately makes him somewhat of a determinist I suppose, though I’m sure he would disapprove of being classified as such.
In the end, I settled on the topic of free will vs. determinism because lately it seems I am often faced with situations where my ability to exercise my free will choice is thwarted when other individuals exercise their own free will. Although, on second thought, maybe I chose the topic because preexisting circumstances, such as having read Walden Two over the summer, caused me to do so. Or perhaps I settled on this topic because it is the topic the Universe meant me to address – which would also explain why I had previously read the Skinner book cited so often in our text.
Free will proponents believe that we have total control over our actions, and that the actions we chose, not external causes, determine the outcome. Proponents of determinism deny free will, believing instead that every action we take is determined by preexisting causes. (text, pg. 144) Fatalism and predestination are extreme forms of determinism that believe that God or The Universe have already determined what will happen, and the any action we take, or choice we think we make has already been decided. (text, pg. 149)
In times of great disappointment, a strong belief in free will contains little consolation. When we want to know why we are faced with the outcome we are faced with, free will thinkers must look to their own actions for the answer. If you do not get the job you wanted, free will thinkers rely on their own actions to determine why. They can reflect on the situation, and perhaps determine that there were indeed things they could have changed about their behavior that could potentially change the outcome.
If a free will thinker applies for a job s/he does not receive, the reaction is to reflect on the interview. Could s/he have answered the interview questions differently? Is s/he truly qualified for the job? Yet, even if a person is highly qualified for a job and nails the interview process, chances are s/he will not receive a job offer. Frequently the reason is nothing as tangible or objective as lack of qualifications or poor interview answers. More often, the individual was simply ‘not the right fit’ for the company.
Where is the consolation in not being the ‘right fit’? Where is the ability to make our own destiny, or chose our own path in life, when so...