Free Will vs Determinism

In this video I discuss the age-old debate between free will thinkers and determinists, how our fate is already predestined and predetermined by the natural laws of the universe, yet at the same time how we are each free to choose (from a set of available options) that which fulfills us.

It’s important to inform all viewers that the expression “free will” is defined differently by different groups or schools of thought. For example, hard determinists often give the phrase added meaning compared to the average person, to include a level of freedom from all possible causal factors. In my view and use of the phrase, “free will” doesn’t mean ‘free’ from all external influences, forces, or causal factors. When I use the phrase “free will,” I only mean ‘free’ in the sense that nothing prevents one from choosing certain available options or from moving towards certain available desires.

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Han Fei: For every man there is a proper place, but you, a man like yourself, should do what is his calling. Pardon my rudeness. Perhaps I was wrong in bringing you here.

Caine: What happens in a man’s life is already written. A man must move through life as his destiny wills.

Han Fei: Yes, but each man is free to live as he chooses. Though they seem opposite, both are true. Hummm, I do not understand it.

Caine: You have taken in much old man . . . like the waters of the towel.

Guyus: This is one of my favorite lines within this whole series, because it reveals a truth that is rarely ever discussed or understood. What they’re saying in this scene is that our destiny is fixed in stone and can never be altered as it is often expressed in Greek Mythology. But at the same time, somewhat paradoxically, we do have the freedom to choose our will, to choose that which fulfills us. As the old man said, “Though they seem opposite, both are true.”

So the big question is do we have free will and free choice or is our destiny predetermined and fixed? This question has been debated and wrestled over for hundreds of years. There are those who believe in free will, that each of us is free to choose what he or she wants, and those who are known as determinists, who believe that all events, including human thoughts, emotions, and actions, are completely determined by all the preceding natural forces and laws of the universe. In other words, because of the basic principles of cause-and-effect and all the laws of nature and how everything must interact, the universe must unfold in a certain predetermined way. Many assume this means we do not have any degree of free will and therefore cannot be truly held responsible for any wrong doing. It also leads to the idea of a cold mechanized, universe, void of any real morality. But I don’t fully agree. I believe the universe is always unfolding exactly as it has to, due to its own unchangeable natural laws and forces that have always been in place and which govern all things, but I also believe we have some degree of free will and that our choices play a profound role in how the universe was always meant to unfold.

Let me try to explain this more clearly. We are indeed free to choose our will (given the available options), to choose that which fulfills us, but unfortunately, and here’s the really tricky part, we don’t get to choose that which stimulates us to choose the way we choose. Now if you don’t remember anything else I say in this whole video, at least remember that one sentence, because it is the most important. Everything else I say may come out blah, blah, blah or like in the Charlie Brown cartoons, wha, wha, wha. We all behave according to our design and upbringing. Honeybees can’t help but to want to buzz around from flower to flower to suckle and collect nectar, because it’s in their nature to do so. Crickets can’t help but to get off on rubbing their legs during the humid night air. Fish have no choice but to want to swim in water and go after flashy lures. Rabbits are sometimes compelled to hop around and thump their foot. All cats lick their butts. Each cat probably thinks it came up with the idea and was the first to start doing it, but it doesn’t realize that cats have been doing this for thousands of years, due to their very design. It’s in their nature to want to lick their butts, to chase mice, to purr. When a spider spins a web in that intricate pattern we see, it must think it is the original author of the design. The spider does do as it pleases. As far as it is concerned, it is the author, but there is that which authors the spider and which also authors what pleases the spider, and that is the universe. We have to ask the question, why do these lifeforms love doing these things. It’s because of their genetic makeup, their inner biochemical processes, their neurotransmitters, and their hormones that they are driven to do what they do. All things which are beyond their control. A rabbit must act like a rabbit, a cat must act like a cat, a spider will always want to spin that web. They were born with these tendencies, these inclinations, to have certain urges. Humans have inborn inclinations too. It’s why some people, to some degree, are truly born gay or bisexual. I mean this is why gay males can’t stop thinking about boy’s butts, just like straight guys can’t stop thinking about girl’s butts. And remember, environmental factors play a crucial role, too, such as the climate and how we’re raised. In fact, it’s fifty percent responsible for our behavior as psychologists and sociologists will testify.

I may choose to go left instead of right, but we have to think about what stimulated me to choose left. You see, I don’t have control over what motivates me. Let’s say that you choose to go fix yourself a banana split—uh, that actually sounds pretty good right now—instead of chocolate chip ice cream. There are reasons you chose that. There were biochemical factors involved, past memories of eating banana splits as well as chocolate chip ice cream that all lead up to that specific inspiration, that decision that caused you to favor and choose a banana split, reasons that are beyond your control, even genetic factors like how your tongue responds to certain flavors or how your body responds to certain foods. A horse may choose to eat hey, but due to my genes, I never will. So certain things came together to inspire you to think, “Ah, I would love to have a banana split right now, or whatever it is you prefer at the moment. But what is responsible for that? Ask, why does that inspire you, why does it satisfy you? It’s all those little forces that we all have within us and around us that constantly steer us and govern what we think, what we feel, and ultimately what we choose and how we behave. I hate to say it, but, ultimately, we are all like puppets and the universe is the ultimate puppet master pulling all the strings. Each of us is doing exactly as the universe dictates, due to all of its unchangeable natural laws and forces.

I realize this view may be upsetting to many of you, because most of us like to think we are in complete control of our own destiny and that we are solely responsible for our actions. But underneath it all, if you really examine it, we’re really not. In truth, we’re really just along for the ride. This is why we shouldn’t be too hard on anyone who makes a mistake or be too unforgiving towards hardened criminals, even when it comes to rapists, terrorists, and serial killers. We often cast too much blame and ridicule upon wrong doers. It’s easy to hate those who have tortured and killed others or have kidnapped and raped little children, but ultimately, it’s really not their fault that they didn’t know better or that they were driven to do those horrible acts. Some may argue that many criminals and murderers do know better. But I would say if they truly knew better, they wouldn’t go through with the terrible deed, would they—if they truly knew better. We can dislike their actions, not approve of their choices, or what they represent, but we have to realize that they did not have full control over the forces that motivated them to do those terrible things. This is not to say we shouldn’t try to properly punish wrong doers to discourage them from doing what we as a society view as wrong or that we shouldn’t try to rehabilitate them, just that we shouldn’t completely direct all our frustrations onto them. They are merely instruments of the universe as we all are. If you really want to get mad at the true source, you have to get mad at the universe, because this is all its crazy circus. The universe is the root of all evil so-to-speak and the root of all goodness. So all those people who are in prison or who we view to be bad or evil, realize that they didn’t know any better and it was their fate to fulfill that role in the universal story. The villains have to exist so the heroes can exist. Don’t worry, we all take turns playing every role in the grand scheme of things. You will sooner or later get to take on the very opposite role you play now, perhaps the next time around, and eventually all the roles in between. Life is the great equalizer. It all balances out in the end.

Even people who have had great success or who have invented something really great like the lightbulb were merely fulfilling their fate. Certain forces steered them in fulfilling that purpose or achieving that success. It was always predestine that they would. No one is ever separate from all the influences of the universal system, and so no one should ever be given full credit for his or her success . . . or failure, because it’s all those forces in the universe that contribute to the way each of us moves through life and the choices we make. All the processes in the universe constantly shape our bodies, our minds, and our hearts. The universe is responsible for all the chemical reactions in our bodies, all the neuro activity in our brains, and all the environment stimuli, which come together to shape the way we think, the way we feel, and therefore, the way we choose and behave. But that shouldn’t change the fact that we should all constantly try to do our very best to make certain choices and to make good decisions, because when we do that we are fulfilling our fate that was always meant to be and increasing the odds that our fate turns out positive or as we would have it be. So if you try to be a good person, you’re going to increase the odds that good things will happen in return or that the universe, by default and by its own laws of nature, will reward you. The opposite is true, too. If you walk a crooked path, the universe will eventually punish you by the consequences of your actions. If you just throw your hands in the air and say, “Well, my fate is already sealed, so I’m not going to try to direct it anymore,” you will still be fulfilling your fate, meaning it was always meant to be that you would surrender and perhaps become an unsuccessful couch potato. Each of us must always strive to be a participant in shaping our own lives and our own destiny in a positive way. By doing so, you will increase the odds of fulfilling that very destiny that was always meant to be. What we will to happen does increase the odds it will happen. So we want to go ahead and try to make good decisions and try to choose things that will have a good, positive outcome.

Now when you really get down to the essence of what motivates us to choose one thing over another, it all has to do with pain vs pleasure. When any of us makes a choice, it is intended to be the one that will satisfy us most. Thus, all choices are fundamentally based on our perceived experience of pain and pleasure. If someone chooses to remove his coat, you can be sure it was to improve his situation, to avoid some form of discomfort like the heat. If one was to keep the coat on, regardless of the uncomfortable heat, it would be to avoid some other displeasure. For instance, he may be wearing a shirt he may be too embarrassed to reveal. We are always striving to minimize pain in order to maximize pleasure. Though, perhaps not right away. We may do things that initially bring forth pain in hopes of securing a preferred pleasure later on like mowing the lawn on a hot day to get paid at the end of the day or one my choose to even sacrifice his own life for another, because the final outcome pleases him more. No one can escape this reality. It’s like those Chinese boxes within boxes. Every time one may think he or she has beaten the reality of a predetermined universe, it can be shown that, ultimately, all is predetermined and governed by the universe.

Also, in order to say we all have complete free will, we would have to have complete control over all the variables and all the forces that exists, and we don’t. In fact, we are actually given a very narrow selection of options to choose from. For example, I can’t just fly to the Moon like Peter Pan—although without the green tights. I have to follow the laws of physics, and so we are all very limited. So again, we do get to choose from a relatively small set of options that which pleases us or satisfies our cravings. But behind the curtain, there are forces that force us to choose the way we choose.

Now some have used quantum physics to make the argument that the universe is not truly predetermined and that our own desires and expectations influence certain outcomes on a quantum level and thus extend into the macro Newtonian level. For instance, if one was to flip a perfectly fashioned coin that was truly unbiased and willed the coin to turn up heads, in all probability, it would. I have studied quantum theory and quantum mechanics in past years and do not agree with many aspects of it. For example, I don’t believe the likelihood of any future event can ever be truly and perfectly fifty percent, such as with the flip of a coin within a particular moment, though we treat it as such, mathematically. I believe there is always a bias in nature, usually hidden from us observing humans measuring the circumstances, even at the quantum level, that collapses the probability wave function the way it does. In my view, the universe is ultimately responsible for all biases and for all outcomes. I agree with Einstein, “God does not throw dice.” We measure and communicate the world in the form of mathematical probabilities, because we humans cannot perfectly predict any outcome, but from the universe’s view-point (if it had one), all events are always preordained. We humans may not be able to perfectly predict or determine the outcome of all events based on prior conditions of the universe, but the outcomes are predetermined, predestined, and preordained. The universe will unfold as it was always meant to unfold. For instance, even before the planet Earth was formed, it was preordained that Abraham Lincoln would be assassinated in 1865 by John Wilkes Booth. If we could somehow rewind the universe and go back in time to set things in motion a second time, all events would occur just as they did the first time around. However, quantum theorists would have us believe that it may be different the next time around, that the wave function may collapse differently. I don’t believe the universe works that way.

I would love to hear from any of you, whether you strictly believe in free will or that all is predetermined. Please feel free to comment and share your thoughts, because it’s a subject that is rarely discussed. So ya, please provide your input. Okay, I guess I’ll end it right there and will sign off. As I often say, stay balanced.


About Guyus Seralius

I am one among many, but at the same time, I am unique and alone. I am a reflection of all that which surrounds me and all that deep within. I am a perceiving mind in human form. I am a metaphor for life itself, a representative of all things, and I am doing as the universe dictates. I am the forever traveler who wonders upon all grounds at all times. Though, I rest upon a rock that never moves. I am the infinite, cosmic tree, whose branches and roots never end, whose fruit is uncountable. I am the personification of The Forever All. In short, I am an artist, writer, philosopher, pantheist, and centrist, who hopes to make a positive change in the world.
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