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Are you Determined Or Do you Have Free Will?

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Posted 16 October 2012 by Chris FarmerChris Farmer

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Are you Determined or do you have Free will?

Have you ever heard people debate the question of "Determinism vs. Free will?"

Have you ever heard people debate the question: "Is life determined by forces that are beyond our control?" or "Is our Fate sealed by factors over which we have no influence? Are we captains of our own destiny and masters of our own fate?"

That is the question of Free will vs determinism.

Free will vs. Determinism? What does the question mean?

"Determinism" is the doctrine that states that your actions are determined for you- by forces above and beyond your own power to choose.

Determinism asserts that, in fact, you have no choice. You are not responsible for what happens to you. Your life is determined for you by Giant Factors over which you have no control.

What Giant Factors?

Determinists disagree amongst themselves on the answer to that sub-question:

  • Religionists say that God rules over all; and that you are following Gods plan.
    Everything that happens is as a result of Gods will. (Example: Christians say in the Lord 's Prayer "Thy will be done" And the Muslims say "Insha'Allah": meaning: If Allah (God) wishes
  • Marxists say that you are governed by economic factors.
    A Quote from Engels: "The final causes of all social changes and political revolution are to be sought, not in men's brains, not in man's insight into internal truth and justice... but in the economies of each epoch."
  • Biologists say that you are governed by genetic factors says Richard Dawkins,
    "We are enslaved by selfish molecules. They are in you and me; they created us, body and mind; and their preservation is the ultimate rationale for our existence. .... they go by the name of genes, and we are their survival machines."
  • Sociologists say that you are governed by the social norms of society"-- Bertrand Russell
    "The first dogma which I came to disbelieve was that of free will. It seemed to me that all notions of matter were determined by the laws of dynamics and could not therefore be influenced by human wills."
  • Psychoanalysts say that you are governed by your subconscious urges- Sigmund Freud
    "We like to forget that in fact everything in our life is chance, from our genesis out of the encounter of spermatozoon and egg onward."
  • Physicists say that you are governed by the laws of thermodynamics- Albert Einstein quote
    "Everything is determined, the beginning as well as the end, by forces over which we have no control. It is determined for the insect as well as the star. Human beings, vegetables, or cosmic dust, we all dance to a mysterious tune, intoned in the distance by an invisible piper."

But they all agree: You are not in charge of you.
The feeling that you have that you are an autonomous being is a mere delusion.

But on the other hand...

The doctrine of Free will asserts the opposite; that you ARE responsible!

The doctrine of free will asserts that your life is NOT determined by forces that are beyond your control. And that your consciousness IS the controlling influence that is "in the driving seat".

The advocates of Free will assert that your choices, from moment to moment, are the product of your mind and that, if you are a fully functioning adult human being, every action you take is the product of your thoughts. And that nobody controls your thoughts but you. Only you have the power to control your thoughts and so only you can direct your actions, and so you are responsible for your actions.

The advocates of free will concede that those choices are set in a context that includes:

  • Economic factors
  • Limits and potentials in your Genetic inheritance
  • Social norms of society
  • Subconscious knowledge

But Free will means that the fact of human consciousness makes possible (makes inevitable) the necessity for each individual to choose and to assert his/ her, own free will.

The fact of human consciousness means that failure to assert yourself and to make conscious choices renders the individual helpless. Failure to assert yourself would regresses any person backwards into a being that appears to be in the hands of factors beyond his control.

Those who have relinquished their will power; those who refuse to choose; those who simply go with the flow, those who set no goals and do not assert their will, are in fact, choosing to be determined.

Note this

The moment that The People assert their will is the moment they start to become free.

Examples of when "The People assert their will" and become free:

  • 1649 the English Revolution
  • 1779 the American Revolution;
  • 2012 the Syrian Revolution.

The moment that you assert your will is the moment you become more free!

This is the question of free will v determinism.

You are unique

As a human being, you are unique amongst all other life forms that exist on the planet.
For every other life form the doctrine of determinism is true.

For example:

A spider has no choices. A cat has no choices. They are both governed by three forces:

  • Their genetic code
  • Their environment
  • Their conditioning

Neither that spider the cat nor even the chimpanzee has what you have; A consciousness capable of conceptualising and coming up with a philosophy.
Humans are the only animals that is governed by philosophy

Philosophy is a uniquely human activity

No other animal philosophises. No other animal on the planet has evolved a brain and consciousness capable of creating a philosophy.

What is philosophy?

Philosophy is the sum total of your thoughts on the following issues:

  1. Religion
  2. Logic
  3. Mathematics
  4. Science
  5. Ethics and moral principle (fairness, justice, respect)
  6. Politics
  7. Economics
  8. Aesthetics: Art, literature, design and what constitutes "good taste".

You will notice that you have never seen, and you never will see, a group of chimpanzees, or spiders or cats engaging in spirited debates over the meaning of religion, higher mathematics, and poetry. Nor will you see them puzzling over a logic problem.


Because no animal on the planet, other than humans, has a consciousness developed to such a degree that it is capable of such activity.

But you do!

You have, to some degree, ideas in all the above categories.

  • You do have opinions on religion, politics and art.
  • You do recognise scientific and logical laws.
  • You do think about what is fair- and what is unfair.

If you are a human being, you are a philosopher!

Ayn Rand said it like this:

"As a human being, you have no choice about the fact that you need a philosophy. Your only choice is whether you define your philosophy by a conscious, rational, disciplined process of thought and scrupulously logical deliberation-or let your subconscious accumulate a junk heap of unwarranted conclusions, false generalizations, undefined contradictions, undigested slogans, unidentified wishes, doubts and fears, thrown together by chance, but integrated by your subconscious into a kind of mongrel philosophy and fused into a solid, single weight: self-doubt, like a ball and chain in the place where your mind's wings should have grown."

Your philosophy - your mind - is the guiding force running your life.

Your own personal philosophy is THE most important factor in how your life turns out. As a consequence, it is important that you begin to take conscious control of your personal philosophy and step-up your level of self-determination and free will. How?

  1. You can do that by simply deciding to!
  2. You can do that by deciding what your goals should be.

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