Determinism has it’s fair of supporters and deniers but what they all have in common is a desire to have a solid answer to the philosophical question of fate’s existence. Supporters say that everything, even our choices, are the result of some other cause or causes such as natural laws or our biology. These causes can be explained or unexplained, understood or not understood but there is always a cause. In the extreme case fatalists believe that these causes are entirely out of our control, that our lives are at the mercy of the Gods or some other supernatural force.
Indeterminism or freewill rejects the idea of fate and predictability, especially so with our choices. Supporters of free will say that our choices are ours to make and that we have a moral responsibility to make the right choices as much as possible. Even in circumstances beyond our control such illness or the death of a loved one we can still choose how we handle whatever our circumstances are in some way (i.e. instead of mourning the death of our lost loved one we can choose to remember how lucky we were to have them in our life).
Most people accept that our lives are some combination of determinism and free will. What degree of determinism and/or freewill we have is a debate as old philosophy itself. There exists two ways of handling each situation we find ourselves in:
Action: The first and most important step in shaping our lives. This is what we do when we use our power to make things better. Even by deciding to take action we reject determinism and take responsibility for our own lives. This has three parts:
- Knowledge: We use our cumulative knowledge to asses our situation.
- Experience: Drawing on past circumstances to help us determine the best course.
- Morals: Doing our best to be sure the decision we have made falls within our boundaries of what’s right.
Acceptance: When circumstances are out of control there is always one option: acceptance. Acceptance takes back our power even in the most unpreventable of circumstances because we can always choose to accept our situation. We must be careful with acceptance because it’s a dangerous slippery slope to apathy and so acceptance is a last resort but it is always a feeling that we can choose to have.
Free will most certainly exists when we understand that acceptance is always an option. Some things are extremely hard or impossible for us to accept for many reason but the choice is, at least fundamentally, ours. So we therefore always have some power to control how we feel. Choosing what to accept and when to take action is a complicated matter but will be covered in future articles. Just remember you can always choose acceptance and take back your power to be content no matter what situation you find yourself in.