In philosophy the idea of free will is called ‘Libertarianism’ and the idea against free will is called ‘predeterminism’. Here, we will explore all arguments FOR predeterminism.
This is the most powerful and direct argument.
- Every human action is an event in time.
- Every event in time is preceded by a cause.
- If the cause is there, then the effect must come. It’s causally linked; causally determined.
- It couldn’t be otherwise.
Example (raising my hand)
Whether I will raise my left hand or right hand or no hand, I may not know the causes, but the causes have already been set in motion and the effect will determine the outcome.
In the chain of causes and effects, this particular outcome is bound to happen. Cause and effect are strictly linked.
If you are from the classical school of Physics i.e. Newtonian Physics, then every set of action will produce a certain reaction – that and only that reaction. This set of reactions now act as actions for further reactions. In a strictly Newtonian world, everything is predetermined. If you knew all the forces in play in a given time-context, you can accurately predict which hand I will raise.
Argument from RELIGION
- I do not know which hand I will raise.
- I am free to choose one, but I do not know which hand I will freely choose.
- Nobody knows.
- Then and only then can you say that I have free-will; I have the freedom to choose whichever hand I want to raise.
Let me repeat.
- I am free to choose any hand, but I do not know which hand I will freely choose.
- Nobody knows. This will imply I have free will.
- But God knows.
- If God is there, God knows everything.
- God knows which hand I will raise.
- If God knows, then my action is not free.
- If someone, somewhere can accurately say which hand I will raise then how am I am free?
God’s omniscience proves there is no free will.
In some religions, people do not believe in God. For example, in Buddhism, there is no God. But in most versions of Buddhism, Buddha knows.
If you believe in God, then there is no free will.
Law of KARMA
All Indian philosophies and religions accept in some form of law of karma. In a flat world, ‘karma’ has found its place in the western lexicon also.
In a simplified form, here is the law of karma.
Everything that is happening with me now (or everything that I am doing now) is a result of my past karma – physical, mental; my body, my mind; my likes, my dislikes are a result of my past karma.
In that case which hand I’ll raise depends on my past karma. Then, where is the free will?
- A thought (raise the right hand) will pop up in my mind based on my past karma.
- The desire to act upon the thought will be intense.
- I will have no choice but act upon the desire and raise my right hand.
You may find that this is a variation of the first argument but there are nuanced differences. ‘Law of karma’ finds its place in many different paradigms that a large section of humanity believes in.
This is another variation of the first argument.
- Your decisions are influenced by nature and nurture.
- Nature = your genetics.
- Nurture = your environment and society – parents, school, friends, etc..
Which hand will I raise? It depends on my nature and nurture. So, there isn’t any free will.
This is an argument based on ‘Logic and Language’. It may appear to be strange to many but let’s put it here so that we cover all possible beliefs of mankind about predeterminism.
- Any statement once made is either true or false.
- George Washington is the first president of America.
- This is a true statement.
- No one can change it.
- Central Park is in Richmond.
- This is a false statement.
- No one can change it.
- If you shift Central Park, through some yet to be invented technology, to Richmond, then it may become true. But that will be in the future. Now, it is a false statement.
- Elon Musk predicts that human being will be in Mars in 2050.
- In 2050, you can say this statement is either true or false.
When any statement once made can either be true or false, then where is the freedom?
It is a very subtle, technical and strange argument. This will satisfy only the very analytical.
Here I have presented five arguments supporting the idea of free will. In another post, we shall explore arguments AGAINST predeterminism i.e. FOR Libertarianism. And in a third post, we shall attempt to take a position based on these arguments.
Credit: Swami Sarvapriyananda - this is a verbatim (almost) presentation of one of Swami's talks on youtube. I have read many books, articles on this topic but nothing is as brilliantly summarized as the Swami's talk. Photo by Pixabay on Pexels