Thoughts About Existence Person’s Free Will Or Believing in a Destiny
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Imagine that one day a person is in the parking lot of FirstEnergy Stadium, on their way to a Cleveland Browns football game. They have no idea how to get to the entrance. They take a moment to look around and see a large group of people walking in the same general direction. They are then met with the question of whether they should follow the crowd or find their own way. This is just one of many examples of free will that can be seen in even the simplest of tasks. Oxford Dictionary defines Free will as “the power of acting without the constraint of necessity or fate; the ability to act at one’s own discretion”. In other words, being able to be self-determined. Free will is choice, and that is exactly what is shown in this example. It is not forced upon people, to follow the large group, but rather this is a choice one makes. Just like some would make the choice to go off on their own and find someone to help them find their way. After reading this it is clear that free will is something every single person has. Free will can be seen through having a choice and through being able to make a self-determined decision. These two things put together make up free will and prove that it does exist.
All around the world, many people exhibit free will by simply just having choices. Every day, in even the simplest tasks, free will can be seen. Having free will is what allows a person to obtain the ability to have a choice. Without free will, people would not be able to have other options and would be forced to do everything as they are directed by an individual. In a song by Rush, titled “Free Will” the artist decides to sing about free will and states that “You can choose a ready guide, in some celestial voice, if you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice” These lyrics express to us that everyone has control over their own destiny and that people don’t need a celestial voice or anyone telling them what to do. These lyrics also show that there is no one particular way to solve a problem because there are always choices and options. Whether a person chooses to take advantage of these choices, is up to them to decide. This idea can also be seen in Mitsuye Yamada’s poem “To the Lady” she is confronted with the question of why most Japanese Americans did not resist internment in United States camps during World War II. As the speaker thinks about the question, she “rewrites” her own experience and states:
I should’ve run off to Canada
should’ve hijacked a plane to Algeria
should’ve pulled myself up from my bra straps and kicked’m in the groin
should’ve bombed a bank
In these stanzas, Yamada is listing out all of the many choices that she could have made at that moment. This is free will because it shows that she is not glued to one option, but instead has many to choose from.
Every time an individual makes a decision, they are demonstrating free will. In Plato’s short story “Crito”, Socrates is in a prison cell, awaiting his execution for a crime that he has committed. During this time, his friend Crito presents as many arguments as he can, in an effort to persuade Socrates to escape from his cell. It is at this moment that Socrates is faced with an important decision. After listening to all that Crito has to say Socrates responds with “I warn you that, as my opinion stands at present, it will be useless to urge a different view”. This shows that even though Crito tried his absolute best to persuade Socrates to escape, Socrates was able to make his own decision, and in the end, decided that he did not want to escape. This demonstrates free will because Socrates was not forced to escape with Crito, and instead had two options in front of him, and decided on the one that he felt was right for him. In Thomas Hardy’s “The Man he Killed”, he also is faced with a decision that he must make when he is on the front lines of a war. He states:
And staring face to face
I shot at him as he at me
and killed him in his place
These stanzas demonstrate that as the two men stared face to face with each other, he was confronted with a choice of whether to shoot the man or not. As we can see by the stanza that follows, he himself, and without the help of others, made the decision to shoot the man because he shot at him. This decision that he makes is what makes this scenario also demonstrate free will.
Not only can free will be seen through having a choice, and making a decision, it can also be seen through having the ability to be self-determined. Being self-determined is being able to think a certain way, and being able to believe in what a person wants to believe in. In one of Martin Luther King Jr’s letters, titled “A Letter from Birmingham Jail” he demonstrates free will through being able to believe in what he wants to believe in. Prior to writing this letter MLK was arrested and sent to jail for protesting segregation in Birmingham, Alabama. After reading a letter in the newspaper, from eight white clergymen, where they criticized MLK and his fellow activists. It was during this time that MLK decided he was going to write a letter back to them, letting them know what he thought about the matter. In doing so, MLK chooses to stand up and speak for what he believes in. In this letter, MLK states “Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice”. In this quote, MLK is showing free will because he chooses to believe that what is happening in Birmingham is not acceptable, and he also chooses to believe that injustice is a threat to justice. This is MLK’s belief, and in being able to believe what he wants to believe in, he is exhibiting free will.
However, contrary to all of the evidence that is described in this paper and that is seen daily, there are still some who do not believe in free will and may choose to argue that it does not exist. They believe our destiny has already been decided for us, or that others influence our choices, and therefore it cannot be classified as free will. First, let’s discuss the theory that our destiny has already been decided for us. In the song “Free Will” by Rush, he addresses this theory when he states that “There are those who think that, they’ve been dealt a losing hand, the cards were stacked against them”. These lyrics go to prove that this is one of the reasons why some choose not to believe in the existence of free will. The singer also expands more on this by stating that “All preordained, a prisoner in chains, a victim of venomous fate”. Many believe that they are, like a prisoner in chains, stuck with the hand of cards that have been dealt to them, not realizing that they have the ability to make a change and get rid of the chains. By getting rid of the chains, it demonstrates an individual’s free will because people are making the choice to not be chained but flourish by making decisions on their own that will impact their lives. Even Steven Hawkings, a very famous physicist, believed in free will when he stated: “I have noticed even people who claim everything is predestined, and that we can do nothing to change it, look before they cross the street”. This is a very strong point made by Hawkings. If you claim that free will does not exist because everything is predetermined, then you should have no problem with crossing the street and not looking both ways. This means you run the risk of a tragedy occurring, and this does occur, you believe it was already predetermined and that was your destiny. No matter what they choose to do, they are making a decision and participating in free will.
Now, let’s discuss the theory that humans’ choices are influenced by those around them, and therefore should not be classified as free will. This statement is inaccurate because although sometimes people’s choices are made based on those around them, the final decision is theirs to make. That person makes the choice of whether they want to follow in the footsteps of others, or not. In the end, they end up making their own decision, which is free will. An example of this can be seen in the short story titled “Shooting an Elephant” by George Orwell, in which a man is called upon to save a village from an elephant. He must choose whether to not shoot the elephant, and fear being considered weak, or to shoot the elephant. While in the process of deciding, the man states “But at that moment I glanced around at the crowd that had followed me…I looked at the sea of yellow faces above the garish clothes–faces all happy and excited over this bit of fun, all certain that the elephant was going to be shot”. This quote proves that the presence of the crowd did have some sort of influence on his decision to shoot the elephant. This clearly shows free will because in order to shoot the elephant, the man had to make the “choice” to either follow what the crowd wanted him to do, or to choose to do the opposite. The excitement of the crowd reinforced his decision-making process, by encouraging him to shoot the elephant. As Dr. Vohs stated in A New York Times article, “Free will guides people’s choices toward being more moral and better performers”.
Those on the opposing side might also say that free will does not exist because it is ultimately our conscious or subconscious that guides us to do certain things. In “Do You Have Free Will?”, written by the New York Times, they stated, “Conscious or subconscious, if our choices are governed by chemical interactions in the brain, then they are not choices or free will at all – just the result of inherently predictable and deterministic interactions governed by laws of classical physics”. This quote says that because our conscious or subconscious is what determines the actions that we take, therefore it is not free will at all. In this statement, they imply that randomness is leading to free will. This brings up the question of how does randomness lead to free will? In the same article, this question is answered when they state “Let’s say at every possible decision point in my day – coffee or no coffee, take the freeway or surface streets, place a comma or don’t place a comma – that instead of making a choice, I instead have to stop and flip a coin. Heads I do one of the things, tails the other, and it’s perfectly random”. Is this anything like free will? Let’s suppose that I landed heads and had coffee, landed tails and took the surface streets, and landed tails again and placed the comma, did I choose those things in any meaningful sense of the word free will? In an article, written by The Atlantic, they back this up by stating “ The physical brain does not produce consciousness, so much as serve as a filter that allows primordial consciousness to trickle into our awareness in a very limited fashion, where is the here-and-now that we experience in normal waking reality”. This means that our consciousness, although it suggests us to do a certain action, does not force it upon us to complete these actions, that part is for that person to choose. Christian List, who is a philosopher who specializes in how humans make decisions at the London School of Economics, stated that “You are an intricately structured bunch of atoms, and your behavior depends not just on the laws that govern the individual atoms but on the way those atoms are assembled. At a higher level of description, your decisions can be truly open. When you walk into a store and choose between Android and Apple, the outcome is not preordained. It really is on you”. This just goes further to help prove that although our brain does play a part in our decisions, it is ultimately, our decision to make. Our body does not make those decisions for us.
In conclusion, it can be proved by many sources that free will does exist in our everyday lives, whether people are aware of it or not. It can be shown through choices, being able to make a decision, and being able to be self-determined. Some may believe that free will does not exist because they believe that a person was born with a destiny, their life was planned out for them already, our consciousness determines the choice we make, and that those around us influence our choices. Yes, this was their choice to believe this so, therefore, in choosing to not believe that free will exists they are showing that free will does exist. Free will is simply being able to have a choice and being able to make a decision based on what a person believes is right.