Friday, June 21, 2013

Free Will or Determinism?

Hello again,

Today, I received an email for an employer that I have been waiting for for the past few months. In waiting, I had exhausted most of the options I had available to make this summer productive. However, I failed. And just when I accepted the reality that I was going to spend the next few months doing absolutely nothing, I got that email.

It's funny. I'm usually a very logical and rational person. I believe that, for the most part, I have the freedom to act in whichever way I please, and those actions dictate the subsequent consequences that will occur. However, there are times like these when I feel like I don't have that control-- times when I wonder if things are predetermined. I've taken a couple philosophy classes before, and no doubt the topic of free will vs determinism is something I am very interested in. However, it is also something I struggle to understand. So bear with me as I try to unravel my thoughts.

The situation above may not be the best example for explaining free will vs determinism, but it does touch upon it. I had done everything in my power to make this the summer that I can look back on and be proud of. I had look forward to gaining valuable work experience, and just learning. But when I failed to receive any indication that that was going to happen, I went out of my way to still try to achieve what I had set out to. I applied for jobs, I did my best to secure something-- anything. But that never happened. It's almost as if my efforts were wasted. I would even go as far as saying that perhaps I was bound to get that email, but not until that predetermined time. Yes, you can say that there are many actors and factors that may have contributed to why my efforts did not pan out, or why that email was delayed. But it does not change the possibility that everything that happens to us happens for a reason.

I guess it would be easy to claim that every time we do not get what we want that it is because things are predetermined, and that better things are going to come our way. That almost sounds foolish to me. Naive even. But if you look at it from a much deeper level, you begin to question whether everything that has happened to you has in fact happened because that's the way the world spins, or if those things have happened for a reason.

Take my parents' divorce, for example. I believe that the decision to separate was one of free will by the both of them. Or at least to some degree. However, I do not believe that the impact it had on me, or my brothers was one of free will. Everyone reacts to situations differently. For me, I started leading a life that I cannot even believe I did. Looking back, I cannot help but feel so blessed for having accomplished all that I have. If it were not for that breakdown, I would not have met some amazing people, I would not have become captain of my basketball team, I would not have won awards for my achievements... I could go on. I just would not be the person that I am. I understand that psychologists may say that it is because people respond differently-- some people flourish, and some people flop. I was one of the lucky ones. But can I truly attribute all that to myself? To my own free will? Probably not. The decision that propelled to where I ended up was my decision in grade 8 to try out for the volleyball team. I didn't even like volleyball, but I had been encouraged by a friend. I still wasn't sold on the idea, but I did it anyways. And from there, it slowly snowballed until I was in my final year of high school with lots of friends-- both peers and with administrators; and also academic and athletic achievements. I had it all. But if it were not for that one split decision, I would not have ended up where I was. So was that really free will? Did I just luck out? Or was all that planned? I guess I'll never know.

Well, that's enough pondering for now. Until next time.


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