Good afternoon everyone. How are you all doing? I would say “I hope you’re all enjoying the sunshine” but there doesn’t appear to much of it about today; it is for this reason I find myself sat inside with a toasted tuna and sweetcorn sandwich, a glass of cherry coke and a bag of chilli heatwave Doritos attempting to explain to you all, the concepts of determinism and predestination. You see, the lack of sun (for some reason), inspired me to pop across the road to see my mother and, as always, a philosophical and theological conversation ensued.
As the title suggests, we got onto the topic of free-will, determinism and then ultimately, predestination. As the conversation continued, I found myself arguing in defence of my beliefs in determinism and thought, “Hey, this could make for a pretty interesting blog”. So ladies and gentlemen of Twitter, Facebook and anywhere else that you managed to stumble across this post from, I give you my views, my beliefs and my reasoning behind determinism.
Firstly, I guess I should start by explaining the key terms that I’ll be waffling about in this post; especially for any of you who aren’t budding theologians or philosophers.
Free-will: This is the gift that mankind believes we are all blessed with; the complete and utter freedom to do what we want, when we want to, according to our own decisions.
I ask you to stand up, and take off all your clothes. You decide not to. This decision is made because you have the complete freedom to make up your mind as to whether or not you want to comply. There are no external factors influencing you, and I’m not holding a gun to your head. You have made this decision on the spot and it is your individual consciousness that has helped make that decision.
Soft-determinism: This is where things start to get a little confusing. Determinism if often split into two categories: soft and hard determinism (no rude jokes please). Soft-determinism is half way between free-will and total (hard) determinism, expressing a degree of freedom of choice whilst having that decision influenced by external factors. The example should help clear this up:
I ask you to stand up, and take off all your clothes. You decide not to. This decision is made because you are influenced by external factors e.g. what is acceptable in normal social situations, common sense etc. These factors help you in your decision. You know that it is socially unacceptable to take of all your clothes in an inappropriate setting, but yet you still have the free choice to do so or not. You decide that you shouldn’t, because of the social conditioning.
Hard-determinism: Things here get a little more simple. Hard-determinism states that every action and every decision made is predetermined; there is no freedom of choice.
I ask you to stand up, and take off all your clothes. You decide not to. This decision is not actually a decision at all. You may think and feel like you have had to make up your mind whether to do it or not, but in actual fact, from the beginning of time it was destined that at the point of me asking you to take off all your clothes, you were never going to comply.
I think a lot of people have difficulty comprehending the idea that we don’t have any freedom in the things we do or the decisions we make. In reality though, whether we have free-will or not doesn’t have any real impact on us; we still feel like we’re making decisions but we are in fact, just following the path already set out for us.
(It must be noted that the above explanations are heavily simplified. I suggest if you wish to know about free-will and determinism in more depth, you do proper research. I ain’t perfect…all time time).
So…why do I hold the belief that all of mankind’s decisions are in fact, predetermined? Why do I not think that humans have the free choice to do something or not? Well, let me try explain.
Firstly, as this is a predominantly theological issue, we must assume that God is somehow involved. Secondly, as this is my defence of determinism, we must assume God exists in the form that I believe it exists. God, in my thinking, is the name given to the entity that resides outside the realms of any human or empirical comprehension; it is not a person nor a man, it is what it is. To take the example from the Exodus story where God reveals its name to Moses, God simply…is. God is behind the creation of the universe and everything that resides within it; be it as the direct creator as seen in Genesis, or as a catalyst of another form of creation i.e. the Big Bang as seen in the teleological argument, is largely irrelevant to this argument.
Everything in the universe from the movement of planets to the forces seen on Earth (gravity, upthrust etc.) is present because God made it so. Everything that resides in the universe is subject to a series of causes and effects that are determined because a) God made it so and b) empirical observations have proven that, for example, if an object is dropped it will fall to the ground. The planets orbit the sun and satellites orbit the planets in an orderly way; animals hibernate at the same time of year every year; babies will cry when they are hungry. These are examples of what I will call, ‘cosmic order’; things happen because they are meant to – either they were created this way or there is a cause that leads to an inevitable effect. Everything in the cosmos is subject to order, random occurrences are extremely rare and, will often, have a ‘first cause’.
Free-will is incompatible in the cosmos that has been created by God. As explained, everything in the created cosmos is subject to order; everything is determined by causes and effects. Free-will is the absence of order; how can humans be the only entity in the cosmos that are not subject to this cosmic order? As we are part of God’s creation we must therefore be subject to the exact same conditions as the rest of the cosmos. Many people may argue against this notion suggesting that, like Aristotle, humans are above the rest of creation as we have the ability to rationale. And who am I to argue against Aristotle?! The ability to rationale does not have to cover ‘decision-making’; humans are capable of other demonstrations of rational thought without decision-making being present – the ability to formulate an argument such as the one you’re reading right now is evidence of rational thought. The fact that I am writing it however, was predetermined by the creator of the cosmos; I am subject to an order of things. It is this order that has led me to write this blog post right now.
The exact nature of how or why our lives are seemingly ‘mapped’ out for us is unknowable. As pointed out earlier, the entity that we call God resides in a realm beyond our consciousness, so we cannot nor are we meant to understand all the ins and outs of the how or why questions humans are constantly asking.
So, to sum up my argument…briefly. Free-will is incompatible in a cosmos that, by defintion, is bound by cosmic order and a series of causes and effects; free-will allows for random occurrences and anomalies to be present which, by the nature of the cosmos demonstrated by empirical observation, are inconsistent with the nature of the created world in which we live. Therefore, humans must also be subject to the same cosmic order seen in the rest of creation. Our ‘decisions’ and our actions are predetermined by the creator, we cannot know our path or ‘destiny’ as such knowledge resides in the divine consciousness only. The only knowledge of such paths or destinies comes, when one immediately experiences them.
Here’s a picture of a fat monkey, just to lighten the mood slightly after a pretty heavy and intense philosophical rant. If you agree or disagree with anything I’ve said, please do feel free to leave comments. I’m interested to know what you think. But for now, I’m going to go make myself a long overdue cup of tea and play some more Mass Effect…because I am way too cool.
Enjoy the rest of your day. I’ll write to you all again soon…or will I?