Does any person have the freedom to transport their body to the moon, to float above the earth? Obviously we can build machines to do this, but in every case our freedom is limited by physical reality and the laws of Nature – and we observe this in everything we do – driving cars, walking, using lights at night. The important distinction is to say that we have Limited Free Will.
So how can we have any freedom at all if reality is necessarily connected? As Spinoza writes;
‘There is no mind absolute or free will, but the mind is determined for willing this or that by a cause which is determined in its turn by another cause, and this one again by another, and so on to infinity. … A body in motion or at rest must be determined for motion or rest by some other body, which, likewise, was determined for motion or rest by some other body, and this by a third and so on to infinity.‘
(Geoff Haselhurst at
Do we have the ability to make individual choices? Is there nothing actually set in stone? Is this a question that demands quantum physics, or a distinctive line between omnipotence and omniscience? These bring up incredible questions of the role of destiny, whether all life is destiny or can there be bits of destiny among a life filled with otherwise free will based decisions? Is the Calvinists right about predestination, or are the adamant free will believers correct? Is there any way to really truly know?
Free will is naturally going to be the more popular choice for many people just based on the fact that many individuals hate the idea of being controlled. Free will is used in a more general sense, for individuals who may be asking through psychology or even science like quantum physics or metaphysics, do humans make independent choices? Is it even possible? At what point does an influenced choice become controlled or destined? Is it free will, or predestination, or somehow both, when a person has two choices, but their inherent beliefs, past experiences, and world view will always cause them to choose choice A over choice B?
Free will is easy to jump to in a knee jerk, “I make my own choices,” reaction in the same way that predestination is easy to jump to by individuals who are obsessed with being set apart, always right, or don’t want to take personal responsibility.
(Predestination Vs Free Will, by Jerry G2 at
There is a great deal of confusion about the subject of predestination. Some people are sure they know what it is. Some have an idea what they think it might mean. Some people don’t even pretend they know what it’s all about.
Admittedly, it’s a difficult topic. We should have a good grasp of what predestination is. After all, it affects our entire future.
Yet there is so much confusion about it! There are so many ideas, so many foundational denominational doctrines and dogmas about this very important topic, that the average person is left scratching his or her head, and leaving it to others to understand this deep, mysterious doctrine. The easy way out is to let others explain it in simple terms. “Just tell me — am I going to fly, or am I going to fry?”
(Predestination by Jack M. Lane at
We have limited free will. Within certain limitations, we can make choices and act upon those choices. Our choices are partially controlled and determined by outside forces and by the laws of physics. But we have agency to act within certain bounds of natural laws that exist. We can exercise that agency, make choices and act upon those choices. Logic dictates there is no purpose or meaning to life if we do not have some free will. We instinctively know we have power to act in some things without constraint of necessity or fate. We are bound or limited by physics but we are independent agents within our sphere of influence. We intuitively think or feel we are free. We therefore act at our own discretion. We are capable of responding to random chance with purposeful choices. Thus we can be held morally responsible and accountable for our choices and actions in both the deterministic world of physics and the indeterminate world of observable quantum mechanics that we are still discovering.
There are obvious choices in life we can choose to follow. We can conceive and believe things. This proves some free will even though there are limitations on the choices available to us. For example, because we are not a fish, we do not have the choice of living underwater without some sort of breathing apparatus. It is determined beforehand that human life is incompatible with living unaided under water. We are therefore limited to certain pre-determined boundaries if we want to sustain life. In like manner, in some situations we have a limited number of choices we can make because of the randomness of life. We hope we never have to decide what to do if we are in a plane that is about to crash. We would have no control of the physics causing the plane to crash, but we still have some obvious choices we can make and act upon, like remain calm or panic.
(Tim Malone at
Are we victims of inescapable fate, or do we really have the power to create our own destiny? That is the age-old question. This world, and this lifetime, has infinite possibilities yet you will travel one path. How do you really know if this path is for you? The age-old concept of Karma views every action as the cause of one or more effects. In essence ourselves and our lives are the result of countless past actions, as well as contributory causes to the destiny of the universe.
How often in life are we confronted with our own free will? In such simple a simple matter as whether to have tea or coffee to life-changing events like marriage, relocation or changing occupation.
At times such as these when we feel the weight of destiny in our hands can we really doubt that we truly possess freedom of the will? Indeed, throughout the reign of the “clockwork” universe Spiritual and religious traditions continued to flourish, suggesting that at essence humankind knew better than science.
So what of fate? Does our free will make redundant the concept of predestination? Not at all. Despite the randomness of the sub-atomic universe the perceived world consisting of the effect of huge numbers of these micro-events does behave deterministically to a large degree, hence Newton’s observations. For example, if you save a few dollars each week your bank balance will grow, if you don’t wrap in cold weather you’ll likely catch cold…
How many of us squander our greatest gift by not making full use of it? Mind is lazy and craves routine that can be delegated to the subconscious. In the comfort of routine the consciousness is free to indulge itself in its typical aimless wanderings. So attractive is the familiarity of routine that most of us don’t even face the dilemma of choosing between tea and coffee, we just have the same drink every time. We become the nightmarish biological automata envisioned by science.
But isn’t to squander the gift of free will also to fail to make the most of our incarnation? For it is only through exercise of will that we test ourselves in this environment and thus learn what we came to learn.
Just as our muscles grow weak through lack of exercise so does our will. We should try to switch off our mental autopilot on a regular basis. Vary what we drink in the morning. Take a different route to work or shopping. Watch a different TV show, or better still switch the TV off altogether.
The more we exercise our free will, the more open and aware we become to the opportunities that surround us. Many simply don’t notice Opportunities but blinded by the drug of routine.
Fate undoubtedly influences the circumstances in which we operate. Someone born with a disability is unlikely to become a champion of a physical sport. We should be sensitive to fate and what it tells us about our true purpose. But beware of using fate as an excuse for failure. “I was unlucky”, “circumstances were against me”, etc. Such things may be true, but before adopting them please be sure you have exercised your will to the best of your ability.


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