Is free will dead?


Mason Escobar, Reporter

Freedom is one of the most pursued concepts in our world. But, putting aside things like civil liberties and intellectual freedom, I like to take a more philosophical, basic view of freedom, focusing on an individual’s control over its own actions. In mainstream philosophy, two mutually exclusive ideas emerge: libertarian free will and hard determinism. These two often go by several names, but supporters of free will theory argue that actors, such as humans, have absolute control over their own actions, while determinists claim that all actions are predetermined absolutely by internal or external influences over which actors have no control. In my humble opinion, determinism most closely defines the true nature of human action.
In physical science, determinism reigns supreme. If a person kicks a ball into the air, determinism says that the ball flew into the air because it was kicked: there was no other possible outcome, based on known laws of physics. In humans, the debate becomes more complex, but essentially remains the same.
Let’s assume a person is deciding between eating toast or a banana for breakfast. A supporter of the free will philosophy might argue that he or she has complete control over the final outcome. A determinist might argue that if a person chooses the banana, it might be because they viewed the banana as healthier, didn’t want to deal with the hassle of crumbs, or preferred the taste of the banana. A determinist also claims that, because of these factors, the person would never have been able to choose anything other than what they eventually did. If a believer of free will argues that the person could have chosen the toast, a determinist counters that the person would have only done so to spite determinism, simply be spontaneous, or the person had other reasons for eating the toast which outweighed the reasons for eating the banana. Thus, his final action ultimately decided those factors. For issues that are more complex than choosing a breakfast food, the essential determinist argument is that, even if the guiding or influencing factors are unknown to humans, they still exist and will continue to control our decisions whether we recognize them or not.
Whatever school of thought one follows, the debate between these two ideologies can help anyone more closely examine themselves and their actions. In this way, we can all make more rational decisions, or, at the very least, come one step closer to understanding our behavior.