Predestination or Free Will?

November 25, 2010 at 5:14 am | Posted in Philosophy | Leave a comment
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The Plinky prompt for yesterday was “Do you believe everything happens for a reason?”

Many people believe that everything in life is pre-ordained, and that you cannot change your fate. I suppose that is why the term fatalism was coined. Such a belief does not sit well with those who belong to the Christian religions, in which the doctrine of free will is a basic tenet. How a person can hold two such conflicting beliefs at the same time beats me. They are incompatible – your fate is either pre-determined, or you have the free will to choose it.

 However, even given that conflict of beliefs, most fundamentalist Christians – and probably those of other faiths too – believe that they are predestined for heaven. So, when the question is asked, do you believe everything happens for a reason, the first thing they think of is their destiny. The reason for everything, they say, is that their god has arranged it all for them. He is the reason. They need to believe in something that will provide a purpose to their life.

The way I look at it, the question is: do actions produce results? It is obvious to me that everything happens because of something else. It may be because of a word spoken; an action taken or not taken; it could be because someone was in the right place at the right time, or in the wrong place at the wrong time. Perhaps something happens accidentally, due to somebody’s lack of attention which, in turn, was caused by grief, anger, or other distracting emotion, that has resulted from a whole chain of circumstances seemingly unrelated to the final event.

 At each step in the chain, choices are made, or not made – which is itself a choice – by people. Any other choice could have led to a better or worse outcome but, at each stage, a variety of outcomes could have resulted. None of them was predetermined. They could be predicted, if the person making the choice was completely bound in some way that meant that it was not a choice at all. That does not, however, mean their choice is pre-destined. Many other factors can intervene.

 There are circumstances over which we, as individuals, have no control. Earthquakes; the weather –cold or hot, calm or stormy; the price of goods, including food; the existence or quality of services we can access; our opportunities to make money; and many more, all affect our lives in some way.

 Many things occur simply because two or more circumstances (all or some of which are the results of individual choices) happen to coincide. A drunk driver loses control of his vehicle just as someone steps out of a shop; a young man finds a diamond ring in the gutter; a baby is conceived because neither boy nor girl took precautions, and it just happened to be the girl’s fertile period. These instances are the result of events colliding in a way that produces an outcome, whether desirable, undesirable, or neutral. 

Yes, there is a reason for everything. Sometimes it is because of the decisions we all make; sometimes because of a conjunction of events. At times, what occurs is due simply to luck – whether good or bad. To a large extent, we can make our own destiny by acting on the events and circumstances around us. I do not believe that some being is manipulating us, our surroundings, nature, events, etc, in order to arrive at a particular outcome. Let’s take responsibility for our own lives.

© Linda Visman

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