Fate versus Free Will

The age-old debate. The alpha and omega. The quintessential question we yearn to know. We want to know, because, we think in light of this, we’d better live our lives. But, here is a wrench in the proverbial gears:

Let’s assume that,

  • Fate is defined as “not choice”
  • Free Will is defined as “choice”

If you’re not willing to make these assumptions, then you should read no further.

Furthermore, if in saying something like, “I love you,” you would agree that you could insert “choose to” before “love you,” and it should not change the content of that message. Essentially, you can do this with anything as long as it is in the first person. When you say, “I am going to work,” you’re saying, effectively: “I am choosing to go to work”. These two statements mean the same thing. Inserting “choosing to,” or “choose to,” does not change the statement you’re making, it is just redundant because the first person casts possessiveness on the direct object via the verb of the sentence.

Okay. If you say, “I think fate exists,” you have immediately negated your statement. If you add those two words, which we previously agreed do not alter the content of a statement at least in the first person, then you’ve said, “I choose to think fate exists.” And to replace “fate,” with “not choice,” you get: “I choose to think not choice (or choosing) exists.” In an attempt to claim that you believe in fate, you condemn fate. You logically contradict yourself.

So, we’re left with free will. It seems that it is must logically conclude that free will exists. However, this is not the case. Let’s use the same scenario that we have previously agreed to and replace free will with “choice”. If you say, “I think free will exists,” you have immediately negated your statement. The statement becomes “I choose to think free will exists,” or, “I choose to think choice exists.” This seems perfectly congruent with logic, until you recognize that there is no choice but to think choice exists. You cannot “choose,” to think that “not choice,” exists so if your only option is to choose to think choice exists, then you didn’t have an option at all. And, in having no option, you had no choice… that we had earlier agreed is equivalent to fate.

Therefore, in having no choice but to choose free will, because you cannot choose fate, then you must be fated to choose free will. The condition of fate, as we agreed upon earlier, is “not choice.” And, if the very fact that you talking in first person necessitates you to choose then you had no option to have free will, which means you are fated. But, talking in the first person negates fate, because of the ability to choose. This shows that you cannot argue fate or free will exists because in arguing for either side, you negate your argument and agree with the opposite.


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  1. Hmm. I can agree up to a point. But you are speaking of which is the best guess. I would say that the best idea is not to guess but to do the sums. A complete metaphysical analysis will arrive at the idea that the distinction between freewill and determinism is not fundamental but conceptual. Erwin Schrodinger examines the problem and ends up endorsing the views of the Upanishads. All distinctions are emergent, and all extreme views are incorrect. This gives us a way of entirely avoiding having to guess which of two unworkable ideas is correct.

    • You’re correct. The problem I am illustrating is conceptual and not fundamental.

      However, the reason I am showing the conceptual problem is because as conscious creatures (and possibly even as unconscious creatures; for we cannot know certainly, because we are not unconscious creatures) the extent of ourselves is conceptual. That is to say, that I am claiming that we are, by and large, products of concepts. Every single thing that we conjure in our minds, within consciousness, is merely a concept that is not fundamental. Richard Dawkins speaks to this as something that is PAP (Permanent Agnosticism in Practice) or TAP (Temporary Agnosticism in Practice): he addresses color as a way of explaining PAP, i.e., it is impossible to deduce if your blue is the same as my blue by the slightest shade or a diametric opposite.

      In the same vain, because we are thinking things (Descartes) we are required to be within the realm of consciousness and consciousness dictates us to be within the realm of knowledge and knowledge begins with language. So, it is impossible to talk about “fundamentals” when the concept of something “fundamental” is still a -concept- of fundamentalism. Language, therefore, negates your ability to be fundamental or universal and instead you are limited to concepts.

      Thus, to show a distinction in conceptual ideas is to show a distinction within the world we live in, because we live in a conceptual world; one created entirely of concepts.

      E.g., You cannot speak of “fundamental ideas,” as the statement itself is an oxymoron, it logically contradicts itself. An idea is a concept while something “fundamental” is meant to address something beyond a concept but it, itself, is a concept.

      And, I would also say that the very notion of freewill and determinism only arise because we have the ability to speak in the first person: “I” is a possessive pronoun. So, it is impossible to comment on how these concepts would and/or if they even would have any interaction with things incapable of addressing themselves.

  2. How completely fascinating. And actually quite helpful to me. I see exactly what you’re saying, and up to a point I would agree. Hegel’s ‘Absolute Idea’ is exactly this, an idea we cannot have. Likewise Lao Tsu’s ‘Tao’, and Kant’s fundamental phenomenon, which is not an instance of a Category. It is taken for granted in mysticism, that what you say about the conceptual mind and the fundamental is correct, since if were not then religion would be nonsense. .

    Where we disagree is over the ability of human beings to acquire a knowledge of, or identity with what lies beyond concepts or, as one Christian mystic puts it, what ‘lies beyond the coincidence of contradictories’. (Beyond the categories and thus beyond the discursive intellect). The argument you make for the inability of the conceptual mind to grasp reality is a glowing endorsement of Kant, Hegel, Buddhism. advaita Vedanta and more generally the perennial philosophy. .

    It intrigues me that you mention Dawkins. He fails to see that he is often saying exactly what the sages have been saying throughout all of recorded human history, presumably because he is so opposed to religion that he makes no effort to learn anything about it. This is a common phenomenon in the sciences, and I’d add Chalmers and Dennett to the list. Ideas that are perfectly consistent with those of the wisdom traditions, but twisted out of shape and made useless by a refusal to read a book about Buddhism.

    To get from your view to that of Hegel, Kant, Heraclitus, the Upanishads, the Buddha and Lao Tsu would require just one more step. This would be the idea that although the intellect cannot grasp the fundamental, it can be realised. That is to say, it can be realised by us that this is what we are. .

    So I wouldn’t want to exactly disagree with your view, just point out that it is unnecessarily pessimistic, It would be possible to hold your view regarding the limits of the human intellect and yet still believe it would be possible to know that the freewill-determinism distinction is a mistake. Not believe or calculate, but know.

    Indeed, countless numbers of people are on record as stating that they are in this position. It would be precisely the fact that reality extends beyond the conceptual that makes this reduction possible in theory, and which would make it possible to know the truth about freewill in practice. We can know because, as Aristotle puts it, ‘true knowledge is identical with its object’. It could not be conceptual, partly for the reasons you give. .

    Thus we can assume that the logical absurdity of freewill and determinism in philosophy is a sign that they are both incorrect, such that we are not only free to reject both of them but have no other option if we are honest. This is progress, not a problem, as long as we have a third idea that actually works.

    Don’t let me waste your time enjayvee, I just wanted to draw attention to a view you don’t mention.

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