Free will and fate are both illusions
2013 03 28

By Tim Lott | AEON



Free will and fate are both illusions. The trick is learning to sail with the prevailing winds of life.

There is a line in J G Ballard’s book The Atrocity Exhibition (1970) that strikes at the heart of the issue of free will versus fate. Ballard writes: ‘Deep assignments run through all our lives; there are no coincidences.’ It is an arresting line — and no doubt many of us at one time or another have felt just this way about our lives, that they have a fated quality to them ­—­ but just what these ‘deep assignments’ consist of is unclear. The issue of free will versus fate might, for many people, feel a little rarefied, and irrelevant. Yet it seems to me it is absolutely crucial to how we approach the countless dilemmas that confront every one of us each day.

Perhaps it’s peculiar, but this question has vexed me for as long as I can remember. At one point in my life, this challenge pretty much sent me crazy. In the late 1980s, when I was studying history at university, I found myself grappling furiously with the question of why things happened — this question being, really, at the heart of all historical analysis.

Why did the Russian Revolution happen in 1917 rather than the ‘first time round’ in 1905? What caused the Second World War? Was it ‘larger historical forces’? Or just individuals making individual decisions? And, at the same time, in my own life — after I had split up with my then long-term girlfriend — I was left asking, what had I done to make that happen? What did I have to do to get her back? Was it in my control?

After three years, I was no wiser than when I started. Did we choose freely? Or were we just victims of larger historical, social and biological forces? It was impossible to tell. What I did realise was that philosophers had been struggling with such questions for thousands of years, but were no closer to understanding the answer than they were when they started out. Today, the consensus among most modern physicists, chemists and biologists is that free will is impossible — it is simply an illusion generated by a consciousness that is itself illusory. This explanation didn’t satisfy me. After all, if consciousness is an illusion, who is generating the illusion, and who is perceiving it as an illusion? For me, mechanistic determinism­ — that there is a sort of fated cause and effect at play in the universe, with no room for choice — raised more problems than it solved.

Consider your breathing: are ‘you’ breathing, or is breathing happening to you?


It also just felt wrong. I felt so sure that I could decide whether or not to drink the glass of water in front of me that I would find it impossible to be convinced otherwise. That direct experience of reality is valid, particularly since it also takes into account the fact that I might drink the water without consciously choosing to, without thinking about it first.

At the same time, it seemed impossible to believe wholeheartedly in free will. At one level, I intuited that there were paths that you just ‘had’ to take, even if you didn’t want to. When I decided to leave my publishing company to go to university later on in life, it felt like something I had to do. When I ended my marriage, I felt I had no choice — but of course, in theory at least, I did.

[...]

Read the full article at: aeonmagazine.com



Related Articles
The Collider, the Particle and a Theory About Fate
Determinism Versus Free Will : Battle to the Death
Do You Choose to Believe in Free Will?
Think You’re Operating on Free Will? Think Again


Latest News from our Front Page

Equinox: Homicide In Kennewick
2014 09 19
Description text from Youtube: One of the most important and controversial archaeological finds ever made, Kennewick Man’s remains were dated to around 7000 BC. Found on the banks of the Colorado River, his facial structure, however, was unanimously reported not to be a Native American by all the scholars who have taken a close look at the remains... The implication ...
The Israeli exception to US foreign policy advocating gay rights
2014 09 19
From an op-ed by James Bamford in the NYTimes on his conversations with Edward Snowden (Israel’s NSA Scandal): Among his most shocking discoveries, he told me, was the fact that the N.S.A. was routinely passing along the private communications of Americans to a large and very secretive Israeli military organization known as Unit 8200. This transfer of intercepts, he said, included ...
Russia to ban Bitcoin by next spring
2014 09 19
RT, an English-language news outlet in Russia, reports that a top official with the Russian government has announced that a law will be passed banning Bitcoin’s exchange into real money by next spring because of Bitcoin’s use by criminals and terrorists. Deputy Finance Minister Aleksey Moiseev said to journalists in Moscow: “People can play with their chips, and they can call them ...
Ingraham to Zuckerberg: Time for Open Borders at Your Mansion
2014 09 19
Talk radio host Laura Ingraham re-iterated her challenge to debate Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and criticized him for securing his property while demanding the US allow illegal immigrants to remain in the country on Monday. “In the end, borders work for these guys. Right, I would not want to be on [Facebook board member] Marc Andreesen’s household staff if ...
MasterCard tests Orwellian national ID card on Nigeria
2014 09 19
The march toward enslaving the world’s population by a handful of globalist statists and corporations continues, with the latest chapter unfolding, of all places, in Nigeria, compliments of MasterCard. According to the website GovtSlaves.info, the credit card giant is rolling out a card in Africa’s most populous country that has the ability to retain all personal, health insurance, tax payment and ...
More News »