One of the questions I like to ask people when I'm getting to know them whether they believe in free will or determinism. 99% of the time, I get a flabbergasted look as if the question totally shook up the world of the person I am asking, but without failure, it always causes an interesting discussion. A discussion, I believe, is worth having.
According to Simply Psychology, free will is the idea that humans have total control over their lives and our behavior is a direct result of our own actions. Determinism suggests that our behavior is a direct cause of external influences and preceding events, thus making us somewhat irresponsible for our actions. One mindset identifies more with the moral responsibility of human beings, while the other deals with a more spiritual approach to existence. For argument's sake though, we will assume that these "external influences" are something of a cosmic mystery.
Almost everyone I have asked this question to believes that humans have free will. A few weeks ago, I had this very discussion with my boyfriend and his mom, and a few weeks after, I had this discussion with a few close friends of mine. All participants believed in free will and had some very solid points explaining their beliefs.
One very prominent feature of the free will argument is that we always have a choice in life. We choose to wake up, pick our clothes for the day, make our daily choices and think the way we do. While we may not have an idea of what will occur in the duration of our day, or even our lives for that matter, we do know that we will make choices that appropriately identify with the path we are trying to create for ourselves. Essentially, we formulate our own destiny.
Another feature of this argument is that for every action we make, it has a rippling consequence on the lives of people around us. This, as a result, creates a hiccup of reactions that occur around the world. As my friends describe it, a butterfly-effect of sorts occur whenever we make our own decisions, and as a result, everyone's lives affect one another due to the choices we make. For this reason, it is believed that our lives are a compilation of actions and reactions and we have the ability to manipulate the outcome - to an extent.
Determinism, on the other hand, explains that our lives were already planned out for us, and every choice we consciously make has already been planned by a cosmic force beyond our comprehension. Similar to free will, every action has a reaction and this creates a rippling effect on everyone's lives, although the choices have already been determined without our knowledge. Essentially, our destiny is waiting to be fulfilled.
Personally, I identify more with the idea of determinism. Perhaps I believe so because I have faith in knowing that if something tragic happens to me, it is happening for a reason, and it was placed in my life to prepare me for something else. The reason may never be known, but at the very least it offers an opportunity for growth and expansion of knowledge. I believe people, places, and events are placed into our lives in a precise way to test our strength and ability to prosper and grow through them. I also believe that determinism may explain the unexplainable coincidences we run into daily - they are the doing of an unknown cosmic force attempting to teach us something about ourselves, or even the world around us.
Another reason I believe in the idea of determinism is linked to the idea of unpredictability. If something happens to me that is out of my control, I lose the sense of guilt that is attached to free will when it comes to trying to manipulate the outcome. If the outcome has already been calculated, I simply go with the motions and do my best to assume that it will all work out the way it was intended. Truthfully, it's a pretty shitty way to go about life, but it's what helps keep me sane when it seems like the world is out to get me.
The argument, without a doubt, causes something of a controversy. Especially when you blend in the conflicting beliefs of the participants. At the same time though, I do not believe anything in life is as black and white as this question. In fact, most things in life lie in a gray area. Sure, you can find yourself identifying with more black or more white, but they gray consists of all the unanswered questions about both sides which make either belief invalid.
Perhaps we really do have the choice at the moment. Perhaps we think we have the ability to make a choice when the choice has been decided for us all along. As I mentioned earlier, one idea created destiny, while the other fulfills it. We will truly never know the full answer to the argument, and it seems we live our lives depending on which side we agree with more. However, whatever side you believe to be true, it seems to be universally agreed on that being a good person no matter what yields the most favorable outcomes. At the end of the day, that is all we can do with the power that we do have.