Fate or Free Will?

“… whether Fate binds us down by an inexorable law, or whether God as arbiter of the universe has arranged everything, or whether Chance drives and tosses human affairs without method, philosophy ought to be our defense.” Seneca in Letters from a Stoic

How much power does an individual have in crafting his or her destiny? If the extent of power within human agency is uncertain, then is there a method of arriving to a logical conclusion by which to identify which view permeates human existence?  The globalized world today is derived of both spontaneous and systematic interactions between societies, institutions, and individuals.  Many forces are invisible, though they have powerful influence on unknowing individuals.  For example, the issue of gatekeeping in educational institutions is renown.  Yet, two camps of argument still exist, though sometimes they appear in different modern forms such as in public speakers and authors in areas of self-help.  For the sake of presentation, group A believes in predestination, whereby an individual is born into his or her circumstance without the ability to wield any power to change current and future developments.  Group B, on the other hand, where self-help gurus emerge, argues that individuals may practice free will to alter events that have not occurred; therefore, making choices by using conscious reason is of utmost importance.

Critical problems exist in both scenarios.  Adherents of predestination belief absolve themselves from taking personal responsibility.  The assumptions are that if initial conditions are fixed, then all subsequent conditions are fixed or determined as a result. All actions and choices are predictable. Hence, the reason why free will is eliminated, and it constitutes more of an illusion.  However, a defensive argument of the free will camp is one related to how we know what we know in an accurate and trustworthy manner.  The argument follows in that there must exist some level of uncertainty in not only the future but in knowing what we think we know, whereby free will may make a difference in the outcome.

Developing a code or philosophy is important as Seneca advised Lucilius in his letters.  By establishing a framework by which to reference for counsel, an individual is liberated more from the fate versus free will debate.  Since possessing a code by which to live enables both offensive and defensive strategies as to how to live a good life, individuals are freed from external and internal burdens.  Individuals are more free to live according to their nature as arrived by the virtue of introspection and self-actualization in spite of circumstances.  Living is often interpreted as chaotic; yet, the possibilities of actualizing fulfillment and happiness are available.  The first Buddhist Noble Truth states all of life is suffering, and still spiritual transcendence from the suffering is possible.  The required condition is to learn how to celebrate suffering in order to achieve freedom.  Once suffering is conquered, then the probability of living well and happiness are increased.



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