From birth we are told that humans are gifted with the ability to freely make any choice we can and that this is because we have the power of free will.
Free will as a philosophy, as defined by dictionary.com, is the doctrine that the conduct of human beings expresses personal choice and is not simply determined by physical or divine forces. This definition is inherently false in itself because all human choice is determined by external and uncontrollable forces. Everything we do is a response to an external stimuli. Every single decision is precluded by an external stimulus. The multiple options we could choose in any situation is not proof of free will, but rather a cognitive “veto” function as a result of our developed brains.
If humans truly had free will, we would be uninhibited by our limbic brain, as well as our subconscious mind. The power of emotion and suggestion has been proven throughout history to be the greatest means of influencing decisions ever, but they are not the sole factor in our delusions. In the scheme of evolution, our neocortex is the newest part of our brain to have developed. It contains our capacity to reason and think unlike any animal on earth. But this new stage in brain development is not independent of our inner, more primitive brain. They are all connected to each other, and influence and work with each other too. Free will is merely another manifestation of the imagination that humans have exercised for thousands of years. God did not give us free will, we deluded ourselves into believing it. A computer cannot function without the input of external commands. It has to be stimulated into action, much like the human brain.
Since there is no free will, humans have no agency. Therefore, they cannot be responsible for their actions. Because humans are not responsible for their actions, the concept of morality is inherently false, but that is an article for another time.
This is not cosmological determinism because that says the universe moves forward in time in a predictable way. Cosmological determinism brings in a higher force that directs the flow of events and onwards to their inevitable outcomes. The higher force is a stand-in for a divine force as they are essentially the same thing when comparing cosmological determinism and the role of God in “his plan” for us. The closest thing that a lack of free will is related to is causal determinism, that what we do and what we will do is influenced by antecedent events and various conditions that adhere to the physical laws of the world, thereby nullifying humans of their agency in carrying out their actions.
Thus, this brings up the question of whether or not we have a destiny – or fate. If there is no free will, wouldn’t that mean there is a divine force bringing us to an inevitable outcome? No. Because fate asserts that an outcome for an individual cannot be changed and is in line with the natural order of the universe – being that what we do is predetermined by the universe. There is no “one way” that we can go no matter what we do. There are numerous paths we could take, but they are all determined by the external stimuli and the conditions we are in at theat point in time. For example, if you are reading this article and decide to prove me wrong by quitting your job, moving to Tibet, and becoming a monk – you still haven’t proven that we have free will. This article was a stimulus for your decision to quit your job and move to Tibet. This article will not have the same effect on other people though, as it is highly depenedent on the conditions that surround the individual and their subconscious predisposition to being influenced by different stimuli. This article may make you want to go out and do random things to prove a point, while seeing a foreign country ravaged by a natural disaster won’t cause you to become a relief worker, whereas someone else might drop everything and become a relief worker upon seeing the damage caused to the country in question. Again, a stimulus on its own is not universally calibrated to cause everyone to do the same thing.
Every stimulus has weight to it. One person standing on a box in the middle of town telling everyone not to drink milk has less weight to it than a large asteroid hitting the earth. The asteroid has more weight to it (literally and figuratively) because it has the power to influence more people to tailor their decisions to the current situation by creating new conditions that inhabit their lives.
A more relevent real world example is the influence money has on people’s lives. It has immense weight to it and creates incalculable conditions with which people are forced to accept within their lives. One cannot simply create their own flow in the universe and outright reject money without creating worse conditions for themselves. We are not born into a set of conditions that are entirely independent of money. Money, and the necessity of it, highly influences nearly everything we do and pervades the decisions we make. The prospect of acquiring it and the fear of losing it is so powerful that millions have suffered and died because of it.
The perceived complexity and convuluted nature of our lives can certainly lead us to believe that what we do is inherently by our own volition, and not by some force – physical or otherwise. That is because our capacity of understanding can be limited and clouded by the very complexity and convulutedness that permeates every day of our existence.
Next time you are given a choice, think of the steps that have transpired to lead you to this choice or set of choices. Question everything you do, and ask if it is because you truly do it yourself, or if you are influenced by physical or external means.