I spent most of this month studying this topic in philosophy and it has totally confused and enlightened me at the same time.
What is fate? Do we have full control over what happens to us? Is there a higher power controlling us? What determines the cause of our lives? Are we the masters of our own destinies in a random universe?
All these questions have crossed my mind and I don’t know if I can answer them all but I’ll share my thoughts on what I know. I’m going to be sharing my thoughts from a philosophical point of view and not from a religious perspective so don’t judge me.
What is fate?
Fate is what people in earlier times referred to as inevitability, that is, what cannot be avoided. Early humans observed that things often happened beyond human control. However, because our brains are pre-programmed by evolution to attribute agency to everything that happens, we feel that there must be somebody who is in control of these events. In other words, we automatically think that when things happen, somebody is causing them to happen.
People believed that this somebody was ‘the gods’ or ‘God’. Later, people depersonified this agent as Fate. Thus, fate came to be seen as an invisible force that caused things to happen and humans can do nothing to stop it. However, in the field of philosophy, it is said that all events have causes which in turn have causes themselves and so on backwards to the beginning of time. This cause and effect principle is known as Determinism.
Determinism is a better term than fate because it doesn’t imagine an invisible force that is deciding what happens but a force whose decisions are final and cannot be altered.
On the other hand, there are those who believe in freewill. They believe that every human being is entirely responsible for what happens in their lives. They believe there is no God or destiny and life is just random.
The truth is, everyone wants to be free or at least have a choice in life. Most people actually believe they are free to choose what to do from the simplest to the more complex: should I drink tea or coffee? Do I put some money in the savings or spend it all? Who should I vote for in the next election? Should I marry or not?
The question of freewill is essentially a question of agency of who’s in charge as we go through our lives making all sorts of choices. An operational definition of freewill is the ability to make our own choices. Of course we’re subjected to all sorts of constraints in our lives from our upbringing to our experiences, there is no blank slate over which we choose. Still, can it be that we’re led to believe that we’re the concious agents of our choices when we aren’t?
Last week, I asked my friends on what they thought about fate and free will and here’s the smartest reply I got from a young philosopher.
It seems to me that the question of fate and freewill is not simply a black and white or a yes/no kind of question but one that embraces full complexity of what it means to be human.
Of course there are some that believe that our lives are a combination of fate and freewill but all I’ll say is whether it’s fate or freewill guiding you, you have to work hard because all these mean nothing if you don’t put in the work that it takes to fufill your life’s purpose.
You shouldn’t just sit back and accept anything that happens because you feel since your fate is already determined there’s no need to work. You’re wrong. There are no shortcuts in life. No magic bullets. Accomplishments and greatness are a result of hardwork, sweat and tears.
What are your thoughts? Do you believe Fate or Freewill guides your path? Do you believe it’s a combination of both? Have you ever had a life changing experience that has caused you to favor one idea over the other?
Let me know in the comments!