Who is the author of your actions?

Many reject determinism because they feel that the outcome of a situation is caused by their choice. This is true. A person’s action is essential to the outcome of an event, but that doesn’t grant one any volition in the matter.

It is essential for an apple to fall before it can smash to pieces on the ground. We acknowledge no free will in this instance but completely agree all the factors were necessary for the exact outcome of the event. People—despite our cognitive abilities—are just a more complicated piece of matter in this show of cause and effect.

Instead of thinking of yourself as the author of your own life, think of yourself as the pen with the laws of nature being the author. You write your own actions, but you are within the system—not outside—and this means your thoughts and actions are essential to the outcome of events. It is not ultimately you that somehow makes these choices—that would mean you are somehow outside the system. The system as a whole is a responsible, with every factor being essential.

This leaves no room for free will. There is no instance in which one can claim to have authorship in a situation. You are presented with the facts, you go over them in your mind, and you react in the only way someone placed in your environment with your exact configuration of atoms could. There is one possible outcome, and that outcome is the choice you land upon.

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  2 comments for “Who is the author of your actions?

  1. Scott Kaelen
    August 18, 2014 at 10:47 am

    If our will is shackled to a purely instinctual force, which is a culmination of extrinsic elements and our own reactionary impulses on a molecular level, I would still say there’s wiggle room for us to manipulate the outcome.
    Much of it comes down to base animal instincts; fight or flight, nature or nurture. As we’re crossing a field, and suddenly a bull charges us, we’re faced with a momentary choice which is something we barely register on a conscious level: Do we run or do we confront? The same person, in two identical instances, might choose to run the first time but confront the second time. Why? What happened to them beforehand to nudge their subconscious reactions one way or the other? Perhaps something, but equally likely it was just how the electrons played through the brain.
    Then there’s the tabula rasa argument, that a person can be so influenced by their culture, religion, family, friends, media, that the way they respond to things they’re faced with is heavily based on extrinsic forces.
    Examples: Would that ISIS bloke have sawed that young girl’s head off if what passed for his will hadn’t been manipulated by Islam? Would the old man, on his wife’s deathbed, cry tears of joy in knowing she had gone to a glorious place of eternal wonder, or would he cry tears of bitterness in knowing that which he had loved was now gone forever, decomposing to her molecular elements? Would the boy have killed his younger brother if he hadn’t watched and been influenced by that movie?
    To non-sentient life, there is natural reaction. To sentient life there is also natural reaction, but sentience means not only the ability to reason, but also the ability to steer our lives with varying levels of control. Sometimes there is no control, other times there is a lot, often there is merely a little.
    And then there is the ability to hold back, to withstand the natural impulse or the nurtured reaction; in essence, the power of resistance.
    I believe free will exists to an extent, but not to the extent that many would like to believe. I could tell a god-fearing person that they’ve got the will to ignore the lure of religion. Equally they could tell me that I have the choice of ignoring the logic of atheism.
    One thing I do know, is that allowing yourself to be consumed by the tenets and doctrines of religion and faith can only impede whatever passes for human will, regardless of how ‘free’ it really is. As a creature of logic and reason, I agree that only deterministic free will exists, that through our lives we are faced with choices over which we ponder our possible paths. The psyche of each of us is a product of gained information and influence, and our lives could have played out quite differently in varying circumstances, meaning that how we reason a particular situation could have greatly differng outcomes in the ultimate decisions we make.
    In short, some of us have a much greater pool of choice than others, and this is as close as we can get to having completely ‘free’ will.

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