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Free Will Vs Determinism: Controversial Philosophical Concepts

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In the world of philosophy, there seems to be almost an ongoing argument against free will and determinism. Avid supporters on each end of the discussion tend to say that they’re in the right and the other is in the wrong. However, we must remember that this tends to be a subjective topic in general. I don’t believe that there is really a black and white answer to this due to there not being an objective way to argue either side, therefore I believe that neither argument is truly valid.

If we are looking at determinism from a religious aspect, we must first look at all of the different variables involved with free will vs determinism. I believe that God does have a plan for us, however, since we are not forced physically to perform said act, it is still considered free will. When making an important decision in life, there are always multiple factors influencing our choice. Whatever it is that we end up choosing, it’s based off of not only internal, but external factors as well. Our decisions depend on everything that we’ve been exposed to since we were born. Hence, I believe that our choice should rather be looked at as an output, due to all of the external influences that help to “build” the way in which our brain perceives things. However, this does not mean that I think we are not in control of our reactions, and that we shouldn’t take responsibility for our actions.

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A prime example of a man overcoming determinism is Vincent, the main character of the movie Gattaca. This movie in general deals with the ideas of determinism and the way in which we can handle the cards that life has unfairly dealt us. Vincent, born with a bad heart condition and around only thirty years to live, is forced to overcome said obstacles in life in order to achieve the things that he so desperately wishes. He was born naturally, therefore his life span is nowhere near as long as those that are genetically modified. Hence, no matter what he does, due to his genetic background, he will never be able to do what he wants with life. Therefore, he makes the decision to go against his pre-determined fate. He does this by taking the identity of a genetically modified man named Jerome. Throughout the storyline, he goes through many moral dilemmas, yet he is able to overcome all of them due to his own personal will. The society into which he was born, is one in which the average human has been genetically modified to such a point that the normal thing is to be perfect; being anything less than perfect ultimately makes you less of a human compared to all the others. In my opinion, I see that as the people of their society attempting to play God by defying the laws of human nature. However, due to the way in which everyone in Vincent’s society will view him due to his genetic makeup, he is forced to use the identity of a man who had been crippled, which that in itself could be considered immoral, and lie his way to his goals. This includes him being forced to figure out ways around his society’s predetermined prejudices by using Jerome’s blood, hair, etc. and sneaking his way around all of the security measures they have to go through on the daily. Then, right before he was finally about to be promoted to fly in space, he becomes the prime suspect of a murder that occurred within their company. Not only is he then forced to go through the routine security checks now, but they have upped it to a certain degree in which he’s constantly forced to be one step ahead of the investigators, otherwise everyone will find out his true identity. This proved to be a huge struggle for Vincent. However, he was able to perservere. Throughout his life, nothing had ever come easy for him. He had been forced to constantly overcome obstacle after obstacle, no matter how big or small, in order to better his life. He refused to accept his predetermined fate. Therefore, I believe this is a fantastic film to use in order to disprove determinism, and to prove that free will and your personal will power can overcome any and everything.

The second movie that I would like to talk about is The Truman Show. This movie is centered on the life of a man named Truman Burbank, who had been legally adopted by a television network at birth. For his entire life he had been filmed by hidden cameras, starring in his own show without knowing. The main man in charge, Christof, had constructed Truman’s life in such a way that he had controlled every last detail of it, building him an artificial world, called Seahaven. As Truman grows older, the network struggles more and more to keep Truman ignorant of the existence of their show. This movie follows that struggle, and shows us how he slowly but surely begins putting the pieces together of the reality in which he lives in, which leads to his eventual escape. This film is also a good example of someone disproving determinism. Christof, the man who had controlled every aspect of Truman’s life, gave Truman the choice at the end to go back and live the same life he always had. Truman, however, chose to decline his offer and explore the unknown, which inherently refutes determinism.

In conclusion, after looking at both ends of the spectrum of free will and determinism, I tend to personally believe that free will can overcome most anything. Yes, there are factors that will affect your life and decisions, but I think that, ultimately, we should be held accountable for our actions, because we do still have a choice. Yes, there may be external factors influencing us one way or another, but we can still make a decision on our own. Therefore, I disagree with the beliefs of determinism. The whole philosophy of determinism is based off of the belief that consciousness does not exist. I believe that this claim is absurd due to the fact that it contradicts itself. If that’s impossible, then it would also be impossible for the determinist to be aware of said fact, therefore it’s basically just a walking contradiction. 

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