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The Influence of the Discourse Theory, Determinism and Free Will on Social Reality

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Introduction

We like to think that the knowledge which we know is the absolute truth, and our decisive actions will lead towards an intended outcome (Jones 129). We make decisions and actions based on personal beliefs. We also use it as a method of measure towards morality and falsity. When disagreeing to something, it is because it differs from the knowledge and reality that we hold true to ourselves – one in which we think is accurate. But to what extent is our reality ‘real’? How much of a choice do we have over the constructs of our ‘truths’ and how does it affects our actions? When we choose to believe something, is it us exercising agency, or is our choice merely a link in the chain of causation, determined already by preceding events? With insights from the theories of Free Will, Post-Structuralism and Determinism, this essay aims to discuss how much control does a person have over the construction of reality.

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The Inevitable Reality

The first part of the essay will look into the Post-Structuralist theory. Michel Foucault theorises that the only way we are able to construct reality is influenced by external factors, which exists in the form of discourses. The discourses themselves are constructed by other discourses. He emphasises that we have no choice but to be subjected to them, just as how a child has no choice but to the learn the culture and language of the family it is born into (Jones 127). He suggests that these discourses shape the way we construct reality and formulate our own perceptions of truth. The reality that we know is individualistic and is never the same as someone else, because it is subjected to personal experiences. It influences our thoughts and actions, rendering us powerless in an attempt to control what we want to know, or will know. In The New Atlantis, Baroness Susan Greenfield discusses how people naturally formulate perspectives based on layers of education and experiences from their lives. She added that the lack of knowledge will render a person inadequate in processing information on an intellectual and experiential level, but rather on an emotional level. She call this subjective construction of reality an “immediate sensory content” (The New Atlantis 115).

The essay also discusses the theories of Determinism. Determinism describes the natural order of the course of actions, which is caused by the past state of events (Dupré 174). It puts us in a position where we have no choice but to ride along the forces of these ‘reality’. In Bergson’s thesis of Time and Free Will, he posits that physical determinism is the autonomous flow of action that is a voluntary reaction of our bodily and neural configuration. (Bergson 149). As for psychological determinism, he explains that we project an ideal state to the future, and we work towards materialising that state (Bergson 158). Determinism re-emphasises Foucoult’s theory, in which there is little to none humans can do to control the information we encounter. Before even learning about a certain information, it is already shaped by external influences.

Free Will

Finally, the third theory the essay will explore is free will. Both Foucouldian and Determinist theories rejects the theory of free will, where in the latter, humans have the liberty to choose how to act, that we are agents of our own lives and exercise a certain degree of agency. Free will is based on the notion of deliberative action (McCall 683). When a person considers options, it is based on rational consideration, which then translates to a reaction. Even if the consideration was influenced by the individual’s bias of what is better, the deliberate act of choice is where the theory of free will manifests. Conclusion Discussing these theories will allow us to better understand how reality is a collective effort of human fabrication. We need to be confident that the information we know is the truest representation, as it will determine the actions of our society, and how we share a system of common understanding (Whorf 251). It is only through a culture of thinking and understanding will we as a society progress.

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