The Truth about Free Will
The Truth about Free Will
  • Bui Linh Nguyet Ha
  • 승인 2021.12.06 23:47
  • 수정 2021.12.07 12:38
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Division of International Studies
Bui Linh Nguyet HaDivision of International Studies
Bui Linh Nguyet Ha
Division of International Studies

Humans like to think that we are in control of our lives. And yes, there is no exception, that includes both you and I. Just recall the times when you grimaced at the aberrant incarnates of antisocialism and laziness in your all-rounder class, asserting with confidence that you would never degrade into such a sedentary misanthrope. That is where the fallacy lies because yes, it might be true that you do not give in so easily to these forces of nature. But if you were exactly like your peers, fiber to fiber and gene to gene, nothing could be able to save you from the apocalyptic synchronization that would transform you into, you guessed it, the antisocial, lazy runt of the litter.


The central idea covering this classic faultline of illusion and reality is the concept of freewill, and whether we possess such a thing or not. Deciphering what the concept itself means is already a taxing challenge, but it appears that not everyone is naturally receptive to this insightful reckoning of life. For example, the first absence-of-free- will association people’s minds go to when they encounter the concept tends to involve luck, which of course determines all of our immutable traits such as family background and appearance. People seem to be most likely to concur with the idea that humans do not have freewill in these contexts exactly because we’re not free to choose our family and our appearance, and they’re a type of lottery of birth laid out on a roulette whose wheel some omniscient being spins. Out of these zones, many actually become very uncomfortable discussing the possibility that our lives are entirely subject to the arbitrary interactions of an extremely complicated tapestry of external and internal stimuli, and that we are really, slaves to our own destiny (touché, the phrasing has a doomsday undertone to it). I even had a relative snap back that people like me would never be qualified to talk about philosophy when merely presented with the thought, who was so adamant that even when I figured it is best we stick to our own beliefs, told me mine was distorted and I should have it corrected as soon as possible.


But understanding that the lack of freewill exists in every other aspect of life is the key to appreciating its power. I have gathered from my trials and errors that one can reach enlightenment simply by keeping asking questions, similar to a kid repeatedly grilling her parents with the scariest 3-letter word that could bare their knowledge to the deepest child-rearing, but also intellectual test ever instituted. Take our commonality – Ewha. You might be tempted to think that you got into the school because you are a hardworking student. That is true, but why did you work so hard, probably harder than those who did not get in? It might be that your parents were great educators who inspired your study, and it might be that Ewha has had a special place in your heart since a young age which motivated you a lot. And if you keep asking why, you will soon come to a point where the answer is either circumstantial, or yet-to-be-discovered. The point is, it is impossible to claim credit for any good, or bad, things that happened and will happen in your life because none of us is free-willed. And understanding this actually helps one stay away from her own hubris, be more empathetic and compassionate to others’ less fortunate situations.


Last but not least, although we possess no such thing as free will, it is¬ important to distinguish an absence thereof with a universal verdict of innocence to those who do bad only because their circumstances made them criminals. There are absolute truths governing our moral ethics that dictate what’s acceptable and what’s not, and maintaining a society around these inalienable responsibilities and rights is something all of us should strive to actualize.

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