The question of the path of life as guided by either fate or free will is one that has most likely either directly or indirectly crossed every person’s mind at some point of their adult life. You hear it almost every day. “It was his/her choice.” “It was fate.” Sometimes we say or hear these phrases and do not really take into account their impact or meaning. When one truly starts to think about the balance of fate and free will, it opens a lot of new doors for thought and guidance in where your life takes you.
To understand the views of fate and free will, we must first understand the definition of each. First we shall cover Fate. Fate has multiple meanings, but for the purposes of this topic, we shall stick to the philosophical definition:
- Something that unavoidably befalls a person; fortune; lot: It is always his fate to be left behind.
- The universal principle or ultimate agency by which the order of things is presumably prescribed; the decreed cause of events; time: Fate decreed that they would never meet again.
- That which is inevitably predetermined; destiny: Death is our ineluctable fate.
As for free will, this is what the dictionary has to say:
- Free and independent choice; voluntary decision: You took on the responsibility of your own free will.
- Philosophy: The doctrine that the conduct of human beings expresses personal choice and is not simply determined by physical or divine forces.
In my view and opinion, there are three main categories of the believers of fate vs. free will. There are the dedicated believers of fate, which includes those who believe nothing is in your own control, and that fate controls everything in our lives. There are the dedicated believers of free will, who do not believe anything at all is controlled by other forces, and that we have complete control over all aspects of our lives. The last group is the group of balance, those who believe that there is a mixture of elements in life which you cannot control, along with elements you can control.
I fall within the group of balance. In my view, we cannot realistically control everything that happens to us, nor can we control every coincidental aspect that happens around us as we live. We can influence it. We might have the ability to alter some circumstances by the actions which we take, but we must choose to take those actions, which is where free will comes in.
We can use our free will to have an influence on how the powers of fate affect us. Fate and free will, in my mind, dance a dance of harmony and respect to each other. Sometimes a misstep by one side or the other can cause the dance to falter, causing a need for correction by one or both sides to restore the balance.
Fate and free will follows most people every moment of every day. The train approaching on the tracks about to smash the car that stalled out in the middle of the crossing. You are the driver and currently in the driver seat. You desperately try to start the vehicle but it just will not start. The train is getting very close now. You decide to jump from the vehicle and run to a safe distance as the train smashes your brand new Audi into a gazillion pieces. (I used Audi here just to spark the humor of a friend of mine who might be reading this. Sorry – I had to do it ~smirks~). As fate would have it, your car is lost. BUT, was it fate that you escaped? I believe that the answer to that would be “no”. Free will gave you the choice to stay and keep trying to get your car started or to jump to safety. You chose to leave that car. Nothing forced you to. You could have chosen to stay and the fate lovers would have said “Fate took his life. It was fate.” Yes, I agree the circumstances were created by fate, but the REACTION to those circumstances was still up to the driver, and that driver acted under free will to alter the ending result of his fate.
On the counter-balance, the free will lovers would argue that nothing in the above scenario was fate at all. They would argue that your free will put you on those tracks. You chose to drive that day. You chose not to fix that part that caused your car to fail later on. You chose this, you chose that and it led to the event that happened, therefore you somehow, freely and willingly, placed yourself in that situation. I, however, cannot logically condone this outlook any more than I would condone the outlook of fate being completely in control.
Free will may have played a role in this instance of fate. By free will, you chose to drive that day. By free will you may have somehow missed or overlooked a maintenance issue. By free will you chose the actions which led you to stalling out on those tracks. Fate, however, had a roll here as well. The resulting fate of your actions was that you stalled out on those tracks at the particular moment the crisis occurred.
As with all of my short articles, I welcome opinions, thoughts and constructive debate. Reply to this. Be open and honest, but DO NOT FLAME anyone else who replies or myself for that matter. We are all entitled to our opinion, but please feel free to use your free will to control anger and keep differences of opinion as civilized as possible. Thank you.