My philosophy on life
Discuss how destiny conquers free will. Be explicit as to the ethical dimensions of destiny: what does it imply as to how we should act?
It has been said that Free will and destiny co-exist in the world. Destiny, as a function, of the past manifesting itself in the present and free will is that power to walk away from one’s destiny. While these concepts are certainly opposing, it does not presuppose that the existence of one precludes the existence of the other. In fact, for destiny to be able to conquer free will, it is necessary for them to co-exist with one able to conquer the other. This is shown by the statement of Sri Ramana Maharsi, that “Whatever happens does so as the result of one’s previous deeds, of divine will and of other factors.” Using this characterization of destiny and free will, the issue that must necessarily be resolved is that which arises from a clash between destiny and free will. Does destiny conquer free will? If so, how does this then affect the actions of man?
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In resolving this issue, it is important to juxtapose this against personal existential experience. It is also important to provide a clear understanding of the meaning of the terms destiny and free will as they relate to the ethical dimensions of destiny. In doing so, it will become clear how destiny is able to conquer free will and how one’s actions are affected by this.
Free will is defined as the philosophical doctrine that man has the innate power to select from different alternatives and is unfettered by the shackles of mystical or preordained powers. It runs contrary to all doctrines and teachings on determinism and predetermination. Instead, it espouses the absolute freedom of a person from any constraints, moral or otherwise, that prevent the full exercise of one’s consciousness.
Despite this definition of free will, however, there is a problem with the concept because it does not really mean free will in the strictest sense of the word. To assume that free will exists would also be to argue that any decision or action made through the exercise of free will is free from all outside influences or interventions. The capacity to act despite the other influences or even beliefs would be the essence of free will. As such, it has been argued by several philosophers that free will is a concept that while accepting that it is possible is not absolutely true. There will always be a form of influence that governs an act or a set of actions. Yet for the purposed of this discussion it will be assumed that free will only excludes outside forces that absolutely prevent an individual from exercising his own consciousness.
Destiny, on the other hand, is a concept that is more aligned with Eastern Philosophy teachings. It is composed of an intricate understanding of the ways of the world and relies heavily on the doctrine that every event, every occurrence in this universe (plane of existence) is inevitable and it already predetermined. While there have been links and similarities to other concepts such as predestination and predetermination, destiny is different in the sense that it neither believes that fate, gods or mystical forces control all events nor does it believe that our physical nature is determined by past human traits that are handed down. Instead, destiny is a predetermined series of events.
At this point, it must be pointed out that fate and destiny, while used interchangeably in certain schools, are not necessarily the same. Fate can be understood as that power that predetermines or otherwise chooses the order of events. As a function of result fate is differentiated from destiny because destiny concerns itself with the events transpiring and not the finality of it. Fate is also an offshoot of predetermination since it is a result of a series of events in the past over which one has no control over to either alter or delay.
In the context of resolving the issue on whether or not destiny conquers free will, one must first consider the fact that things in life are ruled by more powerful forces. Man’s existence is something so much more than what he wills it to be. After all, how else does one explain the fact that despite everything we do there are always things that happen that are not part of the equation. In man’s quest for wisdom and complete knowledge, we have been led to believe that by knowing every variable in the equation one can predict the outcome. The problem is that even while they argue the truth regarding this they still add a little note that says margin for error is such.
A perfect example of how Destiny conquers free will is by illustrating the biblical example of Adam and Eve in the context of Milton’s Paradise lost. Man’s autonomous reason and free will, as so greatly emphasized by Milton, is cited as the cause of man’s fall and banishment from the Garden of Eden. It has been posed by many theologians and philosophers that without the power to exercise free will and to decide for one’s own self what is right or wrong; man may never have been banished from the Garden of Eden. It has been argued this autonomous reason is the main cause for the fall of Adam and Eve. If man had simply obeyed the wishes of God and had not succumbed to temptation, then there may not have been any reason for Adam to have been banished from the Garden of Eden. Then again, if Adam and Eve had not been banished, it is arguable that the rest of mankind would have existed as well.
It must be remembered, however, that man has always retained the basic instincts and tendencies that have been around since the time of Adam. Under this train of thought, it is safe to assume that given the rational thinking that today’s person has, one can determine whether or not Adam and Eve really did exercise that autonomous reason and free will as emphasized by Milton and thus showing that despite the presence of free will destiny still conquers its existence because it is inevitable.
The first factor to be examined is the fact since God created all good and created the Garden of Eden which had no sin, no evil, it is inconceivable to common and rational men to even think that a source of evil exists in the Garden of Eden. Adam, being the epitome of man, was under the same assumption. While there was an express mandate not to eat the fruit of the forbidden tree, there was nothing to persuade Adam that it was because it was evil. The rational thought here springs from the thinking that nothing evil can possibly exist in a place where everything is good. This has nothing to do with the coaxing of the serpent or the lure of Eve but has more to do with the thinking that there good is the absence of evil. This being a function of free will, it gives way to destiny since it becomes clear that despite all rational thought and free will man still made a decision that would inevitably lead to the propagation of the human race in furtherance of the goals of God.
Finally, though it may be argued that ambition might have been the downfall of man in desiring to be as omniscient as God, the motivation of Adam in partaking of the fruit from the forbidden tree can be viewed as the rational act of curiosity. The world is ruled by action and reaction and full of opportunities for the application of the scientific method. While there are things that man is naturally wary of, something that poses no outward manifestation of danger such as a simple and perhaps tantalizing piece of fruit, though forbidden by God, presents no threat. Sensing no danger, Adam gave in to his curiosity and took a bite out of the forbidden fruit. This is an entirely rational act founded on man’s curiosity.
These actions clearly show that man’s rationality is based on his autonomous reason and free will. The human condition is generally predicated on reason and experience. There was no reason why Adam should not try the fruit that caused his fall except the bidding of God. Adam naturally gave in to his nature and his autonomous reason and free will allowed him to do so. Yet despite this rationality that man possesses, juxtaposed against the concept of destiny, it becomes inevitable to conclude that destiny trumps free will since even the exercise of rationality ultimately leads to the manifestation of destiny. In acting as a rational being, man puts into motion the acts of destiny.
Everything in this world revolves around cosmic forces that are difficult to understand. Concepts such as faith, destiny and karma, while seemingly defined by the standards of eastern philosophy, are much easier to exemplify than elaborate upon. There is no empirical data sheet that is available to all those who claim that good things come to those who wait and neither is there any substantial proof that the occurrences that transpire are actually results of destiny or karma. Yet, there is one substantial aspect of destiny that makes all of this plausible, that is the concept of faith.
Faith is an integral part of destiny because it serves as the focal point. While it has been proven that destiny occurs regardless of freewill, there is no attribute of destiny that does not occur without faith. We believe that the sun is the center of the solar system. We know that it is true. We do not bow down every day and face the sun. We do not worship the sun like our ancestors did before. We know that the world is round and shaped liked a sphere. We know that we will not fall off from the world if we go too far away from land. We do not fear to venture out in the vast expanse of that ocean for we know that it will just take us back from where we started. All of this we know. We are sure of it. Science explains it. There is reason and logic behind it all.
Everyday people go out and visit chapels. Every minute someone is kneeling down in a church and praying to God. Every second around the world people are calling to God for blessing and guidance. If you ask them if there is a God they will answer “YES” with the same conviction as they would when asked if the world is round. They believe firmly in a God whose presence cannot be proved and disproved. There is no reason or logic behind God. Science cannot explain God. We know this. We believe there is a God. We have faith.
It can certainly be argued, however, that no one puts all his faith in something whose outcome is already certain. We never hear the people say “I have faith in you” to the champion who is sure to win on 1,000,000 is to 1 odds. We might hear it said instead on the challenger’s side. That is how faith works. You do not put all your faith on something that is already proven or on something that is a known fact. Faith is usually put in places that are mysterious and unproven. Think of faith as money and mystery as a bank. Faith will only grow if you deposit it in the bank. It seems that there is more to gain if one believes in something as uncertain as the existence of God rather than believing that the sun is the center of the solar system. Faith is, therefore, an essential part of destiny as the piece which makes the entire machinery work.
On a personal level, destiny comes together with my faith because when I trust that something is destined to happen, the faith I have in that destiny will be rewarded. Although there are times when I get pessimistic and wonder if destiny can be written by me. I am a Christian and I pray to God every night. I believe that God has a plan for everyone, but at the same time, I wonder if God’s plan for me includes what I want.
Every idea and each moral we value, defines what kind of people we want to be. People can choose how they live their own lives, but keep in mind that what goes around comes around. There will be plenty of choices to opt from but the choices we make will affect our destiny because karma prevails. Since freewill is but a function of destiny, it comes to reason that it is expected to exist in most of the choices that we make in life. Yet, at the end of it all the concept of destiny can be likened to that of the Invisible Hand theory introduced by Adam Smith. The basic precept of the invisible hand is that in a free market a person who chooses to be greedy and pursue his own interests in invariably also furthering the good of the entire community. So while there is free will, destiny is the invisible hand which guides such actions towards the greater purpose that is its mandate.