There’s a girl blessed with psychic powers. Every once in a while she gets a brief glimpse of her not so distant future. It generally involves her getting into some trouble. She tries her best to change the future. But not once does she succeed. What she sees, happens. Always. Not necessarily in the context she thought it would, but it happens nonetheless.
That in short is the story of Disney’s once famous show, “That’s So Raven”. It was hilarious, no doubt, but it raised a far more serious question with deep ramifications. Can you change your future if it is already pre-determined? Can we have free will AT ALL in case of pre-destiny? There are some people who believe we can, that determinism is compatible with free will. BUT doesn’t the very fact that there is pre-destiny necessarily imply that ultimately all our actions will lead to something which has already been determined a long time back. If there is determinism won’t it actually be incompatible with free will? Also called hard determinism, this kind of belief has deep implications on morality and ethics. If there is no free will, how can an agent be responsible for his acts? No matter what we do, good or bad, it would mean we never had the freedom to do otherwise. Compatibilists generally use this argument to prove that there isn’t a strict dichotomy between determinism and free will. However, can we really say that the two are compatible just to give moral accountability to the agent. Remember Raven? She would see the future, she would do everything in her power to change it, but what she saw always happened. Obviously it would. Isn’t that why it was the future in the first place? This is precisely the problem with determinism. If it exists, it would make free will an illusion. The other option is to do away with the notion of determinism and believe that the world is a result of random activities. That everything is independent and that nothing is pre-determined. This would give the agent absolute free will.
The argument can go on for ever and the answer shall never be arrived at. The best solution probably remains in not knowing. False impressions can’t be all that bad if they give you an illusion of having your life in your control, can they?