Karen Crighton - Free Will and Determinism
Delivered 18 May 2005


Two possible definitions of determinism - doctrine that human actions, events etc are determined by causes external to the will.

That every event must have a cause. Human Actions are events. Therefore, every human action is caused.

Two possible definitions of free will the power of acting independently of necessity or fate. The ability to act without coercion.

The ability to freely choose one of several possible alternatives, to make decisions, the outcome of which cannot be known in advance.


I agree with determinism in regard to the fact that my brain will actively influence a series of responses for my physical being to do a certain thing, or partake in a particular action. I see my brain as being influenced by inputs which it processes and then creates outputs in the form of actions.

However I believe that it is not just my brain that exists to give me choices and I can not accept the fact that it is purely my brain that chooses what I do. I believe that I exist as one whole unity- A mind, a physical being and a spirit. I believe that my mind, body and spirit are all inter related. I believe that my mind is not just working on its own, my body and my spirit are working with it and I can not accept the fact that it is solely my mind that decides. All three play an active role in the decisions I make. All three are of equal importance to what it is that I decide what I do.

With that when I consider making decisions and performing actions, I ask; what is the difference between an action and an action? I perform an action, that influences my environment, I pick up this pen and I put it there. What about the action of me physically moving myself from one side of the planet to the other in order to influence my environment there instead?

When I act, or perform an action, where does the initial act of doing come from? Why did I choose to do that? Surely my ability to perform an action is driven by something ,so, during one of many most enlightening chats with Mark, he asked the question, is there such thing as a spirit?

It started to make me think! I do believe in my spirit, and as I have said I believe me to exist as a three part unity. I believe that my spirit inhabits my body. It entered my physical body at the onset of my life and will depart when my physical body dies.

I want to think that I make my own choices and that I have free will to make a decision that is not just the result of a chemical biological process within my body. I want to know that when I perform an action I perform it without it being pre-determined. I want to know that although I have the ability to think, I am not deluding myself into only thinking that I have free will.

I do wonder though if I contradict my belief/understanding....because I can accept the fact that my brain sparks off various nerve impulses that influence the way my arm moves in order to carry out a particular action, with that I agree with determinism. But because I see myself as more than just a brain, I do not believe that my mind only decides, I am a three part make up and I have difficulty separating the three and looking at each separate aspect controlling one thing. Hence, I make my choices from my whole being.

Free will and determinism seem to me to both be true, however, they contradict each other

I quote the following:

personal freedom arises from the fact that we can never know our choices with certainty until we make them. The very act of knowing is a change in the biochemical state of out brains, and that throws new variables into the equation, making the previous prediction worthless. In other words, the making of choices is unpredictable and this is the source of freedom. But anything that is determined is caused and hence predictable in principal.

I know that this will encourage Mark to touch on the aspect of anything being determined is predictable in principal, and will ask if it is possible to know the future?

My response to this is, what is the reason for wanting to know the future? For me, Im happy to create my future as I go! When I look back onto my past and consider all the choices or decisions I made to get me where I am today, I feel comfortable knowing that the decisions I made were okay decisions to have made. NOW, because I can not separate one action from another action, in other words actions are actions regardless of the type of action. When I do look back I remember thinking as an unknowledgeable but very questionnable child, that a hand of cards have been dealt for me and everything that happens will happen because it is pre-determined. I dont believe that anymore however, looking back I am aware that many decisions I made were made without much thought, they all seemed to have just happened. This is okay, because this gives me faith knowing that whatever I decide will be for the best, but, it does highlight the fact that I am a determinist and I wonder, if my spirit is guiding me is my spirit pre-determined. Does my spirit already know what I am going to do next?

So, considering my support or understanding of both sides of the discussion, I ask the following questions

I really dont know, what do you think?...