“I have no choice but to believe in free will"

One of my favorite philosophical debates is free will vs determinism. I don’t hold a strong position but do lean towards a determinist view of the universe which essentially means we have no free will; we have no control; free will is an illusion. We are bound by the laws of physics. Everything we experience is simply the universe unfolding. Matter and energy bouncing around according to the laws of physics. Whether this is true or not we’ll likely never know, and it’s not really the interesting part. The interesting part is what we can and cannot justify if we as a society believe in determinism. How, for example, can we justify throwing people in jail? How can we justify inequality? If committing a crime, or being poor, isn’t the person’s fault how can we hold them accountable or blame them? I feel strongly about this idea because it makes me more compassionate and empathetic and I believe it would make for a more compassionate, empathetic, and equal society.

Without diving deep let’s take a step back and ask a simple question. Did you choose your family or parents? No. It was chance. It was luck. It might have been good luck, bad luck, or just your average luck, but if you’re reading this it’s likely more on the good side as you have access to a computer and the internet which means you’re probably not starving or living in terrible conditions. There’s an analogy that I think illustrates this point well. If your goal is to get into a good college and getting into a good college is like completing a marathon, being born into a rich, well educated, family is like starting the marathon a few hundred feet from the finish line. Where as being born into a poor, uneducated, family is like starting that marathon from the beginning. It’s going to be much more likely for the kid from a rich well educated family to make it into that good college than the kid from the poor uneducated family. As I stated before, we know that the family you’re born into isn’t a choice you can make. It’s chance. The quality of your life is largely determined by something you have no control over.

This is why I believe in socio-economic equality. A world where the family you’re born into won’t have such a large impact on the quality of your life. Because it really comes down to luck.

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