Determinism makes me uncomfortable

Image by Alexandr Podvalny from Pixabay

Determinism is the idea that everything in the world around us is a result of the events that occurred in the past, and thus everything is predetermined, including human behavior. I’ve always had a problem with the idea of fate. Knowing that whatever happens to me is based on events that may have happened before I even existed is not very reassuring. Determinism also implies that there is nothing I can do about it. Nothing I ever do will affect my future in a way that isn’t predetermined. There is no place for free will in a deterministic world.

My idea of ‘self’ revolves around my thoughts, my ideas, my words. The idea that these thoughts may not even really be my own, but mere products of a series of events beyond my control whatsoever, is incredibly disturbing. It makes you question everything. If I am not my thoughts, who even am I? If I have no control over my own life, is there a point in even trying?

The simulation theory, which talks about the possibility that we are living in a computer simulation, is disturbing for the same reason. I feel a lot of people misunderstand what the simulation theory actually is, due to the various different interpretations popularized by science fiction. The Matrix, for example, shows humans trapped in a simulation run by sentient robots who want to harvest them as batteries. Although that is a simulation too, the humans in it do still exist. Each of them has a real consciousness, albeit one that is made dormant and replaced with a simulated one. A true simulation would be one where there is no real ‘you’. Your consciousness is nothing but a computer program. Everything you think, perceive, do is a simulated instance. You would also never ‘discover’ that you are living in a simulation, because there is no ‘you’ to discover it.

That is much, much more disturbing than the matrix, although to be fair that would likely make for a much more boring plot as well.

Determinism is, technically, a well grounded argument, partly because it is very tricky to find a logical proof for free will, but I don’t want to talk about the justification for both ideas. I wanted to merely talk about how and why determinism makes me incredibly uncomfortable, and will likely continue to do so until I find some way to make peace with it. Regardless, as many proponents of free will have said, it would be foolish to completely disregard this inexplicable feeling within us that says we are free.

Determinism is sometimes derived from scientific determinism, which is the same idea but limited to the physical world around us. However, scientific determinism was laid to rest almost a century ago with the discovery of quantum mechanics, and as such determinism solely relies on our inability to justify the existence of free will. But some philosophers propose that determinism and free will aren’t mutually exclusive. They suggest a kind of quasi-determinism where everything is still pre-determined, but for the events to occur as they do, we must choose to do certain things. This seems more like an inconsequential technicality than a proper alternative, but perhaps there is more to it than I think.




Hey! I write about astrophysics and science and a bunch of other stuff I like!

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Ayush Gurule

Ayush Gurule

Hey! I write about astrophysics and science and a bunch of other stuff I like!

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