Planning or chance?
Random chaos or structured evens?
It is strange to think back of several times in my 80 years, when an event changed the direction of my life. Sometimes that change was rapid but in others it took a while to realise change had happened. My life would have been very different without these events. I had, nor could ever have, any control over these events. They were decisions made, consciously or unconsciously, by other people. They involved people I know or knew and the interaction between these people and others I had never met. So, I was not consulted, not even informed at the time and yet they changed my life. So, the question has to be is freewill only freedom to choose how we act, or react, after learning of events that are controlled by others? Even the decisions and actions that affected my life, usually involved people who knew nothing about me. Or at least not anything truthful about me. So, are all these interactions, these decisions and activities, just random chance or planned by some divine entity? It seems that freewill allows some control over the consequences but not the cause. Consider a hypothetical example. If the government suddenly raise taxation on something I produce this inevitable reduces the demand and so my income is adversely affected, yet the government bureaucrats who manged this tax increase, had never consulted me, they did not know I existed as an individual, so nothing personal but their decision will have a big effect on me. My freewill is limited to deciding what to do; do I give up production? work harder to sell at increased price? try to reduce other costs to absorb the tax increase? So, I have some freewill but only over the effect not the cause.
Governments, democratic or totalitarian socialist (fascist), govern because they expect, and the governed population expect, that they will control each and every important facet of the nation’s life and welfare. But is this possible? If the nation was totally self-sufficient and self-contained without any form of contact with any other nation, it may be theoretically possible. Even in this situation events and personal decisions, made by individuals within that nation, may have unexpected consequences.
The real complexities start to become apparent when we think about the “freewill” decisions we make, to cope with the consequences of events we do not control. These are decisions we would not have had to make if life had continued as we expected. This means they are not part of a planned process. Often, they are instant and instinctive reactions. The complexity arises from the fact that our instinctive reaction, which to us a consequence of the previous unplanned event, but to others affected by our instinctive reaction, they are a cause of an unplanned event in their lives, an event that they have no control over. Continue the example used above I decide to reduce costs to absorb the tax increase, this means I have to pay less for components, raw materials, or the labour costs. So, I construct a robotic automation way of assembling the parts, I have reduced “labour” costs and so can continue to sell at original price and so continue to sell the same quantities. My conscious decision, caused by people I had no control over, has an adverse effect on the people I have replaced with a machine. They in turn, have to make decisions which affect many others, do they move home to find other work? Do they live on benefits? Do they start a business of their own? Whatever decision they make whatever freewill choice they make, it is caused by decisions they had no part in, and their decisions affect many others in a continuous expanding flow of cause and decision.
Freewill is only available to deal with consequences, not cause. Our whole life is based on this. From childhood, someone decides we must go to school our freewill comes into play when we decide to study hard and accept the rules and restrictions of the school, or we could rebel and make no effort to study. Our decision affects those responsible for our upbringing, they have to react and deal with the consequences of our choices. They do not have direct control over the cause (although they may try to influence it) but they have to deal with the consequences. This sequence dictates all our lives.
Back to the original question, are the events that influence our lives, from birth to death, planned or just random chance? Is our freewill important or does it not actually change anything? Is freewill just a myth since it only applies to consequences? But our decisions and actions, made in response to a cause, create cause that others have to react to. They then generate actions that are decided by their freewill, but these actions become causes to other people and so the wave of cause and choice get spread out affecting so many other people and events. Looking down on the resulting chain of events it would be easy to say the result is chaos, but is it? Is there structure and intended purpose to all this ever-expanding pattern of cause, decision, and resulting effect.
For the moment ignore human personal relationships and think about the universe itself, the physical universe. Has that got a structure and purpose? or is it chaos and randomness on a gigantic scale? There does seem to be some universal rules- laws of science- such as gravity and the limits of time/space structures. The speed of light is accepted as a constant and a limit to the speed of movement. So, if there are rules, are there purpose and planning? Is the universe a gigantic jigsaw puzzle that is taking billons of years to put itself together? Or is it really chaos with no structure? Human intelligence and the ability for logical thought, mixed with creativity may one day find the truth, until then we just have get on with using our freewill to cope with the consequences of other people’s decisions and accept that by so doing, we cause events that have consequences needing freewill choices by others