Do We Have Free Will Or Is Life Deterministic?

It’s an age old debate, argued between thinkers as far back as you want to go. Here’s my observations for what it’s worth

More photos from Mario Purisic

It’s an age old debate, argued between thinkers as far back as you want to go. Here’s my observations for what it’s worth

This morning I hopped off the bus at Ormond Quay, a couple of stops ahead of my usual Bachelor’s Walk stop.

The sun was shining and it was mild, a very beautiful morning really, so I didn’t mind walking. Besides, the traffic was mental so I figured I’d be quicker on foot.

The path was crowded so I crossed the quay over to the river side of the road where it was pretty much empty of people.

I really dislike mindless crowds of people, especially in the morning as they thunder along the way, fast feet and heads down.

We are so bloody robotic really…

Tear arsing along, Monday to Friday, 9 to 5, work, work, work, money, pressure, commitments, goals, aspirations.

There doesn’t seem to me to be much free will in what we do as far as I can see.

I used to believe we had free will to choose our own direction, but the more I watch the world of people the more I realise we don’t.

There we go, every one of us playing out the preset model for life to varying degrees, coming together under this idea of society.

If we do have conscious free will there’s not very many of us exercising it.

The Pre Written Script For Life

I’m looking at people in Ferraris, BMWs, 15 year old Nissans. People smoking, queueing up along the quay like cows down a lane waiting to enter a field.

Busses, trucks, cars, all sorts of vehicles manned by robots, all waiting.

For what?

To get somewhere?

What happens when they get there?

They get into another queue to get somewhere else.

And the truth of it all is there’s nowhere to go. If you run long distance like marathons and 24hr events you may get a distinct sense of this.

Do we really do all of this stuff consciously? It seems to me that most of us are just following a script.

To me it’s kind of a collective script, momentum you might say, in one particular direction.

Momentum is everywhere and at every level of life. It’s in the individual, it’s in the family, the locality, the city, the country, the ethnic group and so on.

We can categorise forever all the seemingly different groups of people who behave in a particular way.

On an individual level we find ourselves part of many different groups, or patterns of momentum. And I wonder how much of that we choose.

Or maybe it chooses us.

The Illusion of Free Will

I used to believe that there was no question of us having free will. We had a choice and that was that. The deterministic view of the universe didn’t get an ounce of time in my mind.

You see I thought I knew what I knew. Now I know I know fuck all.

Recently as I’ve learned more about human behavior it appears that most of us are on autopilot.

Now, I used to go with this populist idea but now I see even those of us who believe that the rest of the world is on autopilot are on autopilot.

We are all in large part just following the momentum of things.

Anyway, back to the story…

So I’m walking the wooden gantry along the river Liffey, you know the place where the junkies hang out.

And here there are about 7 or 8 blokes all spread out along the way who appear to be homeless.

In fact I’ve no doubt they were homeless.

Are The Homeless Choosing Their Path?

One guy, a man maybe in his late 40’s, he looks eastern European to me, is laying out his blue sleeping bag. He looks like he’s making a place to sit.

Another guy, maybe the same age is lying slumped in what seems to me as a very uncomfortable position. He looks like he’s pissed drunk.

Another bloke is lying full length on a bench, hood up, lots of layers, arms folded. He’s still asleep from the night before, I think to myself.

Then I ask myself, do these people choose their life? Are they like the people in their cars sitting on the quays?

What makes their life any worse than the people in Ferraris and 15 year old Nissans sitting in traffic going nowhere?

Who gets to pick the model for life?

Who gets to say that these homeless guys should feel shame, or even be pitied?

Why should their path be so flawed?

Who gets to say what’s flawed?

Maybe it’s our path that’s flawed…

Jesus Christ maybe all of us working our bollocks off, following the societal script, striving for things are the ones flawed.

Or maybe, just maybe all paths are right.

There’s No Right Or Wrong

Do we have free will? It depends.

The reality to me after much examination is that the world just is, and universally we are in progress, becoming more, getting better.

We are all moving forward collectively and individually in the same space, and within that space there is no right or wrong.

Everyone has their own path to follow for now, and within that everything is ok.

If you feel like giving a homeless dude €20 or €50 then go ahead and do that. You might just make his day, and your own.

If you feel like shouting “Get a job bum!” then go ahead too. Just don’t expect to make a positive contribution to the betterment of this world.

For me it is about awareness.

The more consciously aware we become, then the better this world and the more conscious choices we can exercise.

In the meantime, whether you’re sleeping on a bench or sitting in your €100k motor in traffic, emptiness is emptiness and stuff never fills it.

Originally published at on May 19, 2017.

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Howdy, I’m Larry, Writer & Artist. Thanks for taking the time to read my stuff. I write about art & creativity. When I’m not doing that I write short stories about the ordinary lives of people and the challenges they face. My stuff can be edgy, hard hitting, and sometimes controversial, but never contrived. If that’s your bag you can Sign-up To Sunday Letters Here.