There are two paths by which I could walk home. One diverts through the back entrance of a Golf Club, whilst the other takes me over a bridge through Sickle Avenue. Which one I choose is up to me.
Or is it? This really depends upon the way you see things. Are you in control of your own actions or is there some outside source leading the way? Do you have the ability to decde for yourself or is there another ‘being’ making decisions on your behalf?
William James, the 19th century American Philosopher, said that the first decision he made in relation to free will was to believe in it. Determinism, on the other hand, is the idea that there is something other than yourself controlling your thoughts and actions.
Driving your car down a main road at 80kms an hour, you don’t realise (or you won’t admit) to being 20kms over the speed limit. You’re pulled up by the Police, and you say to the Officer;
“Sorry Officer, I had no idea the car was going that fast.”
Although it was your foot on the accelerator, as a Determinist, you would believe the fault lay elsewhere. William James would think it was due to your own actions, i.e. it was within your own ability to slow down and drive according to the rules of the road, (just as it was my own choice to take the bridge home instead of the Golf Club).
But that is only the beginning.
Jean-Paul Sartre, the 20th century French Philosopher, coined the term;
existence precedes essence.
In other words, humans create their own lives and their own meaning, whereas objects, such as a table or a stool, have a specific purpose. Humans create their own purpose in life via the choices they make for themselves. No other living being has the same level of freedom to choose as the human being. We also enjoy the opportunity not to choose, or, to put it another way, to choose inaction over action.
Even when told by authority that we must wear a seat belt or we must give way to pedestrians, we still enjoy the freedom to decide to follow instruction, or to choose to follow a different path.
Decisions have consequences which can be either good or bad, but those consequences clearly derive from the decisions we make.
Responses by individuals to instruction due to Co-Vid 19 is but one example of a scenario that leads to consequences from existential thought. Yet so long as individuals continue to believe they have free will, and so long as we continue to create our own purpose in life, then freedom of thought as a philosophical premise will be retained.