Free Will and Determinism

Free will and determinism is the most common issue of debate in every theology and religious philosophies. These two theories are quite opposite to one another and a number of theologians and philosophers have written extensive literary and philosophical books in order to solve the puzzle of human existence due to free will or determinism. The theory of free will preaches that man is absolutely free in making choices on personal as well as on society level. The theory of determinism, on the other hand, advocates that everything in this world is pre-planned or pre-determined and there is no such thing as free will rather will of individuals is also dependent on eternal law that regulates the existence of this world and its inhabitants. Jean Paul Sartre (1905-1980), French philosopher and existentialist, advocates the theory of free will. For him “man is free, man is freedom” and man is himself “responsible for everything he does”. There is no existence of God or any other sovereign authority rather man is an authority in himself in choosing and determining what he wants to become.

The moral choices man makes not only determines who he is or what he wants to be, these choices are also made on universal level as the people around him are also affected or motivated in that particular direction. Thus the responsibility of the choice solely is of the individual. Since there is no concept or existence of God in Jean Paul’s theory, therefore man has no prior code of morality to determine the his choices and so is absolutely free in making choices that he considers right or wrong. (Sartre, 1946)

Aurelius Augustine (354-430), commonly known as St. Augustine of Hippo a renown theologian and philosopher belonging to the 4th century era is the believer of free will yet at the same time he advocates the idea of eternal law as well. He believes in God’s supremacy, sovereignty and omnipotence. God is “the creator of all good things” and he is undoubtedly “the supremely just ruler of everything that he created”. Man being his creation has the right to choose between good and evil. Evil is generated when man makes a wrong choice or deviates from the path that God has determined for his benefit and well-being. God is not the source or cause of evil rather man’s free will is responsible to commit evil. When man through his free will chooses the path to satiate his “inordinate desires” instead of following God’s righteous way, he becomes the cause of evil. (Augustine, 1993)

Both Jean Paul Sartre and St. Augustine believe in free will yet in completely different contexts. Jean Paul’s theory of free will makes man completely independent of any prior obligations of morality or supreme authority. While St. Augustine’s free will is granted to man by God, his sovereign creator to choose between right and wrong. Man’s choice will ultimately lead to good or evil. Jean Paul’s free will is atheist in nature where there is no creator or supreme power to judge the actions performed by man whereas St. Augustine’s free will is a virtue given to man to choose between right and wrong, the criteria of which is determined by the most supreme of all, God.

Works Cited

  1. Augustinus, Aurelius, and Thomas Williams. On Free Choice of the Will. Indianapolis u.a: Hackett, 1993. Print.
  2. Sartre, Jean Paul. Existentialism Is Humanism, 1946. Retrieved from http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/sartre/works/exist/sartre.htm
Let's make that grade!