This module’s concept was hard for me to wrap my head around. I’m torn on the idea of free will, and what amount of free choice we actually have, regardless of how we perceive it. I’ve always wondered if we really do have choice at all, or if we are solely a product of our environment, our experiences and our genetics combined, culminating in a set of circumstances that we are unable to deviate from – all the while convincing ourselves that we exerted the choices that led us to that particular place at that particular time. If we do not have free will and it is nothing more than an illusion, then how could we possibly be held accountable for our actions? How does this factor into other aspects of our lives like our decision to be religious or to not be religious? In the scheme of Christianity, if certain people are predestined for salvation while others are not, how is it divine justice that those not chosen are then punished for something for all of eternity in hell when they had no ability to do otherwise? If there is an all-knowing, all powerful deity who is outside of space and time and knows everything we are going to do before we do it, is our choice really a choice at all?
My decision to enroll in college, particularly at SNHU after a nearly 20 year hiatus was a complex one. It could easily be seen as a cause and effect ultimate result, rather than a choice on my part. A lot of factors had to come together at the exact right time and the exact right place in order for me to find myself here, in this class at this time. I could have easily chosen to never go back to school. I had been out of school for almost 20 years. I had a successful job, and while my future options were slightly limited, my lack in formal education was made up for in practical, hands-on experience, even if it was in a field that I wasn’t super passionate about. There is cultural and societal pressure to graduate from college at least with a Bachelor’s degree, and there is mounting pressure to continue on to grad school in many fields. In some fields, especially if you desire to enter academia, the pressure to go on and earn a Doctorate degree is even greater. I need to say, however, that while a lot of things all fell into place at the right time for me to apply and get accepted at SNHU in the program I wanted, I definitely feel like I made a conscious decision to accept the admission, register for classes, attend them and do all of the school work required that led me here.
There were a lot of options when I started considering going back to school, and I examined many other environments before deciding on SNHU. The financial aid, the program specifics, and a lot of reviews ultimately tipped the scales towards SNHU rather than another school – and all of those factors are more of an influencer rather than a cause that allowed me to wind up here.
Ultimately, I would have to label myself a compatibilist when it comes to the debate of free will. I have to say that although the influences we take in from our genetics, our environment and our culture are incredibly formative in our decisions and our actions, we still are able to make decisions and take action – and this I think can be demonstrated by people who act against their own interests in highly emotional situations to do what they think is right – even if it comes at an incredible cost. We see examples all over the world of people who do bad things, but we also see examples of incredible sacrifice – we see medical professionals willingly entering into areas affected by diseases without any known cures in order to help people, even though it means putting themselves at incredible risk. We see people lying to save others, at the potential cost of their livelihoods or even their lives. If we had no free will and everything was predetermined, it would seem that our actions would be based on environmental pressures to survive at all costs, as seen many times in the animal kingdom. But we don’t – we act against our survival instincts all the time in big and small ways in order to maintain a species. While we may not have a say in a lot of things that happen throughout the course of our lives, I have to think that there is some level of choice still there, and we are responsible ultimately for the choices and actions we make.