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Free Will and Determinism Essay

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Free Will against Destiny Literature Review

Free will is a doctrine in philosophy which explains that human beings have alternatives and can choose their destiny without being restrained by powers that are beyond their control. Contrary to this, determinism is a philosophy doctrine that considers all the events taking place on the face of the earth as having been predetermined by inevitable forces (Requadt, 2012). The relationship between the two, that is destiny and free will, has attracted the attention of many scholars both from philosophy and religious cycles. Scientists are divided on whether it is the free will or fate that always prevails on the other. However, it is evidenced that both indicated concepts will have great influence not only on the life of humans but also on the events which are happening around them.

This write-up will present the various relationships between fate and free will based on the play Antigone and Oedipus the King as well as the review of other related literatures. Just like other relevant literatures, the discussion on fate and destiny has appeared to a large extent in this literary work. The play presents a number of happenings around its actors that can be said to have their roots from either prophecy or fate. Though a number of scholars have criticized Sophocles to have given fate unnecessary emphasis, many have maintained that much of what he portrayed reflects the true relationship between fate and destiny.

The events in this play have revealed the kind of relationship that does exist between man’s free will and fate. Sophocles has succeeded in illustrating that human’s free will is to a larger extent determined by fate. JarJarBinks (2004) argues that both analyzed notions had played a role in the subsequent destruction of Oedipus. He argues that the man’s fate never controlled Oedipus’ destiny, but that him, killing his father and marrying his own mother, had been predestined. The author notes that this was a fulfillment of a prophecy that had been given at Delphi by Apollo. Though the prediction was not conditional, Oedipus could not do anything to avoid it. However, it can be argued that, although his fate probably determined the actions he had taken earlier, that at Thebes was his personal will.

Apart from Oedipus, there are a number of other actors who also took actions that led to their downfall. According to Thompson (2008), all the happenings in Oedipus’ house were a result of a curse that was a consequence of his own deeds. Right from the beginning of the play, Oedipus had been thrown into exile after being blinded. This was followed by his own wife hanging herself and his daughter being executed, having been found making attempts to bury her brother. This continues when Creon son’s bride is killed and he decides to commit a suicide. This causes his wife to also take her own life while Creon remains living miserably. All these events have their roots in fate, since none of the actors seem to know how they would die. It is also surprising that each of these who died either killed themselves or was killed by a close family member who should be protecting them, instead. Oedipus, for example, kills his father and takes the mother as a wife to the fulfillment of the prophecy that is made while he is still young.

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This subject has divided scholars in two opposing groups. According to JarJarBinks (2004), man’s existence is only within the boundary of fate. He gives an example of the Greeks who believed that the universe is harmoniously guided into its predetermined purpose by the various forces of fate. The researcher notes, that from the very early time of existence, human has had the freedom of choice, but this freedom is taken away from him since he is responsible for the consequences of every action he takes.

While advancing this argument, Varughese (2009) asks a question on the effects of the will of Kama and that of God in human’s actions. She stresses that as others attributes human’s actions to their free will, others have maintained that every actions in human’s life is predetermined but his creator, God, who is the supreme and not by their own free will. She argues that man’s role is to do what has been decided by God. But still, others have argued that man is a core-creator of his own life with God through acting in line with God’s direction.

Ahmadiyya Muslim Community (2012) identifies two groups of people based on their belief in regard to destiny. According to the community, it is people who are blinded by believing in destiny being predetermined by God. They associate the belief with a given type of sect; Safis, who has always claimed that everything happening to and around man, is out of his control. Namely, everything that happens is because it had been planned and is only known by God. The community notes that a problem with this explanation is that it cannot interpret the happenings like reward and penalty as well as crime and punishment. That is, agreeing that men cannot control their own actions is like admitting that they should neither be rewarded nor punished for any action (G?len, 2006).

Ahmadiyya Muslim Community (2012) seems to acknowledge the philosophical believe that man acts on a free will has not been well explained. This is based on the fact that it is not clear the effect of our pre-knowledge about God and its influence on the things which we are yet to go through. The reports, however, seems to conclude noting the supremacy of the law of nature over man.


As illustrated in the play of Sophocles, it is true that both fate and free will has a great influence on one’s destiny. Even though there may be disagreements on the issue, the events in the play may make one to want to believe that the total life lived by any human being is a direct result of the forces of fate he/she has encountered in life. To this group of philosophers, human’s free will is a simple illusion. To an extent, this would be true based on what happens in the play, Antigone, where Creon has to make a decision which he has no control over. He has to decide whether to let Antigone escape having committed a crime or whether to condemn her to death. Even though he is seemingly trying to choose between these two options, he obviously has no chance of making this decision.

This is based on the predetermined fact that Creon would take actions that will lead to him putting Antigone inside the grave and that he would later regret the step he will have taken. It can be argued that Creon could not do anything to stop such happenings, because he had no power over fate. That is, he had to give in to the forces beyond his control. This is evidenced when he defies advices both from Tieresius and Haemon and goes ahead and kills Antigone. This can perhaps be interpreted that one can never escape the forces of fate to decide on his/her destiny.

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Thus, it can be said that everything around us determined, like the prospects of the time we travel. That is, the person who prophesized Oedipus’s fate had the knowledge of what was predestined for him and it was only possible for the man to avoid it if he had gone ahead of time. It can also be argued that the major reason we do not have a say on the unfolding of the universe and its continuing even without us, is that all what happened before us and which will happen after us had been predetermined. It is true that had Creon been shown the kind of destruction his action would cause, he would have tried to do all that was within his reach to avoid taking the action. However, it is also debatable whether he would have had power to escape destiny even in such circumstances.

One more argument that can be broken is that whenever an event happens, it lowers or raises the probability of the occurrence of another event. This is also seen after the refusal of Creon to offer Polynices a burial which increased the likelihood of her being buried by Antigone. At the same time, this reduces the likelihood that Antigone would be as that led by any other normal person.

Another illustration can be picked from the attempt by Oedipus to avoid killing his father and subsequent taking of her mother as his own wife by running to live far from his “parents.” However, the possibility of this prophecy coming true even increased. This is clear considering that even king’s parents had sent their son, Oedipus, to stay far from them without knowing that this would only work towards increasing the likelihood of their son’s fate fulfillment. Thus, every event that was taking place, including those which were meant to help avoid fate, only worked to prove the one is inevitable.

One would argue that the same thing happens in real world. For example, when a student obtains a high grade in her/his paper, the probability that he/she will get a good mark in the semester is increased. This is also evidenced when the likelihood of Creon, losing everything that was of great important to him, was raised after he had put Antigone in the cave. This is a clear sign that all things are interconnected.


It is thus hard to believe that humans can determine their future. The play made it clear that such a philosophy cannot change our actions as this was never the case with any of its events. This has clearly been demonstrated through the lives of both Oedipus and Creon who tries to change their destiny but to no success. Both philosophical facts and the play has presented enough proves for one to believe that everything happens on the face of the Earth is predetermined. This means that, the concept of free will is simply an illusion. It is further evident that the occurrence of events increase the chances of the others happening.

I, therefore, agree with the determinists, since we can never know what awaits us. Though, man may in away want to justify having control over his fate, this can never be proven. It is evidenced that even the fact time is never constant, cannot change a human’s destiny. The question is whether people should be punished of having failed to avoid a predetermined incident or accident. Since it is impossible to know what is determined, it is only imperative that man lives one day at a time as we shall always stay products of our fates.

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