Amor Fati — Free Will vs. Determinism

Paumalu, January 2022, West Bowl

As I proned out on the inside West Bowl the other morning at Paumalu and momentarily beheld that which cascaded behind/before me, I reflected on something I read years ago regarding the illusion (fiction?) of so-called “free will” in the face of what Lucretius (in De Rerum Natura) called the “Cosmic Swerve.”

The question is at once cosmic and existential. What volition does one have in the greater scheme of things? I often contemplate this question in terms of Fate and the promise (or limits) of scientific understanding. Think about it: What do we really will or determine outside the probabilistic bounds of what wills or determines us from beginning to the end? It remains to be seen . . .

In looking at a waterfall we imagine that there is freedom of will and fancy in the countless turnings, twistings, and breakings of the waves; but everything is compulsory, every movement can be mathematically calculated. So it is also with human actions; one would have to be able to calculate every single action beforehand if one were all knowing; equally so all progress of knowledge, every error, all malice. The one who acts certainly labours under the illusion of voluntariness; if the world's wheel were to stand still for a moment and an all-knowing, calculating reason were there to make use of this pause, it could foretell the future of every creature to the remotest times, and mark out every track upon which that wheel would continue to roll. The delusion of the acting agent about himself, the supposition of a free will, belongs to this mechanism which still remains to be calculated.

- Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human #106