Harry Potter vs Free Will

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We make choices every day, from simple to important decisions in our lives. The way we come to those decisions brings the controversy of The Great Debate: Free Will vs. Determinism.

Free Will is the belief that as humans, we feel as though we are making our own conscience decisions. To make something happen, we do not sit back and wait for an action to happen.

Determinism is like an indubitable prediction. For example, a skilled pool player knowing exactly a ball will go when struck.

The dispute between free will and determinism continues in the book series Harry Potter.

The prophecy states "Neither can live while the other survives."
'You see the prophecy does not mean you have to do anything! But the prophesy caused Lord Voldemort to mark you as his equal... in other words, you are free to choose your way, quite free to turn your back on the prophesy! But Voldemort continues to set store by the prophesy. He will continue to hurt you ... which makes it certain really, that -'
'That one of us is going to end up killing the other,' said Harry.

In this section of the book, Dumbledore is trying to prove to Harry free will should prevail over his predetermined fate. Voldemort fails to recognize the power of choice and puts all his belief in determinism. It then becomes a figurative and literal battle when Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort fight between the power of free will and determinism.

My opinion on the Great Debate is a deep problem. It is something neither scientist nor folk psychologist has been able to come to grips with. Human behavior follows scientific laws at the same time allowing us to choose. Human beings are too complicated to be deemed as "stimulus-response machines" like Skinner tried to prove. Even though we are a part of a genetic heritage and can be programmed like calculators, we have the capability to alter old programs and add new ones by our self. Still we would not be able to function properly without determinism. It is the predetermined that the sun will rise once it sets. Without this known future event, the world would be at a stalemate. We would be too afraid to live. The most reasonable stand for this complex topic is to live in a world with both. Living a life with zero control would not be a life worth living, but having nothing predetermined would be frightening to live through.




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The dispute between free will and determinism is always puzzling because we can never find out which is prevalent in our lives. For example, would both Harry and Voldemort be able to live if neither paid attention to the prophecy? It's impossible to tell what could have happened in an alternative situation. Skinner claimed that humans act in a pre-programmed manner like robots, although most people would claim that we are free to make decisions, whether or not we think these decisions are rational.

While Harry Potter is one of my favorite stories of all time, there is a very interesting article on the idea of free will. In the article, they mention something called the frail control hypothesis. This hypothesis was describing that free will is something that can be influenced very easily. To test this, they dropped a dime and if a person picked it up, they were 10% more likely to help someone pick up papers. From this test they concluded that free will can be directly influenced, so in turn there really is no such thing as free will.

Just a few years ago, neuroscientists discovered that, by looking at participants' brain activity, they could actually predict decisions a person would make up to seven seconds prior to the individual actually making the decision. This is now widely touted as scientific evidence in favor of determinism.

I believe it is possible for an action to be both predictable and of one's free will, generally consistent with the "compatibilism" school of thought. While I agree with some aspects of determinism, such as the importance of cause-effect relationships, I think it is still the free will of a person to decide his or her next action, regardless of how predictable it may be. By very nature of the fact that one can deliberate his or her next move, I believe he or she possesses free will. As I touched on before, I believe free will and determinism can be compatible thoughts. Going along with the Harry Potter example, the prophecy outlined a course of action for both Harry and Voldemort that heavily influenced - and perhaps no less than determined - their destinies. I still believe that both had the free will to take the actions they took, but they were operating under a larger veil of "determinism," as both knew that their choices and actions would inevitably lead to one final confrontation.

I would have to agree with stel0161. I don't think we can deny that different courses of action lead to different consequences. I also don't think we could ever prove that we don't make our own decisions. I don't think this debate will ever be resolved. It seems that both play a large role in our lives, though I don't think either can be proved or disproved.

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This page contains a single entry by edwar589 published on January 31, 2012 10:40 PM.

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