Theodicy: Free Will

One of the themes explored in Stranger than Fiction is theodicy. One of the six types of theodicy includes free will, which this film calls into question. While it first appears that Harold Crick is a mostly normal man who makes his own decisions on what he does on a daily basis, the viewers soon learn that everything that occurs in Crick’s life is a product of author Karen Eiffel’s work. Crick is at the mercy of Eiffel’s mind; even the circumstances that Crick finds himself in that are beyond his control are caused by Eiffel. While Stranger than Fiction is not a religious movie, the phenomena that is the idea of a third person controlling the events in our lives and the choices we make is one debated in many religions. Even though in the film Eiffel is not meant to represent God, there are many religious perspectives on whether or not our actions are products of our free will, or if they are predestined. For me, this is an extremely mind boggling idea, because most religions also believe in an afterlife, which often includes a heaven and hell. The idea that our actions could be predestination or a product of anything other than our own free will is an intriguing topic because to me there doesn’t seem to be any reasonable way to justify predestining someone to commit bad deeds and go to hell if it is beyond their control. This is an especially bizarre thought to me especially because most religions portray their Gods to merciful.

Radhakrishnan is an example of someone who believes that people do not have free will, but rather are products of their elemental nature. He claims that “unless an individual employs his whole nature, searches the possibilities and selects one that commends itself to his whole self, his act is not really free”. He argues that one’s will is “only the self in its active side and freedom of the will really means freedom of the self”, and self-determination is not the same thing as free will. He makes the claim that self-determination could be a product of someone’s nature, that they were going to make the decision they did regardless out of “obedience to an element in his nature”. He is arguing that in self-determination, the same outcome will occur no matter if the initiative to do so came from within the individual, or from a third party.

Radhakrishnan’s arguments are clear, but they rely on the idea that humans are purely elemental in nature and we function mechanically.  While Stranger than Fiction and Radhakrishnan pose very thought provoking questions to their audiences, I personally disagree with the idea that our actions could be the result of anything beyond our own control. I believe this to be true because I believe that we are all the products of our environments. People are influenced greatly by the people who raise them, how they are disciplined, the culture they grow up in, etc. Another reason I believe that we have free will is because people have the ability to change should they choose to. If Radhakrishnan’s arguments were true, this would not be the case, and people would be bound by their inherent nature.

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