chapter  9
11 Pages

Freewill and Determinism: Are People Free?

It is sometimes said that human beings are not free. They are, so the claim goes, pawns of the Fates. The Fates were three classical goddesses, Atropos, Klotho and Lachesis. Though they did not play chess, as far as we know, so that this is a mixed-up metaphor, they were the ones who decreed or said what was going to happen in human life. The English word ‘fate’ derives from the Latin verb fari, to speak, and means ‘“that which has been spoken, hence decreed”, hence “a divine statement”’.1 In early Greek thought, fate was personified in only one goddess, Moira, also thought to determine the course of human life. Today many people no longer believe in gods and goddesses of this sort, but we do retain a secular belief in something like ‘divine statements’, namely what we respectfully think of as ‘laws of nature’. In the early scientific revolution, these laws of nature were conceived as reflecting the mind of God, and represented his will for the course of the world.