On Necessity, Freedom of Will and Nihilism

The deeper we see, the more we are able to comprehend the innumerable number of forces affecting our success or failure, the lesser we will be able to owe it to our own abilities or to the lack of them.

At any given point of time, any event is a causation of a number of forces, and the event is a result not of any singular force but of the resultant of a parallelogram of forces at the very least. And the more we try to comprehend, we see that the likes of these concurrent forces affect every singular event in our lives. We try to map a few, and it is when we realise that there are just too many, do we attribute a collective name to all the remaining that we cannot figure out but still acknowledge the presence of. And that we call luck and fate and any of the several related names.

We cannot say how many, but sure we can say of at least a parallelogram of forces, for we know, upon proper observation, that two forces are common to each and every act that we do – the force of necessity and of free will, and that while one increases in magnitude, the other decreases, but neither can ever be zero. And these two, combined in various proportions with several others yield what we see.

It takes a great degree of courage and knowledge to overcome our human tendencies and actually attempt to understand a person and his actions – why he has done such and such a thing under such and such circumstances – especially when we do not approve of those actions.

To imagine complete freedom of will with no inevitability in our actions, we must consider ourselves entirely uninfluenced by the external world, and performing actions independent of any cause, and also existing outside the realm of time. Such a conception of human life would no longer result in a human. Hence, the force of necessity is never zero in our lives.

To imagine complete inevitability in all our actions with no freedom of will, we must have the knowledge of an infinite number of relations the man has with the external world, an infinite number of causations to the origin of time, and an ability to consider an infinitely long time before we judge his actions. This is not possible, and hence, we cannot say that the force of freedom of will in our lives is zero.

We are all influenced by necessity at each moment, and also by free will at the same time. Without inevitability, man is solely and completely responsible for all his actions, and we know that this is not true, for many of our actions are in fact caused by happenings outside our control. Similarly, without freedom of will, there is also no human life possible, for we are aware of the consciousness of choice and freedom in our lives.

Perhaps we humans find it difficult to live with the truth. It definitely takes a great degree of courage to embrace the truth. Quoting Nietzsche, ‘To live is to suffer. To survive is to find some meaning in the suffering.’┬áThe concept of nihilism, assuming it is true, leads us to the hypothesis that we are forced by our own minds to be delusionary and further attribute meanings to our lives, despite knowing the truth.

Let us take a case of two persons. One believes in nihilism. He knows it to be true, by all his observation and knowledge of life. He knows that no matter what one does, the ultimate destination is only death, and that all we all do is only to ease that journey towards death. The second person, despite knowing about nihilism and despite having a tendency through reason to believe it, says that the while the former sees death, he sees glory through his actions, as his final abode. Can we say that one is true and one is not? Each person, according to his own mind, sees his own truth as the truth. But on observing from a different perspective, we see that neither can be dismissed as false. Similarly, neither can be worshipped as true. But including our own experiences, we tend to see from a neutral perspective that the final abode is definitely death, for we all at each point acknowledge death but nevertheless give in to the human tendency to invent ways to (mis)interpret it. Yet we see that the latter had an authentic tendency to believe otherwise. From this, can we not say that while one person, through conscious efforts, is able to dare to accept and live with the truth, the other, despite accepting it, still chooses to refute it with regards to his own life?
From the perspective of the former, it stands that the belief of the latter does not really matter.

People often ask me why I am philosophical. I think the reason for anyone to not bear any obligation and still be interested in anything is only out of a pure fascination, and so is the case with me as well.

Regarding why I tend to believe in nihilism rather than any other streams is because I find nihilism to be more probably true. Different things in life are only a matter of difference in perceptions and the deeper we see with the more we get to uncover the mysteries. In search of knowledge, for the shallow mind materialistic things perhaps stand as the only things that are there. For the more observent mind religion and then perhaps spirituality come into existence. For someone who ventures further, various philosophical doctrines like existentialism and determinism are found. But philosophers who go deeper, not satisfying themselves with what is found and thinking that there must be something more to it than just these, will find that in reality there is nothing.

Men set out on a expedition travel to a long mysterious cave and find cobwebs at the entrance. A few hypothesize that the cave is only filled with cobwebs, and stop there. The remaining remove the cobwebs as mere obstacles to true knowledge and find spiders and other insects. They think the cave is filled with insects and that this is the truth. Most do not venture to travel further, for they believe with all their heart that the cave only has insects, and they are filled with fear of what might happen, if they refute that belief. They have faith, but faith, as Nietzsche said, is not wanting to know what is true.

A set of few, driven by reason and logic and not by mere faith, go on forward and discover colonies of bats with their each step. With sufficient evidence they say that the cave if filled with bats. But a very few keep going forward, and as they go deeper, find that the cave, in reality, is filled with nothing but emptiness. All the cobwebs, the insects and the bats have just made the initial parts of the cave as their residence, and they either fly away or disintegrate there. But what the cave actually has, is nothing. This is the idea of Nihilism for me.

And such is life as well. The universe has existed for billions of years and will exist so, and the entire human race only occupies a tiny timeline in it. We were not there earlier, and we won’t be there later. All the life forms – We just came and we will go. Our life in this world doesn’t have any real significance and a special meaning. All the doctrines of knowledge are mere explanations of a certain level of understanding of the universe and our life in it.┬áBut the ultimate understanding is that all these attempts are futile and there is really nothing to everything, and that all we can ever know is that we know little.