The law of causality basically says that shit can’t happen without some other shit happening first. Everyone knows what cause and effect are, but I just really enjoy saying “shit” to describe things. If something happens, something necessarily had to happen before in order to cause that event. We base not only science on this, but religion as well. The Unmoved Mover, or the First Cause, is the very beginning of the causal chain. If everything has a cause, the idea is that there has to be a beginning tethering the causes to an initial… something or other. In some circles, that “something” is theorized to be God.

So everybody agrees that the law of causality is probably true. However, things get a little tricky when we consider Free Will. Free Will is humanity’s innate ability to choose our actions. Since we feel in control, normally most people assume that we possess Free Will. But when the law of causality is applied to our choices, our actions must have a cause, and that cause must have a cause, and that cause must have a cause, and so on. Given that that causal chain would continue back to infinite along with all the others (or to the First Cause, whatever) then it seems highly unlikely that there was an autonomous “choice” at all.

This is not a new idea. People often wonder whether or not we are but slaves to our instincts and our environment, and if the law of causality is true and universal, then it would follow that humans are nothing but a mold going through its familiar phases. This raises some issues; if we are not free, then we are not responsible, and ethics just fall to the wayside. Any sort of meaning to our existence sounds a little hollow as well.

However, if there is Free Will, then the law of causality becomes called into question, and every scientific theory becomes a lot more correlative than it was before. Humanity, America especially, needs its freedom, but is it willing to do away with cause and effect just to keep it?

There are other options. There is the idea of the Causa Sui, or the self-caused cause. These are indeterminate causes that start their own, new causal chains. Quantum physics has these a bunch, where things on the atomic level are popping in and out of existence like a whack-a-mole game, seemingly without cause. However, if there are an infinite number of quantum reactions happening in the consciousness part of our brain that are the Causa Sui for our actions, then again, we are not choosing, but our actions are determined by random occurrences. This leads to the same problems of responsibility and meaning as in a deterministic universe.

Or possibly the Will itself is the Causa Sui and is perpetually creating new, causal chains. This, however, leads to the question of how?

It is possible that the human Will exists outside of the causal universe, thereby cancelling out the paradox of choice within a deterministic or random world. Those with a religious background are likely to exclaim, “Something that transcends the material realm!? Surely you can’t be serious!” but if Free Will is to be maintained, this is a consideration not to be taken lightly.

Remember, this is philosophy. There is never a satisfactory answer. Whether or not we possess Free Will all comes down to your perspective. Maybe humans are just special and that’s why we’re able to freely make choices. Maybe we live in a world of anarchy and chaos. Maybe we live meaningless, responsibility-less lives. Who knows? But always remember, whether or not Free Will exists, we must act as if it does.