Agency: The Never-Ending Topic of Debate

1100046-marvel_illustrated_the_iliad_2
Marvel Illustrated: The Iliad (Volume) 

Is it really possible to be able to have full control of our decisions or are we a part of destiny’s plan?

Agency or lack of it, I believe, are more than a simple black and white answer. Perhaps we do lack the control of certain conditions that may be presented in our lives, however that does not mean those predisposed traits or positions should be an excuse to never improve around it, as there are still choices to be made that may allow people to act on their own accord against these constraints.

Let us look at one of the major problems affecting America that may bring a better understanding of my claim.

America has an issue, a very common issue that would be considered a type of blessing to someone living in the dark ages of the past. This little issue is called obesity. There is an estimated amount of 20-35% of adults in the country being overweight. This serious health issue is very fatal, causing heart problems, diabetes, degeneration of bone, and many other bodily problems. We could easily blame the food industry or simply genetics for the cause of obesity, yet there has been evidence that disproves that people are just naturally fat and it is mostly their diet that makes them so for most of the victims suffering from obesity.

Though there is no denying that people have different levels of metabolism. Actually, this can be an ill-fated like feature for someone who is more likely to gain weight than their peers. Does this mean a person should be less inclined to be healthy if the body is less likely to burn calories? Of course not! The same response will be made if a student is having a more difficult time in a math course than their peer, should they slack off and end their class with a bad grade? Certainly not! There are programs to help these students, they could perhaps study more, find a different method of learning or maybe switch out of the class to have a different teacher. There are an endless amounts of possibilities of how to solve an issue. People who are overweight or are more inclined to be overweight must work harder to be healthy like a student working harder to achieve a better grade.

          Calvin becomes a fatalist

We cannot let disadvantages stop people from trying to achieve better and change their “fate”.

Now, the issues and solutions I presented above could fall into the category of fatalism, that every action is a part of the destiny in the lives we are in, therefore, we have absolutely no power whatsoever to control it, only to live it.

It is not a surprise that the Greeks in Socrates or Homer’s time period believed in such a concept. The goddesses Moirai and Ananke wield the power of destiny in the palm of their hands, being able to set fate for both men, gods, and even the king of them all, Zeus. Moirai could control who dies and tells prophecies of anyone’s fate while Ananke has ultimate power to control the doom and fortunes of all the gods, being an entity of cosmic space and time and creator of the universe.

This would explain the reaction from the Achaean army in book two of The Iliad when Agamemnon announced a fake prophecy from Zeus about how the whole infantry is fated to be crushed by the Trojans, and it would be wise to leave immediately. There was no argument nor protest as soldiers flooded to their ships in order to return home, it was until Odysseus convinced them to stay and fight. Despite Atrides Agamemnon, who held the scepter containing his royal rights passed down by gods, allowing him to have authority over his men, his militia would rather put their trust in a dream than in their king, simply because what he told was based on a type of prophecy of their future. Ironically, if the vision were true, the men trying to escape would soon meet their demise by the Trojan army.

                              Whispering of the Prophecy

Fatalism is not just an idea that was held in the past but it is still held in modern day times. Astrology, for example, tells of one’s personality by the day they were born and the planets they relate to, thus, if someone were to be born on the 27th of April, they would be destined as the home-body, stubborn Taurus. This could, quite quickly, destroy my previous claim of obesity and not so smart students. Perhaps their personalities are not meant to be good at math or be responsible of their bodies, as the stars say they could not! Another popular fatalistic activity people may participate in are fortune-tellings, where an individual’s hand may have the answers to their future by the creases or prints on it, or through the powerful magic of a crystal ball, giving entrance to communicate with spirits. These are usually given positive answers, as the word “fortune” is in the name of the activity. I doubt I’d be willing to pay twenty dollars to find out if I’d be a cat lady for the rest of my days.

Whether people have agency or not over their lives, it does not take away the fact that humans will most likely not care about it. People who read astrology on the internet understand that their personalities are based on the alignment of matter and hot gases of space, and will defend those claims, even if they do not have free-will. This would raise questions of humans being naturally bad or naturally good, another concept that challenges the idea of the use of psychologists, teachers, or anyone helping bad or mentally unstable individuals. What is the use of aiding them if they are created that way?

People who state that they do have complete agency over their decisions have a sense of extra responsibility of their actions, though I doubt they choose wisely every single action of their daily routines, especially if they let their emotions go out of hand. Control of emotions, another peculiar concept. Emotions are not necessarily controllable, if they are, then there will be little or no such thing as depression, any person with a love for happiness would not want it. Emotions are a mix of chemicals anyway, should a concept of agency be discussed at a molecular level?

In a way, both extremes depend heavily on how comfortable a person is about both concepts. Are you happier knowing that your life is already set like a novel, ready to be read until the end, or would you feel more content knowing that life is a canvas, but only you could make the images and brush strokes?

Either way, my stance still holds that there is a limitation of how we act but not to the point of absolute predetermination of one’s life’s choices. There are many layers of how fate rules just as much as how humans rule their own. Decisions will be made, sometimes out of your own whim, or out your boundaries. It’s all a complicated, and in a way, that’s just the beauty of being human.

 

References:

http://www.ncsl.org/research/health/obesity-statistics-in-the-united-states.aspx

http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/obesity-prevention-source/obesity-causes/genes-and-obesity/

http://www.theoi.com/Daimon/Moirai.html

http://www.theoi.com/Protogenos/Ananke.html

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