Lost, Determinism, and Free Will

After I watched last night’s episode of Lost, I thought about Jonathan Edwards’ Freedom of the Will. Essentially, Edwards did not believe in free will. For him, human beings can still make choices, but their choices are determined by their inclinations and desires.

On Lost last night, young Ben Linus is fatally wounded because Sayid had shot him in the previous episode. Because Ben Linus will grow up to be an evil, manipulative twit, some are not too eager to help him. Juliet, Kate, and Sawyer do help him, however, by taking him to the Others. What went through my mind was, “Well, maybe Ben will remember these people caring for him and won’t grow up to be such a major you-know-what.” But my hope was shot when Richard Alpert (a prominent figure among the Others) said that he will resurrect Ben, but the result will be that Ben will forget what has transpired and will become cold and heartless, the older Ben we’ve all come to know and love. And so we see reaffirmed a central idea in Lost: you can’t change history, for everything happens as it’s supposed to happen.

But couldn’t Juliet, Kate, and Sawyer have decided to let Ben die, thereby changing history? I guess that’s theoretically possible, but who they were as people militated against that. Juliet felt she couldn’t allow a child to die, even if he is Ben Linus. Sawyer helped Ben because he loves Juliet. And I’m not sure what Kate’s motivation is: maybe she likes Ben’s father. In a sense, their choices are determined by their inclinations and desires, which pull them in one direction and not another.

Is the will free? There is a part of me that feels as if my choices flow from who I am–my desires, inclinations, the effect of my past upon me, what I know or don’t know, etc. But there are clear areas in which I have free will: I can stay home, or I can go somewhere, and I don’t feel I’m determined to go one way or another. On a certain level, my recovery from alcoholism rests on free will, as I resolve that, no matter how bad I may feel or how bad things may get, I will not take that first drink. I’d like to think I have some control over my own destiny.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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