For centuries, philosophers have been arguing about the free will problems. Those who believe in free will hold that humans are free to choose under every circumstances, while those who believe that choice is just an illusion asserts that our lives are controlled by the society in which we live in and hence, there is no real free will at all. I hold a moderate view points between two extremes; I believe that we are always presented with choices, but these choices are limited. Those who assert that choice is just an illusion believe that humans are just programmed robots which works according to algorithm presrcibed in the chip.
They believe that we are controlled by the society. Society determines how we think and what we should do. If society says X is bad, we would avoid it. Likewise, if society endorses Y act, then we must embrace it. Take for example, in Muslim country, wearing bikinis is considered as a sin because it instigates men’s lustful desire. Women are forced to wear tudung because their religious teachers teach them that it is inappropriate to expose their body to strangers. Thus Muslims women have no option to comply with the society’s demand.
They can’t defy those teaching (no matter how unreasonable it sounds), because going against religious teachers is tantamount to betraying religion. In Muslim countries, religion is everything and those who deny its authority would face society pressure, if not legal action. This is an example some will cited to support the idea that our lives are indeed controlled by society. However, are we really deprive of choices? No. The fact is, we are still presented with options in which we can choose from.
Within the tolerance limits of society, there are still plenty of options available whether we realized it or not. Take the above Muslim women as example, if a Muslim woman do not wish to wear tudung, she can choose to stay in house instead of going out. For those who are wealthy, they can choose to migrate to other secularized countries in which religion is not a big issue. The point here to learn is that, we have choices, even though these choices are limited. People who believe that choice is just an illusion would not do anything to challenge conventional society.
Since choice isn’t a real thing, why should we fight for it? This sort of attitude would impede society’s advancement. In the past history, there are a lot people who were dissatisfied with their lives. Some took a nihilism attitude and complied submissively with the society; others who were more courage challenged the conventional wisdoms. Those valiant fighters stubbornly believed that we are not controlled by society. Instead, they believed that we can shape the society, enlarged the choice set we have by reforming the society values.
Martin Luther King stands out as a quintessence example. Before 1960’s blacks in America are not treated equally. They didn’t have the right to vote, they couldn’t attend the same school alongside with their compatriot whites and they were discriminated in every aspect. Blacks who believed that their lives are controlled by the society would not stand up to speak against the unjust. King was different, with a great vision in mind; he believed that we can make a change to the world.
Had King constrained himself with the contemporary standard, the blacks would not be liberated and US society today would be very different. To sum up, humans are not presented with infinite choices; we are not free to do anything. Rather, our options are limited by society’s standard. History is replete with examples of society reformation. Each time a reform is made, society standard became more lenient and people were presented with more freedom. Thus if one believe that the society standards are too rigid, then social reformation is the way.