The Thoughts Count

What's going through my mind.

A Plan for Free Will?

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The other day I saw the movie The Adjustment Bureau. It’s a blockbustery action flick, easy on the eyes — starring Matt Damon and Emily Blunt — and because it’s filmed in spots all around New York City, quite fun for New Yorkers to watch. But it goes beyond the traditional quick motion and loud noises style of action movies. The movie, based on a book by science fiction writer Philip K. Dick, revolves around some intriguing ideas.

The movie puts forth the notion that we all have a life plan that’s been written out for us. And that everything happens or doesn’t happen in life because of that plan — created by some greater power, here, represented by the “chairman.” There are men (yes, all men) who go around making tweaks to our lives to help us stay on track or to change the course of our lives as proscribed by the chairman. When the protagonist of the movie discovers all of this, the knowledge becomes a burden. He has to make tough choices because of his insight. Chance also plays a role and it seems to keep getting in the way of some of the plans. Does it mean free will makes living harder than if we were all ignorant to our fates?

But I can see how there might be some solace in believing in the idea of a plan, especially when things are going wrong in our lives. Maybe it’s only helpful, though, when we can discern what the possible reasons are for those tragic things happening.

Not to spoil the movie (stop reading here if you prefer not to know more), but it seems to suggest that if we give it everything we have and try hard enough for something that we want, we can get it even if it wasn’t in the original plan (be it job-related, love-related etc.). If the plan can be rewritten to reward perseverance, that seems to defeat the idea of everything being predetermined and leaves us open to free will in the end. It’s enough to make your head hurt.

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Written by Kim

April 15, 2011 at 11:40 pm

Posted in movies

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