Saturday, July 27

In search of the SELF

Currently I am running a philosophy class for a small group under the University of the 3rd Age. Attached is my outline for next week. I would be pleased to receive any feedback on my notes for discussion, listed below. Kindly note they are about Kierkegaard and are not necessarily my own views.
Soren Kierkegaard, who was a social critic, has profoundly influenced western philosophical thought. He authored a prolific volume of work under his own name and various synonyms, designed to passionately engage his readers into living a more meaningful existence from his perspective. His ideas were very much centred on the here and now so he warned against procrastination. This extends to all of one’s life so that we need to desist from thinking about the idea that everything will be made right at the grave.
For Kierkegaard the truth is in action. In procrastination he warns about the risk of a diminished YOU, as it relates to the self. Think of it as self-denial or erosion of the self over time. It can also arise when we become overly obsessed with some aspects of our existence so that the self is lost to this obsession. It is not a textbook like narrative, but rather a thoughtful yet dense perspective that challenges you to think along varying themes.       
One of his central themes is the idea, as we mature, we all experience anxiety. That is the dizzying feeling of freedom which always brings with it an anxiety as to how to cope in this world as individuals. He calls this anxiety an angst. This angst can be thought of as both beneficial as in supporting more empathetic individuals but harmful, when in the extreme, it plunges us into deep despair. He calls this type of despair a sickness. Again there is the warning against procrastination as Kierkegaard encourages us to think we cannot handle these matters on our own.  We need a form of unconditional commitment to a cause which has relationship with the self. That has relevance to counsellors as we can discuss.
He introduces to us the idea of the various stages of life and how individuals react and the coping measures that might be employed.  
Firstly there are those who bury themselves into some activity to the extent it nullifies their consciousness so that nothing else matters except that singular purpose. A danger we identify with is where elite athletes, cut off from the outside world, are consumed only by a singular purpose. 
The second category is those who are self-aware but whose anxiety plunges them into deep despair, to seek relief in a substitution such as drugs. 
Kierkegaard’s idea is to aim for the balanced third approach. That is where we realise that anxiety is a part of our self-consciousness in support of empathetic humans. How we cope is to anchor our existence to a heathy balanced sense of self.
He defines the self as a synthesis of the categories of being.     
For in a general sense all of this is tied up with relationships. Firstly, there is the inner relationship we have with ourselves as per our awareness. Therein is the required sense of balance of the self to avoid obsessions and or self-denial.  
But how does that all work and how might we get out of balance according to Kierkegaard?
Freedom and Necessity 
Whilst we are free there are many things that are necessary for our existence. So that Kierkegaard is saying in effect there is always the risk of completely absorbing oneself in either always seeking freedom or claiming everything is a necessity.
We need to know our limitations.
Hence an obsession with one or the other abandons the responsibility of being a self?
Temporal and Eternal
Here Kierkegaard talks about the merger of the time frame we inhabit as per our existence, compared to eternity.  
Kierkegaard aims to fill this time frame free from sickness in his synthesis. There will be some aspects of your future life that can be free, as they relate to your personal sense of self.
But the same risks of obsession to one or the other apply
Finite and the Infinite
To lose oneself in the infinite is to live as though life is an endless series of different pathways, with nothing enduring nor any commitment ever made.
To lose oneself in the finite (as in the here and now) and never to consider future possibilities attaches the same risk. 
So Kierkegaard is saying there is always the risk to be completely absorbed in either the finite or infinite. One then abandons the responsibility of being a self?
But our psyche is greater than that as he then talks about the external commitment.
This is the so called unconditional external commitment to a cause that provides meaning which I will also talk about in more detail next.
Note that is a secular interpretation in lieu of Kierkegaard’s spiritual connection he describes as a leap in faith. But either way it works well for those of either a religious faith or for secular philosophers as in an unconditional commitment to a cause.   
The salient underpinnings to all of this is not to procrastinate as we risk denying our self or to suppress that freedom inherent in our existence that can lead us into not making moral choices. You might like to think of this as self-denial. This is particularly relevant to a group position where peer pressure may negate or impede an individual’s sense of personal freedom to make ethical choices or decisions. I list a number of situations where this is apparent.  

Thursday, July 18

What is Panspiritism? – An alternative way of conceiving consciousness

Steve Taylor in his essay (‘What is Panspiritism’ - Philosophy Now’) talks about a non-materialistic way of conceiving consciousness.   
The alternative view is it is just a product of the material brain as was argued by Francis Crick (with James Watson of the DNA double helix fame) but who failed to find a credible theory from a lifetime’s research. Others postulate consciousness is an illusion; an unconvincing subjective assessment upon which one then begins to argue the case. So, in the absence of any hard-nosed material theories there has been a resurgence in interest in non-material based concepts.      
Steve Taylor initially talks about one such widely discussed theory called Panpsychism (as distinct from Panspiritism) which in a nutshell holds the view the mind was always in matter. 
It’s a good idea to firstly talk about Panpsychism since Panspiritism is largely based on its underlying premise.  
Panpsychism in a general sense, to define it, is the idea that all things either have a mind, or some sort of mind-like quality. Bear in mind under the term “all things” and “mind” it is generally agreed that would refer to anything in itself having a reaction to phenomena - (an inner reaction) as opposed to being injected or sustained from outside. However in modernity, increasingly most things can be seen to react to phenomena of one kind or another to which triggers an inner response. Panpsychism was examined in some length and endorsed by such notable philosophers as William James, Whitehead, Russell, Eddington, Huxley, Dewy and Bohn.
So what does he mean by Panspiritism?
Taylor explains the distinction to Panpsychism, to hold the view that all material matter doesn’t have its own mind and experience; lacking the necessary structure to channel and receive fundamental consciousness. That is to the extent they don’t have their own psyches, such as for example that of rocks and rivers. Hence all living beings as having the capacity to become sentient and autonomous, whilst remaining immersed in fundamental consciousness. He contends that the autonomous nature of the mind however can give rise to the idea we risk becoming alienated to our fundamental consciousness; analogous to a wave forgetting its part of the ocean. 
Not entirely a new idea 
As you may have gathered already, this is hardly a new idea in the general sense that reality has always been viewed as non-material by various sages, in ancient cultures and tribespeople.  
To reiterate, the idea of Panspiritism is that the human consciousness is made up of a complex channelling of fundamental consciousness
Mind and matter. 
In his article Taylor also talks about Australian philosopher David Chalmers, as outlined in his book, ‘The Conscious Mind’, where he talks about fundamental consciousness as irreducible. In other words it’s already there and precedes the formation of the universe, so it is an expression of what it is now, more fundamental than gravity or electromagnetism. 
Assuming we accept Taylor’s theory we can think in terms of just fundamental consciousness, mind and matter. From an evolutionary perspective then in the beginning there was fundamental consciousness, followed by simple life forms with mind within matter to evolve with increasing complexity. But just how matter arises out of fundamental consciousness may never be explainable as it is tied up with the mystery of consciousness and existence in general.  
Summing up:
As fundamental consciousness is channelled through us, the brains complex neural networks facilitates mental functions such as memory, information processing, intention or will, concentration, and abstract and logical cognition- in other words the brain is a facilitator, but not the casual generator of mind. The relationship of fundamental consciousness to mind is like the relationship between the raw ingredients and the meal which is separated from it: fundamental consciousness represents the essence of mind, but it is not equivalent to it. Rather Mind is what happens when spirit is filtered through the neural networks of the brain.
How then we interpret this and make decisions,  is another matter beyond the scope of this paper but Panspiritism should not be seen as a form of idealism. Rather it is way of looking at our consciousness in different manner than to consider the traditional distinction between spiritually and material.  How we see GOD is also beyond the scope of this post, but I like the idea of an infinite creative energy behind fundamental consciousness - untouched by the boundaries that bind us in this place. Suffice to say there remains deep mysteries concerning the inner workings of our 3 pound big brains and its resultant output. Estimates are it contains 100 billion cortical neurons and more interneuron connections (chemical neurotransmitter based chemical synapses) than the stars in thousands of the great galaxies.
So far, the human brain is the most complex known piece of matter in the universe.      
Concluding Thoughts
The viability of both panpsychism and Panspiritism as concepts worthy of further of consideration. They both suggests a different world view to that of mechanical view of the universe to see the world as a vibrant interconnected whole.

Tuesday, July 16

Open door

Singers (2).png
To Uplift, Inspire, Unite and extend Hope and Encouragement to All




I'm so looking forward to this one and hope to see you all there!


Monday, July 15

The Sum of My Parts

This complementary article below appeared in a recent edition of Philosophy Now, to which I subscribe.  The edition included a number of interesting articles covering Mind and Self.
Brett Wilson explores personal identity with John Locke and a dodgy 3D printer.
Imagine that in the distant future, while working on a recalcitrant 3D printer, you accidentally cut off your hand. For a moment you consider printing a mechanical replacement, but you are nostalgic about biology, so you rush with your severed limb to the hospital, where you hope a talented surgeon can sew it back on.
Alas, the damage is too great. But the good news is that they can keep it alive, suspended in a nutrient-filled medium, until technology can be developed which can return the hand to its rightful place. You take it home as a handsome exhibit for your friends, next to your half a Damien Hirst sheep. Just keep it healthy by popping in a few nutrient pellets every day.
You may believe the hand is part of the rest of you; but why can’t we say that the rest of you is part of the hand? And given its potential to survive as long as the rest of you, it may, like you, have the right to exist. In the future there may be charities devoted to appendages: ‘Give a helping hand with a donation every month’.
All this may sound fanciful, but perhaps we should not dismiss the idea out of hand. Next, suppose that this is not the only accident. Let’s imagine you lose an arm. Again it is saved; but this time, after being discharged from Accident & Emergency, you rush to consult your lawyer: If I die, does the arm inherit anything? The house? And what about my wife? Were we to divorce, would she still be married to the arm?
The attorney tries to allay your fears, but you can see he is worried. He doesn’t know the answers either. You leave, deep in thought. As far as the law is concerned, you are still considered you – house, spouse and all – but how far does the long arm of the law stretch? And how much of you must be in one piece to still be considered you?

Handroid © Steve Lillie 2019. Please visit
May I Introduce To You, The One & Only John Locke?
The empiricist philosopher John Locke (1632-1704) didn’t ask that question directly, but it could be argued that his theory of personal identity has important implications for how we reflect on this sort of problem in the future. Locke’s conception is an ingenious concoction of Cartesian dualism and empiricism.
What makes you the same person as the bright young thing who went skipping through the doors of your first school so many years ago? You look very different now, and think differently too. In what sense are you still the same you? In An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Book 2 (2nd ed, 1694), Locke first notes that we have a basis for saying that someone continues to exists if their body persists continuously through time. This common-sense idea is allied to the conservation of matter. Then Locke defines some further essential criteria for personal identity. He argues firstly that somebody is the same person even if his or her body changes over time, provided they have an ongoing pattern of biological functions – so accounting for biological processes such as aging. Next, memory and the continuity of consciousness through time. He says, “as far as… consciousness can be extended backwards to any past action or thought, so far reaches the identity of that person; it is the same self now it was then; and it is by the same self with this present one that now reflects on it, that that action was done.” Thus he implies that personal identity is unchanging over time as long as memory acts as a kind of glue that connects past and present selves.
This notion directs us immediately to questions of moral and legal responsibility. Locke claims that it would be wrong to punish a present self for the actions of a past self to whom it was not consciously linked by a chain of memories.
It seems clear that Locke would not give any body-part, such as a finger, legal responsibility. It does not pass the consciousness and memory criteria for continued personal identity. Moreover, after you part company with your finger, a whole consciousness must belong to one part or the other; either to your finger or to the rest of your body:
“In this personal identity is founded all the right and justice of reward and punishment; happiness and misery being that for which every one is concerned for himself, and not mattering what becomes of any substance, not joined to, or affected with that consciousness. For… if the consciousness went along with the little finger when it was cut off, that would be the same self which was concerned for the whole body yesterday… Though, if the same body should still live, and immediately from the separation of the little finger have its own peculiar consciousness, whereof the little finger knew nothing, it would not at all be concerned for it, as a part of itself, or could own any of its actions, or have any of them imputed to him.”
This narrow sense of identity in terms of indivisibility (‘individual’ is derived from the Latin ‘in’ = ‘not’ and ‘dividus’ = ‘divisible’) is implicit in Locke. Whatever is you must be incapable of fission into a fraction of you, then; and this must be consciousness, since the other two features – body and memory – are both changeable and divisible.
The unitary nature of identity is often overlooked, but it has implications. You cannot have half a human right, and you cannot be half free, because these conditions correspond to the whole you, the consciousness, who cannot be a fraction of you. When someone loses their finger we don’t proportionally dock their voting rights.
It turns out that it will be an unlucky year for you. You should never have bought that 3D printer. Caught in a nasty explosion while trying to replace a cartridge using your one remaining arm, you lose both your legs and most of your viscera.
Not to worry. The medical services have been keeping an eye on you recently, and your organs are safe, marinating in aqua vita, while your brain remains intact within an array of robotic extensions. But we are now approaching a threshold where I have to ask, are you youanymore?
This is the very question psychiatrists and doctors are sometimes compelled to ask, usually without finding a straightforward answer. As far as philosophers are concerned, we may be drilling down to a reduced version of you who is nevertheless still you – still having all your memories and experiences, and keeping your metaphoric hands on the tiller.
René Descartes, for example, considered the pineal gland the place where mind and brain are connected, and hence, in a way, the seat of the soul. If so, it would be your pineal gland running the show if things came to the robotic almost worst. The reality of the mind-brain relationship is somewhat different, though, as we now know. Global Workspace Theory, originally proposed by the neuroscientist Bernard Baars, is an appealing idea. It conceives of brain and mind functions as being composed around a common workspace, similar to working memory in that some content is temporarily held in consciousness to be ‘worked’ upon. Content which makes it into this metaphorical theatre of the mind is broadcast across the brain, making it available to both conscious and unconscious processes.
Wherever we think the theatre of consciousness is located (if we happen to believe in such a thing), deciding when the lights are off and the curtains are down is liable to be somewhat arbitrary. It is here that the issue of personal identity gives rise to complex practical problems. For example, anyone having to decide whether to turn off life-support may also have to decide who, if anyone, is currently having their life supported.
All of our body and parts of the brain might be considered a collection of potential cast-offs. But if we find out that Locke is wrong about identity functioning through consciousness, how we deal with them would be very different. Without Locke’s criteria for personal identity through consciousness, we might want to consider the rights of cells taken from our body, such as blood or cancer cells. Currently, the cells that comprise a foetus extracted from the womb after nine months of gestation are accorded rights even before birth; but change the definition of a person, and an earlier stage of the foetus may be due rights. And if we are convinced of the Lockean notion of identity and we keep chopping away at a brain, we must know when consciousness is eliminated, at which point we are compelled to remove all rights and responsibilities. The problem is that consciousness is indivisible but the brain is not. Locke wedded Descartes’ immaterial mind to a thoroughgoing hard-headedness when it came to the body. But if we keep losing parts of the brain we might be forced to re-examine these notions of consciousness.
Even worse, if you are a thoroughgoing materialist, science has removed you from consideration. Such materialists claim there is no you in charge of anything, only a brain. Or you might call it the epiphenomenal self, the ghost in the machine, or the illusion of ego. On this basis, in the future, should a consensus exist that pseudo-consciousness is only ever due pseudo-rights and can only exercise pseudo-moral responsibility, a doctor’s decision when to terminate a life should not trouble the law or the medical professions because there is no actual self to eliminate nor any responsibility on their part when they do so. The laws that ethical committees decide to enact may then be called pseudo-laws, and we may call the argument for enacting these laws a pseudo-argument.
© Brett N. Wilson 2019
Brett Wilson is the author of the hard science fiction novel The Tears of God (2011). He lives in Manchester.

Sunday, July 14

Perils of Procrastination

Søren Kierkegaard On the Perils of Procrastination
This complementary article below appeared in a recent edition of Philosophy Now, to which I subscribe.  The edition included a number of interesting  articles covering Mind and Self.
Gordon Marino can’t wait to tell you about moral self-deception.
Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855), like Immanuel Kant before him, believed that ethical knowledge was universally distributed. Bob Dylan sang “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows”, and Kierkegaard might have said you don’t need an ethics expert to know right from wrong. He held that when it came to ethics, there was no object of knowledge – for instance, no set of rules or standards – to be transmitted. But just because the ethics expert can’t provide anyone with some new morsel of moral knowledge they don’t already know, it doesn’t follow that there’s nothing a writer can do to help a reader lead a more upright life. From Kierkegaard’s perspective, it becomes a matter of drawing something out of a person rather than putting something in, or as he expressed it in one journal entry, when it comes to the ethical, “… one has to pound it out of him” – as the corporal sees the soldier in the farm-boy and says, “I will have to pound the soldier out of him.”
The belief that when it came to matters moral there was nothing specific to communicate spurred Kierkegaard, often writing under pseudonyms, to develop his ‘method of indirect communication’, the aim of which was in part to prod people into a more vibrant and authentic relationship with the moral and religious ideals they already had.
One of the defining characteristics of existentialism is the enormous accent placed on action. Kierkegaard, the original existentialist, emphasized that when we don’t act on our convictions, we don’t understand them. He writes, “Precisely this is the profound untruth in all modern teaching, that there is no notion at all of how thought is influenced by the fact that the one presenting it does not dare to express it in action” (Journals and Papers, Vol. 1). By not expressing ideals through action, “the power of the thought disappears.” So his project involves prodding people into moral action, not just thought. Here I want to look at how this relates to procrastination.

Procrastination & Self-Deception

We cannot pass on our moral knowledge to others; but perhaps we can help one another avoid talking ourselves out of what we ourselves know.
In The Sickness Unto Death (1849), Kierkegaard, writing under the pseudonym of Anti-Climacus, urges the view that the sickness unto death is despair. And what is despair? In Part One, Kierkegaard defines despair in secular terms; for example as a spiritual imbalance and/or a lack of consciousness of being a self. In Part Two, however, he comes straight out and announces that despair is sin. And what is sin?
Kierkegaard commences with the Socratic notion that sin is ignorance. Yet, going from Socrates to Aristotle, we see that sin would not be sin if we sinned out of an ignorance of which we were not culpable, since sin implies some sort of guilt.
But suppose that our ignorance is self-induced? At this point, Kierkegaard launches into one the clearest explanations of self-deception to be found in the Western tradition:
“if a person does not do what is right at the very second he knows it – then knowing simmers down. Next comes the question of how willing appraises what is known. Willing is dialectical and has under it the entire lower nature of man. If willing does not agree with what is known, then it does not necessarily follow that willing goes ahead and does the opposite of what willing understood… rather willing allows some time to elapse, an interim called: ‘We shall look at it tomorrow’. During all this, knowing becomes more and more obscure, and the lower nature gains the upper hand more and more; alas, for the good must be done immediately, as soon as it is known… the lower nature’s power lies in stretching things out… And when knowing has become duly obscured, knowing and willing can better understand each other; eventually they agree completely, for now knowing has come over to the side of willing and admits that what [willing] wants is absolutely right.”
Kierkegaard is convinced that at some level we understand that doing the right thing will frequently bring us into collision with what we perceive to be our short and even long term self-interests. Consider, for example, a police officer who witnesses her partner of ten years abusing a suspect. Turn your partner in, and the thin blue line will more than likely turn its back on you. Outraged as she is, perhaps the officer thinks, “I have a family to feed and maybe I’d better sleep on the decision.” Sleep indeed she does. By the next day, she leads herself to believe that her partner’s over-reaction was just an aberration.
Kierkegaard warns then that putting moral decisions off is a common way of talking ourselves out of them. So for Kierkegaard, the relatively innocent-appearing sin of procrastination, something we associate with writing papers or filing taxes, and shrug off, is a door to perdition. However, he offers a prescription for neutralizing it.

Death & Time

In his powerful discourse ‘At a Graveside’ (1845), Kierkegaard emphasizes the existential importance of coming to a first-person understanding of our mortality. It might seem anachronistic but, to listen to Kierkegaard, earnestness (alvorlighed) as opposed to happiness ought to be the ultimate aim in life. He writes, “Earnestness is that you think of death, and that you are thinking it as your lot.” He then explains a number of ways in which people go wrong in trying to walk over their own grave, for example, by thinking of death as a ‘rest’, or as a ‘great equalizer’, or by putting yourself outside of death with rote memorized phrases such as, “Where I am death is not, and where death is I am not”. However, when we achieve the bone-deep understanding that it is certain that at some uncertain time it will be over for us, that understanding will give a force to life and help us avoid the temptation to procrastinate. The individual for whom the day receives high worth as being limited is not going to be inclined to procrastinate, to put off decisions with palliatives such as “I’ll sleep on it.” As Kierkegaard writes:
“Indeed, time (Tid) also is a good. If a person were able to produce a scarcity (Drytid) in the external world, yes, then he would be busy. The merchant is correct in saying that the commodity certainly has its price, but the price still depends very much on the advantageous circumstances at the time – and when there is a scarcity, the merchant profits … with the thought of death the earnest person is able to create a scarcity [of time] so that the year and the day receive infinite worth.”
Regarding our predilection for pulling the wool over our own eyes, Kierkegaard pronounces this dire verdict: “This is how the majority of men live; they work gradually at eclipsing their ethical and ethical-religious comprehension, which would lead them into decisions that their lower nature does not much care for.” And after we have given in and taken the road most travelled once, twice, thrice, maybe we lose confidence in our capacity to stand up for what is right.
The author of The Sickness unpacks despair in terms of ignoring your God-relation. Nevertheless, this austere and otherwise dogmatic text retains purchase even for adherents of the ‘God is dead’ gospel. After all, those who have put the question of religious belief to bed need only to read Kierkegaard’s anatomy of despair as referring to the process of losing faith in one’s agency – in one’s moral capacities – and thereby running up the white flag towards one’s moral aspirations.
Kierkegaard is often misunderstood as believing that we ought to act on feeling or impulse. But in his analysis of procrastination he is implying that we ought to act as soon as we know what’s right. This knowledge may require reflection. But we should be wary of reflecting our way out of tough decisions.
© Prof. Gordon D. Marino 2019
The author of The Existentialist’s Survival Guide: How to Live Authentically in an Inauthentic Age (Harper), Gordon Marino is Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Hong Kierkegaard Library at St Olaf College.


Tuesday, July 9

In defence of free will

The Spectrum of free will and determinism 

The age old philosophical question of the spectrum of free will verses determinism is one I have tended to argue in the past as having irrelevance to existence. 
That is because I think one lives a life as if one has that freedom of choice, for to entertain otherwise, I think risks falling prey to either a lack of motivation or hope. Our society and western legal system is of course based on the premise we are responsible for our actions and therefore have that freedom, barring health issues. 

However, there are valid reasons to put the case for determinism, or more particularly to argue they are not mutually exclusive, for maybe you can have a mixture of both.

Some philosophers hold the view that universal, (with no possible exceptions) laws of nature simply don’t exist. But the topic comes with a lot of baggage, so I have attempted to limit the analysis to free will versus casual determination, which is explained under the heading of types of determinism. 

Ultimately, one cannot say whether one view is true or not, nor the effect either would have, if one was found to be true, on human agency.
In the end I think it boils down to what makes most sense to us from our particular perspective in support of a meaningful existence. 

Different types of Determinism    

There are those neuroscientists in modernity that contend the brain and all of its outputs, including one’s choices, are beyond one’s physical control. 

Hence they believe the idea of free will is illusory, just as a computer is always subject to its programing. 

From a psychological viewpoint the argument is put that abandoning the notion of freewill provides a release from the burden and agony of decision making. They claim, paradoxically, that it gives impetus to respond positively to their fate but still live a life to the fullest. But I think this is more of a matter of how one responds to outcomes, as in a way of coping. The way we respond also infers a degree of freedom, just as to decide not to make a decision, remains an alternative choice.

There is also the ancient idea of casual determinism which gained traction in the 18th century along with the advancement in mathematics, understanding of the mind and the laws of nature.  

Casual determinism is the idea that every event is as a consequence and preceded by antecedent events and/or conditions, together with the laws of nature.
For instance we might have different tastes for things as a consequence of prior neural activity favouring one choice over another to give way to different structures. That idea envisages those antecedents would stretch back in time to creation.

That in itself seems to me to be a highly implausible idea, which I will talk about later.  
Determinism is also associated with fate, as in fatalistic determinism which suggests our existence and its outcomes are predetermined.
But even so in a general sense one can propose certain things are fated to happen given the way this has happened in the past, as in history repeats.

So that in summing up, as in that general sense, we can imagine that certain things are fated to happen. This does not in itself reference deterministic natural laws or universal deterministic laws. Rather, it is a matter of discerning the way that history tends to be repeated.
However, to the extent it remains true under a proposal
of determinism, as in all future events are destined to occur, than that is determinism.

But for the purpose of this paper, I will talk about the idea of free will versus casual determinism.
In search of self 
The idea of free will is inextricably tied up with how we view our self; what we hold ourselves to be in terms of the relative freedoms or otherwise assumed in that selfhood. For what is at stake is the layered representations of our minds and the degree of freedom we believe is inherent in the choices we make.
The idea advanced in modernity of our present state of consciousness is it will be the product of the mind’s eye. That is, in effect the amalgam of our minds layered representations (representations of representations), as a consequence of our past and present experiences, coupled with our stored set of values. In other words what you know, what you know you know, and the equivalent of a filing cabinet full of representations pertaining to the values that make up that selfhood.
But as such, it is also a moving feast.
For those stored layers of representations in the brain are constantly being updated to interact with incoming stimuli and everyday communications. There is the hope, given all of that flexibility and complexity, that there is an overarching purpose, to allow one to respond as one sees fit. How much of that decision making is made for us within the brain, before we mentally come to grips with a choice, remains (as in awareness) a moot point.
But for those who argue the case for determinism, I think most still act for all intents and purposes as if they are making real choices. For regardless of that belief, one’s self always gets involved,
whether determined for us or by choice

The Problem of time
A limiting factor attributable to the laws of nature and other material theories favouring determinism, is that they are viewed in relation to the state of the world at that time.

Our natural inclination is to think about things relating to the past as over and static, to be observed from the lens of our current world, whereas they actually profoundly influence what is our present state, to which we may not be privy. 

Hence, we have the concept of bi-directional determinism. That is, the specific state of the world at any time, combined with the laws of nature, determine both how events go after and equally before. So that conceptually, we could have periods when the world was imperfectly deterministic. Say for example determinism was interrupted for thousands of years by events such as spontaneous particle creation events (of which we are not privy) which say occur only once every thousand years in say a thousand-light-year-radius volume of space. Others might argue this is speculative and the laws are unbreakable.   

A repetition over evolution involving huge time periods, could suggest changes in those laws adapting to an entirely different world, beyond our current mental grasp.

For instance, what might conceivably still be heavily influenced by things that occurred prior to our existence as modern humans, believed to be somewhat late in the evolutionary cycle, roughly about 200,000 years ago?
Along that prior evolutionary journey, there are many tumultuous and seismic events that shaped our evolving consciousness. At various developmental stages for instance, our survival may have been severally threatened due to, say, severe climatic changes.

Anthropologists for instance believe there is evidence for this to the extent we very nearly became extinct. The world then, in recovery mode, may have operated in a non-deterministic way, where spontaneous growth lasted, say, for thousands of years. So that the laws of nature no longer operated in a way we understand today. That change may not be discernible to us looking back in time.  

Hence the weakness of those arguing for Determinism is that it requires a world that remains always in a well-defined state, to  ensure such laws are not only true, but they have always remained so. That seems to me to be somewhat implausible.    

A scientific perspective

Hence there is a growing number of physicists who believe determinism is false. One substantive lever against determinism lies in the family of quantum mechanics which clearly demonstrates a non-deterministic world.
There are many theories that serve us well in general terms, some of which might be regarded as deterministic and others not, ranging from mechanical to quantum and general relativity, but they don’t add much to the debate, as clearly in totality we are a long way away from a theory of everything. We would need to come up with a quantum theory of relativity as a good starting point which remains elusive.  

Furthermore, to reiterate, there is nothing special in relation to our past, which is oft erroneously considered over, and/or as past history which has little influence on the present and the future. Indeed, in respect to the question of time (considered by some to be illusory), if we try to relate it to the universe as in past present and future it becomes meaningless since it depends upon what space you occupy. Hence all we have is the concept of space-time.  
To reiterate then, in physics, the idea of the past being fixed, as distinct from the present (now) and the future (predictive), must be regarded as a false premise.

If we shake off the shackles of the past, wedded to unbreakable laws of nature, it may lead us to consider rationally a more fruitful world view. One that leaves open the possibility we are mostly free, but there remains an element of determinism.     
So that from my perspective, existence can be partly deterministic according to the specific time frame we occupy.  But I think existence affords us the necessary free agency or just that feeling as the circumstances dictate.