I've recently been struggling with the idea of Fatalism, Determinism, Compatibilism, Libertarianism, etc., and from what I've been reading, the general consensus is compatibilism among most philosophers. If this is the case, then what sense is there in being proud of myself for anything good I do? Is there such thing as effort in my life, or am I just on an inevitable and programmed path? Truth is, I'm an artist. Online, I prefer images be sourced, so anyone who appreciates it enough can get to it easily, and credit goes to the artist. I like to believe that the drawings I make and images I create have something respectable behind them, effort, hard work, practice, time, determination, patience, fun.. but then this debate of Moral Responsibility comes up, and muddles me a bit. I've been experiencing alot of mental stuff for a while- and through all of this, philosophical questions, existential crises, all of it just comes and never stops. It's like there's always something for me to worry, or think too deeply about. Truth be told, I have in fact had some suicidal thoughts, but not-so-much that I have any plans to go through with it ever, I like to think I'm better than that and I'm pretty stable now. I guess it all comes from the fact that I was brought up always believing that your reality is what you make of it, try your best, never give up, doesn't matter where you start, anyone can make if if they put their mind to it, all those sorts of things, and I've had a great life so far, I can't complain in the slightest. I'm definitely thankful I'm here and all, and I like to believe that the choices and effort I made got me here, but..- well, you see my problem. I love making art for people, I love entertaining, giving gifts, cheering people up and all- I love the feeling of being thanked and thanking others for what they do, inspiring people, and just being a real go-getter in life,- But if it's all automatic and just how things -have- to happen, why should anyone ever thank me? Why even enjoy it if I have no real responsibility towards it? If it all holds true, I don't deserve anything, I never really earned anything, it's all just a big on-rails illusion. By this point in my struggle, I can accept and believe the idea that I am -all- of me, my body, my conscious, my subconscious, everything is still all part of me, and therefore me. Ultimately, I guess what I want to know is- where DOES our control lie, if anywhere at all? I guess I've been stuck in this rut of not being able to feel pride in myself and taking credit and responsibility for a while, and can't find myself a happy medium, at least not yet.. Thanks for any help you can give.

You should not let these thoughts get you in a rut or depress you (and if you're feeling depressed or suicidal, you should definitely get professional support to make sure the problem is not more serious than you think). Fatalism is not true if it's the idea that nothing we do makes a real difference to what happens--that what's fated is going to occur no matter what. Even if determinism is true (or false), what we decide and do makes a crucial difference to what happens in the future--if we had done something different, the future would be different.

I'm a compatibilist, and you can see some of my answers at this website or short articles on my personal website to get more argument for why I think this (majority) view is the right one. But no position in the free will debate suggests that our efforts don't matter, that we are just programmed machines, or that everything is inevitable (in the fatalistic sense I mention above). Or none of them should. You sometimes hear scientific skeptics about free will talk this way, but they are being over-dramatic.

Since you mentioned that you are an artist, I'll present the opening paragraph of a chapter I'm working on where I discuss free will as a psychological accomplishment, one that depends largely on our remarkable capacities for imagination. I hope some of what I've said here helps!

"Imagine writing a philosophy paper (or a short story). You imagine a range of options for presenting the argument (or the plot), the structure,some of the sentences. But first, the opening line. You want to get it right. There are better and worse answers to the question: How should I begin? And regarding the rest of the paper or story: What should I do? To ask these questions requires the capacity to imagine a range of alternatives, and there are better and worse alternatives to imagine. To answer these questions requires the capacities to select among those alternatives, and there are better and worse ways to select them. Some people possess the diverse range of psychological capacities needed to write a philosophy paper (more people have what it takes to write some sort of story). Among these people, some possess these capacities to a greater degree than others: capacities to imagine a wider range of relevant options, to shift attention away from less—and towards more—promising options, to select the better options, and to execute these choices—making the imagined future the actual one. Furthermore, different people, at different times, have better and worse opportunities to exercise these capacities—for instance, the free time to let the mind wander and to put words on paper. We don’t know a lot about how these psychological capacities work or what underlying mechanisms explain their functioning (and malfunctioning). But when the sentences flow from your exercising these capacities for imagination,attention, selection, and execution, well, then you are the author of your paper or your story. And you deserve some measure of credit for the good ones, culpability for the bad ones.

So it is with freewill, or so I will argue. For an agent to have free will is for her to possess the psychological capacities to make decisions—to imagine alternatives for action, to select among them, and to control her actions accordingly—such that she can be the author of her actions and be morally responsible for them—that is, deserve credit and blame for them."

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