Does Destiny Preclude Free Will?

They should be mutually exclusive, right?

Adrian Eaton


If humans have free will, does that mean destiny doesn’t exist?

If we all have a destiny, then do we really have free will?

Is it possible destiny and free will can coexist?

Destiny and free will have an interesting relationship. We seem to experience both simultaneously, but in theory one should preclude the other.

We’re told to “fulfill” our destiny… but shouldn’t it just happen to us without any effort?

My favorite quote that captures our struggle with this duality is:

“One often meets their destiny on the path they take to avoid it.”

Someone might strive to live their life without regrets and subsequently decide to avoid any potentially dangerous or threatening experiences — never traveling to foreign countries or committing to relationships — ultimately regretting the lack of texture in their life. Someone else might also strive to live life without regrets and subsequently decide to engage in all sorts of dangerous activities — and they might regret some physical or emotional injury or a wrongdoing on their part.

Despite our free will, we seem destined to certain outcomes in life.

Regret is a common theme. In the words of philosopher Sören Kierkegaard, “my honest opinion and my friendly advice is this: do it or do not do it — you will regret both.”

The point of this piece is not to talk about regret, though. It’s to explore this confusing relationship between free will and destiny.

Photo by Sammie Chaffin on Unsplash

We can, and do, control ourselves. Our personalities may be influenced by others — friends, parents, siblings, celebrities. There is a philosophical debate about the “I” versus the “me” and whether our decision-making self is the same or separate from our experiencing self. Regardless of whether this claim is a prior or a posteriori: we know that we humans feel the sensation of free will.