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Submitted on
November 11, 2008
Image Size
8.3 MB


2,407 (who?)

Camera Data

Photosmart M425
Shutter Speed
1/54 second
Focal Length
12 mm
ISO Speed
Date Taken
Oct 28, 2008, 4:28:09 PM
a portrait of determinism by relaxeder a portrait of determinism by relaxeder
mostly graphite, a bit of needle and thread, and i just typed out the little zeros and ones part

thank you to :iconbluetigressstock: for the stock photo i used as reference for the head of the girl.

The debate on free will vs. determinism is an old one – going back millennia and still being argued today. Many of you may already know all about it, but just in case you don’t – determinism (sometimes associated with notions such as fate or providence) is the philosophical belief that every event or action is the inevitable result of preceding events and actions. It’s pretty intuitive for people to think in terms of simple cause and effect, yet – it’s also pretty intuitive for people to assume they have free will. It’s my opinion, though… that something’s gotta give (at least in terms of how we regard human choices and their significance). My purpose in creating this piece isn’t to merely present the debate as an intellectual puzzle or to even argue on behalf of the, admittedly, problematic position of free will – my intention is to expose determinism as the bleak, demoralizing, degrading, and dehumanizing philosophy I believe it to be.

There are 3 general positions on the issue… the determinists for determinism, the libertarians (nothing to do with the political party) for free will, and the compatiblists – who, somehow, believe that free will and determinism can be true at the same time.

Determinists believe that all events (including our decisions) are fixed in an interlocked chain of causation that leaves no room for free will – at all. The universe functions like a giant mechanism and humans (being no exception) operate according to its dictates. A star explodes, a dog farts, a raindrop falls, a couple makes love, one person sacrifices their life for another, or somebody drowns a baby in a bathtub – it’s all pretty much the same… fixed events that never could have been any other way. Are we only mere cogs caught in the vast machine? Am I only a product of my biological, psychological, sociological, cultural, and historic circumstances? Certainly these things have a profound influence, but do they absolutely determine every single motive, thought, emotion, and action of mine? I don’t pretend to know, but I sincerely hope not. It’s not the philosophy that I ascribe to, but it is an understandable and legitimate view to take. If one is to take this view, however, it’s my opinion that it should be taken in its entirety. It often seems that determinists surgically remove free will from their worldview while everything else about their worldview remains suspiciously intact… thus ignoring or, at least, grossly underestimating the significance of free will. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that determinism is true… what would that imply? Free will (be it an illusion or a reality) is the axis from which many human values stem. There is no legitimate basis for moral responsibility within a theory that denies free will, for example. How can a person be held morally responsible for their actions if they weren’t free to do otherwise? Likewise – identity, creativity, love and friendship, the concept of an open future, individuality, dignity, and personal achievement would all be significantly undermined if determinism were to replace free will as a fundamental and accepted feature of reality. My contention that our most dearly held values would crumble into ashes under a deterministic worldview isn’t intended as a refutation of determinism… all I’m doing here is pointing out the disconcerting baggage that the theory carries with it.

Personally – I am a libertarian. Like I said before: it’s a problematic position to take… yet - it’s the only position that offers any worthwhile hope, dignity, and value. Robert Kane (a philosopher and libertarian) gives a definition of free will that I am in complete agreement with: “the power of agents to be the ultimate creators (or originators) and sustainers of their own ends and purposes”… something completely other than either rigid determinism or arbitrary randomness. It’s my opinion that for free will to be real in any meaningful sense it must meet these two conditions: 1. we must be ultimately responsible for (at least some of) our choices. 2. there must be real (not illusory) alternative possibilities present to us. I don’t deny that a whole host of variables (genetics, environment, and so on) play into what I do, think, and feel – I just don’t believe that’s the whole story.

As for the compatibilists – I think it’s a weak and confused position on the matter… a feeble attempt at trying to have the best of both worlds. If you read the compatibilists arguments carefully you’ll find that compatibilism is really only determinism concealed by word games… all compatibilists do is redefine free will so that it’s no longer at odds with determinism. The very definition of determinism excludes the idea of free will. To quote William James: “The issue that will be seen is a particularly sharp one which no eulogistic terminology can smear over or wipe out. The truth must be on one side or the other, and it’s lying with one side makes the other false.”

If you’ve gotten this far – I thank you for taking the time to read my ramblings. Believe it or not – I actually tried to make it concise.

- a related work if you're interested:…
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Daily Deviation

Given 2009-01-25
"... an excellent piece conceptually, with beautifully precise execution in graphite. Note the domino effect, in which the dominoes in the upper left corner flip the switch for the machine that in turn flips the first domino". a portrait of determinism by *relaxeder. I once pointed out to him :"i keep finding stuff that catches my eye (on people's favorites), i follow them down and keep winding up in your gallery!". It's true. See for yourselves. ( Suggested by Sya and Featured by stigmatattoo )
Art-of-Eric-Wayne Featured By Owner Jun 13, 2014
I was writing a piece about "Consciousness, Free Will & Art" for my blog, and while doing some research about the connection between determinism and postmodernism one of the first links that popped up in Google was to your "Portrait of Determinism". This surprised me a bit because I already know your art from DA, and I've featured several of your pieces in my group and have "favorited" a lot of your work.

As it happens, I fully agree with your expressed opinion. I also used your image, credited you, and linked to this page, within my article.

You might find my essay somewhat interesting, if you aren't completely burnt out on the topic. I argue, among other things, that causation applies to matter and not to immaterial consciousness. If you're interested, the post is here:…
Prophet-malum Featured By Owner May 5, 2013  Student Writer
What if free will is like Quantum Theory?
relaxeder Featured By Owner Jun 2, 2013   Traditional Artist
Could be.
Prophet-malum Featured By Owner Jun 3, 2013  Student Writer
And also, there's the Fried will Problem,

Which is when a person's Choices begin to accrue such a Number of Consequential Responsibilities - So that their free will becomes a form of Self-created Predeterminism.
Binding them to the Law they themselves put forth.

Thus frying their will.
Submerging it in unctual, or oillike, Work and/or pleasure.
relaxeder Featured By Owner Jun 3, 2013   Traditional Artist
See what you mean, but even in the instances where we'd be subject to the consequences of previous choices...we'd still be ultimately responsible. It's not my contention that free will exists in a vacuum. Of course we're subject to a whole host of influences (even ourselves)... the point, though, is that we aren't always mere conduits, but occasionally active participants. Your idea seems to be that the cumulative effect of our choices, somehow, hinders freedom... to me, though, it simply emphasizes how potent our choices really are.
Prophet-malum Featured By Owner Jun 3, 2013  Student Writer
Epicurus trumps German Minds even in Hell -
But worse is He therein and well
It should be so
For such a soul should only woe
of the Knowledge perforce He know.

For The One has all in measure
Pain Ultimate and vacous Pleasure
Man's short life He should Treasure
For of all He Knows has He No Breadth sure.

That is my full and total Opinion of this matter.
relaxeder Featured By Owner Jun 3, 2013   Traditional Artist
Have to forgive my lack of sophistication, but the cryptic poem above doesn't do much in the way of clarifying your opinion for me. Better minds than mine might pick up on it right away, but I'm afraid only the most direct and explicit explanations make any sense to me regarding the, already, slippery subject of free will.
Prophet-malum Featured By Owner Jun 3, 2013  Student Writer

Well, Its basically this,
A person who believes they have free will does.
A person who don't, doesn't.

Ipso facto, determinists are people who've exercised the Ultimate form of free will - will-denial.

Whereas The Volitionist merely goes along with their predetermined default choice of Being, Quote, ''Free''.

The Only two things determined here are that Humans are so subjective that, as far as we know, What you believe automatically becomes True - By magic - and that People are Determined not to not choose.

As Nietzsche, The Only Ever Honest Philosopher, said, ''You can escape free choice - but you can't escape the Necessity To Choose SOMETHING.''

Otherwise, Things go along just as they were...
relaxeder Featured By Owner Jun 3, 2013   Traditional Artist
(1 Reply)
deloeste33 Featured By Owner Mar 19, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thank you, Matthew. You're very kind.

I'm intrigued by this: " a bit of needle and thread"? What is this means?
Did you sew the piece of paper? Where?

I'm observing all over the drawing and you were able to create very convincing relief and solidity effects. I can't see if something is not drawn.
Nevertheless, I can actually see that your work, despite the hyperrealism, does not reject the graphic nature of the practice of drawing, just the opposite.
I find this paradox very enjoyable.
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