WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE AND FREEWILL: A LIBERTARIAN AND NATURALISTIC ENQUIRY INTO THE ACTIONS OF MACBETH

Abstract

The debate about freewill and determinism has been going on for centuries right from the classical period. It has developed into a web of arguments and counter arguments. Perhaps, this may be because, they are closely related to freedom of action and moral responsibility. Philosophers like Rene Descartes, argued that human choices are the product of non-physical spirit-mind, not the function of brain activity. Descartes opined that our physical bodies are indeed constrained by natural laws but our spirits have unbounded freedom and it is our spirits that are ultimately behind the free actions that we perform. This is a libertarian view which believes that metaphysically and morally, man is self-controlled and operates independently of others or other external forces. The naturalists like Emile Zola on the other hand argue that human actions are determined by hereditary and environment. And these factors are indeed beyond human control. If this is true, then the consequences of our actions past or present are not up to us. People have been coming up with excuses for their actions since Adam’s,”The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree and I did eat”; and Eve’s, “The serpent beguiled me, and I did”. Even the favourite excuse of great tragedy is almost always fate. The actions of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth have been subjects of debates: whether he acted freely or was influenced by external forces. This article aims to take a libertarian and naturalistic enquiry into the actions of one of Shakespeare’s greatest tragic characters: Macbeth. An attempt will be made to analyze his actions; to explore whether there were other alternatives available or open to him, in order to determine if he could have done otherwise in a particular situation.

Keywords: Freewill, Libertarianism, Macbeth, Naturalism, William Shakespeare


Article Review Status: Published

Pages: 42-47 (Download PDF)

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