“Look upon my works, ye mighty, and despair”
There are just three hours of Fringe left and before we know it one of TV’s most seminal works of science fiction will be over. But we are not there yet and this interregnum affords us some time for a little philosophical debate. Consider the title of this blog post (which was inspired by the last episode of Fringe to be aired) and ask yourselves how your personal philosophy impacts your outlook to the end of Fringe. In other words which side do you come down on Fate or Free Will?
The argument that you exercise free will over your destiny or that you are fated to play out your destiny has been argued for five seasons of Fringe. So which side are you on and how do you think Fringe will finally answer this question? The finale title seems to suggest that our players are willing to challenge fate because they believe it can be changed. To throw a monkey wrench into this philosophical debate we can look back at the episode “An Origin Story” and see how Peter Bishop and the rest set to implode the Observer wormhole only to have the wormhole reappear and deliver its cargo. Were the Observers able to calculate Peters machinations and reset the timeline? If so, does that mean they were able to preserve their destiny and manipulate it at the same time? (That would be headache inducing.)
To add further grist for the mill lets consider Walter’s need of absolution from God. You could argue that this version of Walter isn’t the same as the one we saw in the first three seasons of Fringe. However, this current iteration still recognizes he sought to play God and is wracked with guilt over it. He even seems resigned to eventually feel the wrath God over his indiscretions. But if God gave Walter free will then why would he need absolution from the Almighty? Walter has made his own decisions independent of God. But if God stands in judgment of Walter’s soul then doesn’t that suggest that God is the final arbiter of Walter’s fate and free will is an illusion? (More headaches ensue.)
So I ask you dear readers do you think our Fringe players control their own destiny or will the hand of Fate/God be the final judge? Will the introduction of a “variable” tip the hand of fate?
There is no fate but what we make for ourselves.
Sigh, you make me sad for the now defunct Sarah Conner Chronicles Dave. I always refer to this but the final episode was incredible. It opened up so many possibilities that now go unexplored. But I guess that was its fate. Or was it?
Happy Sunday night! Another prose of interesting thoughts. You make some interesting and head hurting ideas – lol. To me this can go circle in circle infinity. If in Fringe our characters “win” is that fate or them exercising their free will to change fate? The type of question you propose will drive a sane person mad… lol
As for me, I try to live my life as though I have free will. Even though yes, there are circumstances or what have you that happen in life that I have no say in (which I suppose is fate); yet I can still exercise free will in how I react or respond to those events. I guess you could say that we all have free will so to speak in a world filled with fate. Sometimes I think that as Walter once drew on the chalkboard talking about parallel universes – there are ways our lives are suppose to go and with free will we make decisions, take different avenues that change our path; yet our ending fate remains. Also, I guess you could say that all our lives are fated at some point for death. Our free will may help determine when/how that happens; yet we all someday will die. Morbid I know.
See? What a curious topic you have brought here. A topic not easily addressed and surely not answered here. Not sure what I said makes any sense, yet this is what you get for now.
On a wee bit different note, I am very curious to see how Fringe wraps up. I keep seeing many posts on hoping they get their “happy ending;” and, each time I read this or hear this (about the series ending happy) all I can think of is something Joel Wyman said a long time ago about the ending being satisfying where we can wake up the next day, thinking it’s all okay and can imagine our characters continuing on even though we (as the audience) don’t. He didn’t say that meant it’d be happy. I also feel this way and think of what Joel Wyman said when there is “talk” about one or more of the main threesome dying. For me, that would not be a satisfying ending and I’m not sure how they’d pull that off to make it so. I do hope it goes out in a way that the majority of us are satisfied (not everyone can be pleased). Guess we’ll see. I actually have been keeping myself from speculating. I am merely waiting on it to unfold.
Have an excellent week!
(PS – I posted a question or two in the feedback for the last episode. I’d like your input if you have a minute. Thanks.)
Happy Wednesday night to you Kristin!
I agree that these questions will drive one insane. I’m glad you decided to take on this weighty subject with your reply; I was afraid this subject would be a bit too dense and by the dearth of replies I guess I was right. I applaud your courage for tackling this material.
I pretty much agree with your assessment of free will and share your philosophy. I think humanity gets frustrated with life in general and at times and feels dis-empowered which leads to fatalism. There were and are entire generations of people that lived under tyranny and oppression and their fatalism was reflected in their works of art and literature. See that of the Jewish and Russian people.
There is always hope however and you’ll always find a kernel of it even in the aforementioned literature. Olivia is the avatar of hope in Fringe. We’ve seen her sink into despair but she always manages to bring herself out of it. You spoke of the ending of Fringe and you “hoped” it would satisfying for the majority. I feel it will be bittersweet. There will be some pain and sacrifice but with that there will be hope for the future and it will be embodied by a new generation of characters.
Thanks again Kristin you get a gold star for your reply! (That’s good btw.)
Are you familiar with Molinism? That is the doctrine put forth mainly by Christian philosopher Alvin Plantinga that I tend to believe best reconciles fate and free will. If I comprehend correctly, it states that God in addition to having knowledge of basic axioms and foreknowledge, also possesses middle knowledge meaning knowledge of every counterfactual reality for every free will decision every person could make. Then He chooses to actualize the best one. So in other words humans are completely free in this world, but fate is maintained.
What science fiction does best is allow us to explore such questions and is one reason I love it. I think back to one of my favorite Star Trek TNG episodes, “Time’s Arrow”. Remember how Data’s head was discovered in 19th century San Franscisco? It was always fated for the Enterprise to go back, yet they didn’t have to. Data & the crew made the free choice to go on that mission where he got decapitated.
How all this plays out on Fringe I don’t know, time seems changeable-we’ve seen rewrites of time (s3 finale) and loops of time in “White Tulip” and “And Those We Left Behind”. Perhaps we will have a final reset loop which was always fated to be, but brought about by the free will choice of our Fringe team.
Regarding Walter, Michael may have given him all the former memories too. I think one of the morals of the Fringe story is that science is to be used to further good for all & not used for control. Walter has done much of the latter with all the subjects he experimented on and his idea for his own universe that Bell eventually ran with. If anyone needs absolution, it is Walter.
Sorry, didn’t intend to write a long comment. Can’t wait to see how all this will unfold.
Well Chris I can honestly say I’ve never heard of Molinism and I took several philosophy courses in college. It sounds absolutely fascinating but I don’t buy it. (No offense.) Too easy! Call me a New England Calvinist (Fatalist?) but it is too easy. Clever yes, but God still gets to choose in the end. Did God really have a hand on all those mind numbing Red Sox chokes? We better not raise that subject in church.
I do remember that STTNG episode it was a two parter I think. There was another one where Data existed as several versions of himself all at the same time and they had to throw some switch to save the day. He had to decide which version in time had the best chance to do it. He chose wisely. I wish I could remember which episode it was. But it does speak to your point about science fiction being able to explore these points and for that I love it also.
I like your idea about Michael giving Walter back his old memories. We didn’t see it but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. We didn’t get to see what Michael shared with Nina either Not yet anyway!
Science or at least man will never learn the lesson that it should be used for good. See the story of Frankenstein. I think we can agree Fringe has borrowed heavily from the story of Frankenstein and his monster. How did that end? Not well! As I told Kristin above there is always hope and hope springs from the well of free will.
I love well thought and long replies like yours Chris it is never a problem and always welcomed. Thanks!
I am truly amazed to have brought up something that you’re unfamiliar with, have to mark this down! It is interesting to me what those New England Calvinists must think, did God hate the Redsox for a while? Ha.
I had forgotten but now recall that Star Trek episode, a good one, think it was an earlier one.
It will be interesting to see what Walter does with those flashes of memory, some were of the original timeline. And I agree about Frankenstein, it’s been directly mentioned at least twice that I can remember.
Just about 3 hours to go until “The Boy Must Live”! More answers & I bet questions still coming.
I have always liked to believe that we are in control of our own destiny. The choices we make and our responses to the events we face are what make us who we are. Certainly there are events like natural disasters that are out of human hands to control. A lot of people Ive talked to try and argue that we are fated to face those events, but the rest of our choices are ours to make.
But if we are, for example, fated to be on a Florida coast when a hurricane hits, doesn’t that negate the “free will” in our previous choices? If we are always destined to be there then no matter what we chose we would still end up there. So can we only have one or the other, or can we have a combination of the two?
This is a very hard topic to think about because we will most likely never have full answers. This has been explored on Fringe from the beginning. What are the odds that Olivia, experimented on as a child, would end up working with the man who experimented on her to solve cases? And even further, she works along side the man’s son, whom she had a deep connection with even in the briefest moment as a child?
We see through the Olivia from Over There that while many things are drastically different for her and they made very different decisions, they are still drawn in similar directions. Working in the same field, falling for the same guy.
It is the opposite for Lincoln and his alternate. Even though their lives were practically parallel in their choices and major events, they ended up being very different Lincoln Lees.
As much as Fringe has explored this idea and it seems to have come to a head with the final season and questions with the ‘new timeline,’ I don’t believe Fringe will give us a specific answer to this long-debated question. They will leave it up to the viewer to decide if everything was lined up from the start or if our heroes are in control and the Observers were “just better at math” and could direct what seemed like fate to us.
Sorry if this dragged too long! A lot to say and a lot to debate.
Satisfied on the drama end NOT on the scifi end. What do i watch now? this show failed to really show all the things it told us about and that’s curious because it would have taken just as much time to show us as it did to tell us.
I wanted (on the whole) a darker, more insane, more maniacle Walter. I wanted to see the fabric of reality really ripping at the seams….we got a little of that in the pocket dimension where everything was folded in on it’s self but not enough. and I’d have found the show more interesting if walter’s Loyalties had been MUCH more ambiguous….perhaps unknowable.
anyway, there is pretty much no GOOD scifi left on TV now that Fringe is gone. So …I am pretty much just going to stop watching the stuff completely.
Good job Fox.