Choices: Determinism and Free Will

Despite Squall's reluctance, his position and capabilities make him the best person to be responsible for leading his team to save the world; it is ultimately his choice to take advantage of that. Would he make that choice because he was destined to, or because it was his own uninfluenced and conscious decision?

For centuries, the brightest of philosophers and intellectuals have debated whether or not our actions are made by our freedom of choice or part of a bigger, planned scheme made by the universe. No one quite knows the answer to this question, and many, including Squall, cognitively take part in this age-old argument.

"Life is like a game of cards. The hand that is dealt you represents determinism; they way you play it is free will"
--Jawaharlal Nahru

Squall becomes uncomfortable and tense whenever there's mention of him using his capabilities to the fullest. Ironically, Squall is a born leader much like his estranged father, the president of Esthar. His competence in military tactics, knowledge of psychological warfare, and skill in the difficult-to-master Gunblade would presumably qualify him. However, herein lies problem: whether or not he wants to become a leader is ultimately his decision. Through his natural abilities, Squall is appointed the de facto leader of his party, but internally, he himself refuses to acknowledge the position he is in and becomes somewhat irritated when his comrades look to him for the best decision. When people point this out to him, such as General Caraway's comment about the leader's role being vital, Squall feels almost as if he's being set up for something--something that he doesn't want to do. At the same time, Squall is used to following orders, not directing them. His military background dictates that he should go either by the book or what his superiors assign; the reason why Squall is good at what he does is because he does not have to think for himself or otherwise.

All of this pressure eventually ruptures when Headmaster Cid suddenly makes Squall the commander of Balamb without his approval, having too recognized his ability. Squall, taken aback by Cid's comments about how it was his destiny and fate to lead the garden, goes into an uproar and questions why certain responsibilities are inevitable and had been decided since his birth. He believes he should have the right to say something and make these decisions himself, rather than just merely "falling into them". (1). Thus, Squall refuses to accept that certain aspects out of his control are to dictate his life.

Squall's quarrel with fate stems from being given a hard time because of it. It was "fate" that took away his mother, father, and sister--people who would have been important to him while growing up. However, Squall was void of those things since before he could remember, with his memory of his past only extending so far back due to the side effects of GF junctioning. It is also fate that takes Rinoa away; however, with his persistence and will power, he travels to the far off Esthar and risks his life to save Rinoa and ensure her safety. He fights fate and destiny trying to be unkind to him again, and he surfaces victorious by making the right choices, or rather, a going down a parth he knew he wouldn't regret.

From the story, we learn that it's the regret he hates the most--the regret of making the wrong decision due to his hesitance. He doesn't want to be so desperately trapped somehwere he didn't want to be in the first place; fate had dealt that damage to him one too many times already.

Squall accepts his position as the commander of Balamb Garden rather unwillingly, or at least not on the pretense of fate. In the battle against Galbadia, he steps up to his rightful place because he realizes that he has something to protect: innocent lives, people he cares about, and his home. In addition, he finds out that the SeeDs were originally organized by Edea in order to fight the sorceress, he himself succumbing to the fact that it's their destiny to face her (2). However, this isn't the end of that story, and it turns out to be, ironically, almost a contradiction. After the defeat of Ultimecia, Squall is sent back in time and confronts Matron Edea, along with a younger Squall, at the old orphanage he grew up in. Squall makes informs Matron of the idea behind SeeDs and Gardens, thus prompting her to form them that Squall would eventually become a part of. In this light, one can even say that Squall's predetermined fate as a SeeD is manipulated by his very own decision to tell her. (3).

There are several factors involving whether or not Squall's role in the grand scheme of things is due to a decision made by fate or because he chose to be part of it. From situations he put into, such as winding up a SeeD, to ridiculous time paradoxes, there is no simple way to answer this question. But perhaps there can be a resolute acceptance that Squall's choices are both predetermined and made because of free will. We can even say he was condemned to be free. All in all, it might be best to simply agree on what Squall's would have to say about this and to just stop thinking about it all together. Instead, we should leave it to Irvine to do the talking (and thinking!) with one of his most inspiring lines of the game:

"You've all heard this before. How life has infinite possibilities. I don't believe that one bit. There weren't many paths for me to choose. Sometimes, there would only be one. From the limited possibilities I faced, the choices I made have brought me this far. That's why I value the path I chose... I want to hold true to the path that HAD to be taken. I know our opponent is Matron, whom we all love very much. We might lose something very important on account of the GF. But I don't mind. It's not like I drifted here on the tides of fate. I'm here because I chose to be here"


Footnotes
  1. ^ Ironically, Squall's occupation as a mercenary forces him to make decisions based on someone else's command. To add insult to injury, he seems quite content with that for a while (see War: Destruction and Creation).

  2. ^ Edea formed the SeeDs knowing that they would have to fight her in the future when she would no longer be who she originally was.

  3. ^ Oddly enough, there is a parallel between this event and one of religious doctrine, particularly Christianity. It claims that God determines events in our lives. In a way, Ultimecia's Time Compression is a god-like power; Squall is sent to the past and tells Matron the idea of SeeDs and Gardens, which will ultimately determine what will happen in the then-future. In the midst of this dumb (but profound!) time paradox issue, Squall has essentially become fate itself.


About Antihero
Antihero is a fansite dedicated to Squall Leonhart, a fictional character from Final Fantasy 8. Started in August 2004, this site hosts a collection of analyrical essays and writings geared towards helping to understand the character on a critical level. All personal opinions are subject to debate. Also featured is an archive of images collected from various places over the years.
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