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Determinism: Free Will and Question Essay

The question of free will vs. determinism has been debated for a long time. Some people believe humans have the capability to use free will. For many theists, free will is a gift from God. They believe that if people did not have free will then they are not morally responsible for their actions. However others argue that human’s actions are due to determinism, so if humans follow the course of natural law, it is hard to believe that actions are freely chosen. Except then the question occurs, why anything should be debated if everything is based on determinism.

Free will is the ability to make free choices that are unconstrained from outer situations or by fate or divine will. The notion of free will has religious, ethical and scientific interferences. For example in the religious sense, free will entails that it does one does not assert its power over individual will and choices. In ethics, it has problems about whether one can be held morally responsible for their actions. Free will has been an ongoing argument as philosophers disagree with the term free will. An example would be, if a family lives in Dusseldorf they choose whether to support Fortuna football team or not.

However this afflicts with the fact that if everyone supports Fortuna then it is common for them to also support the team based on peer pressure. Determinism has a variety of meanings; casual determinism is the theory that future events are somewhat based on the events from our past. Local determinism which is the theory that all plans are either wrong or right. Theological determinism, this is the theory that god determines what we will do. And finally biological determinism is the idea that all of humans behaviors, beliefs and desires are set by our genetics.

For example homosexuality vs. heterosexuality or racism vs. patriotism; this is generally based on past recollections of what family is telling you or what you pick up throughout life. It is not something that suddenly happens; it progresses through time based on past experiences. There is also another type of determinism which is slightly more realistic this is called Soft determinism is looks at it slightly differently, it argues that people’s behavior is inhibited by the environment, but only to a certain extent.

It also means that there is a small part of free will in all behavior shown by humans; however it can also be controlled by outside forces. HUMAN NATURE AND HUMAN FREEDOM One way of approaching that very large question, “What is human nature? ” is by confronting the somewhat smaller question of human choice and human freedom. Do we have free will? Do my decisions originate with me or is everything determined? The issue has been central in both western and eastern philosophy, and had its origins in western religions over concerns about God’s creative powers and omniscience.

Eastern religions lean in the direction of a more impersonal Divine process which proceeds in an ineligible and necessary way. But, the modern scientific view of both the natural world and the human world raises many of the same questions and challenges to the notion of human freedom. The Darwinian view of the origin of the human species, DNA and genetic research and contemporary break-throughs in neurophysiology lend strong evidence to the view that what we are and what we do are a function of our biological make up. Psychological and sociological theories, by and large, lead in the same direction.

Sigmund Freud and B. F. Skinner differ radically in their approach to understanding human beings, but both of them share a strongly deterministic view. Fundamental to Freud is the notion that there are no human accidents. Slips of the tongue, gestures, dreams, hand washing are all caused by deep seated factors of which we are mostly unaware. The Unconscious dominates and “controls” our conscious lives, and most often the REAL reasons for our actions are beyond our knowledge and control. B. F. Skinner and behaviorism are not as popular as they once were, but many of his central theses have become part of common sense.

Our behavior (or actions) are the result of the way our environment (parents, schools, society) reinforced or failed to reinforce past behavior. Essentially, we just are a big bundle of reinforced behavior patterns. Human behavior is more complex but no different in KIND than the rat who learns to run mazes by being reinforced or the pigeon who is taught how to play ping-pong. A classic debate has been whether nature (genetics) or nurture (environment) is the more fundamental for human nature, but the deterministic point of view wins on either account.

Human beings are a product of nature AND nurture. Many of you are interested in psychology so that you can understand human behavior, but our most fundamental way of understanding phenomena of any kind is to delve into causes. Psychology is often characterized as a science which attempts to explain and predict human behavior. The view that human choices and actions are caused is part of a larger philosophical theory called DETERMINISM. DETERMINISM , very simply stated, is the theory that all events are caused; we live in an ordered universe and all change occurs with law-like regularity.

This is a metaphysical view about the nature of things and the world. It is sometimes argued that determinism implies that everything in the future can be, in principle, predicted, and that events in the past are, in principle, explainable. There are natural laws of science which have the form: All X’s are (or, are followed by) Y’s which is equivalent to: If X occurs then Y occurs. Thus, if we know the initial condition (X occurs) and the law (If X then Y) we can explain/predict the occurrence of Y.

Determinism is the contention that all physical (and mental) events in the universe can be incorporated under such laws. This is NOT the view that we can actually predict everything. Our ignorance of facts is enormous and we certainly do not know all the laws and statistical regularities which describe events Rocks of sufficient size and thrown with sufficient speed cause glass to break. Lowering the temperature of water below 32 degrees causes water to freeze. Knives through hearts cause death. There are causes for why my car starts, and if it doesn’t, there are causes for that too.

When we say that some event “x” causes some event “y” we seem to be asserting that given that x occurred, then y HAD to occur, or that it MUST occur. III. HARD DETERMINISM is the theory that because DETERMINISM is true, no one is free; no one has free will (or choice) and no one truly acts freely. Since philosophers like to give arguments for theories in a standard form of argument. 1. Determinism is true: all events are caused. 2. Therefore, all human desires and choices are caused. 3. For an action to be free it would have to be the result of a choice, desire or act of will which had no cause.

That is, free WILL means that the Will or choosing “mechanism” initiates the action. ________________________________________________ 4. Therefore there can be no free choices or free will. The HARD Determinist does specify what WOULD have to be the case for there to be freedom: A free act or choice would be one which is uncaused, or happened independent of causes, or completely disconnected from preceding events. The “Will” or person doing the choosing and acting would have to be a primum mobile (first mover), a new beginning, or an original creative source of activity.

But, this cannot be, it is argued, since surely actions are caused by wants and desires, wants and desires flow from our character, and our character is formed by environment and heredity. Trace the causes of any event or action back and it will have sources which are outside ourselves and our control. Evidence for determinism comes from common sense and science. You simply would not believe a medical report which announced that it had been discovered that cancer had no cause, or that there was no cause for your car not starting.

In human affairs too, we firmly believe that the better we get to know someone the less surprised we will be about what they do in particular circumstances. In other words the better we get to know the initial conditions (his/her character) the more reliable predictions we can make. When you make a mistake you often say, “I didn’t know ol’ Billybob as well as I thought. ” You attribute your mistake to ignorance of all the initial conditions; you do not believe that the action was without cause.

The progress of science, the great advances in explaining and predicting events in both the natural and the social sciences which heretofore seemed deeply mysterious is offered as evidence that all events could be explained if we searched long enough. Psychology as a science of human behavior is based on the notion that one can come up with causes of behavior and formulate laws of behavior. Depending on the particular approach to psychology, these laws could link up behavior with mental antecedents, mental events with other mental events, or it may be found that all so-called mental activity has a physical cause or basis in brain activity.

That is, it may turn out that explanations of all human activity will be reducible to biological or neurological explanations. Behaviorism is one psychological theory which claims that behavior can be understood and explained in terms of patterns of reinforcement without appealing to mental events. But determinism does not rise or fall with any particular psychological theory. Nineteenth century psychology which emphasized introspection of consciousness, still tried to find laws governing thought processes and indeed the expression “laws of thought” is common in 19th century psychology textbooks.

The last kind of evidence comes from introspective analysis of our behavior. Often when we really think about why we did something we find causes of which we were not first aware. Sometimes we find unconscious motivations which originate from happenings in early childhood. Other times we can be deeply puzzled about the causes of our own behavior, but we invariably think that with enough analysis or introspection the causes could be found. Some puzzles about determinism: What is the logical status of the thesis:

all events are caused; that is, what if anything would count against the thesis? If one tries to bring up a counterexample, the determinist standard answer seems to be “We don’t know what the cause is, but there must be one. ” But, this is just begging the question. Secondly, do we know what we mean when we say, “x causes y? ” Does this mean that y must occur or that y necessarily occurs, given that x occurs? Since, we only know what causes what by observation, it seems that all we can assert is “y always has followed x.

” That is, there is an invariable and regular set of experiences we have had, but this is a far cry from saying that y MUST occur, given that x occurred. Thirdly, Is their analysis of the meaning of “free” correct? Do we mean that something is uncaused we say that it is free? Finally, haven’t deterministic models of the physics of the universe been challenged by indeterministic ones. Isn’t there suppose to be a basic indeterminacy at the quantum level? And, wouldn’t this indicate that there are some chance elements in nature? free will vs. determinism |[pic] | Definition:

The question of free will is one which has been hotly debated for millennia. Some people believe that humans have the capacity for free will – the ability to choose their actions without being forced to follow a certain course by either by the influence of others or by natural laws. For many theists, free will is regarded as a special gift from God. The notion of human free will is also an important premise for a lot of what happens in human society – in particular, when it comes to our legal system. Free will is necessary for the notion of personal responsibility.

If people do not have free will, then it is difficult to argue that they are personally and morally responsible for their actions – and if that is the case, how can they be punished for their misdeeds? In fact, how can they be praised for the good things they do, if those actions were not also freely chosen? Others, however, argue that if the universe itself is deterministic in nature, then human actions must also be deterministic – thus, modern determinism tends to be an outgrowth of modern science. If human actions simply follow the course of natural law, then it is difficult to hold that those actions can be “freely” chosen.

Those who advocate determinism run into something of a contradiction, however, when they try to argue their point with those who argue for free will. If it is true that nothing is freely chosen, then those who believe in the existence of free will do not do so by choice – so what is the point of trying to convince them otherwise? Indeed, what is the point of trying to convince anyone of anything if all events are determined? One thing to note about the debate between free will and determinism is that both terms tend to be defined in such a way as to explicitly exclude the other.

But why must that be the case? The philosophical position of compatibilism argues that these concepts do not need to be defined in such a mutually exclusive manner and that, in fact, both free will and determinism can be compatible. The problem of free will or determinism is slightly different for the theist. Instead of wondering if natural laws mean that human actions are all determined, the theist must also ask whether or not their god has pre-determined all events in the universe, including their own.

If so, that will mean that their ultimate fate will be determined. This position was adopted most completely and explicitly by the Reform theologian John Calvin, who argued that some people are predestined to be saved and some are predestined to be damned, and there is nothing anyone can possibly do about it. P. F. STRAWSON: FREEDOM AND RESENTMENT — The Determinism and Freedom Philosophy Website — The doyen of living English philosophers, by these reflections, took hold of and changed the outlook of a good many other philosophers, if not quite enough.

He did so, essentially, by assuming that talk of freedom and responsibility is talk not of facts or truths, in a certain sense, but of our attitudes. His more explicit concern was to look again at the question of whether determinism and freedom are consistent with one another — by shifting attention to certain personal rather than moral attitudes, first of all gratitude and resentment. In the end, he arrived at a kind of Compatibilist or, as he says, Optimist conclusion. That is no doubt a recommendation but not the largest recommendation of this splendidly rich piece of philosophy.

————————————————————— Some philosophers say they do not know what the thesis of determinism is. Others say, or imply, that they do know what it is. Of these, some—the pessimists perhaps—hold that if the thesis is true, then the concepts of moral obligation and responsibility really have no application, and the practices of punishing and blaming, of expressing moral condemnation and approval, are really unjustified. Others—the optimists perhaps—hold that these concepts and practices in no way lose their raison d’etre if the thesis of determinism is true.

Some hold even that the justification of these concepts and practices requires the truth of the thesis. There is another opinion which is less frequently voiced: the opinion, it might be said, of the genuine moral sceptic. This is that the notions of moral guilt, of blame, of moral responsibility are inherently confused and that we can see this to be so if we consider the consequences either of the truth of determinism or of its falsity. The holders of this opinion agree with the pessimists that these notions lack application if determinism is true, and add simply that they also lack it if determinism is false.

If I am asked which of these parties I belong to, I must say it is the first of all, the party of those who do not know what the thesis of determinism is. But this does not stop me from having some sympathy with the others, and a wish to reconcile them. Should not ignorance, rationally, inhibit such sympathies? Well, of course, though darkling, one has some inkling—some notion of what sort of thing is being talked about. This lecture is intended as a move towards reconciliation; so. is likely to seem wrongheaded to everyone.

But can there be any possibility of reconciliation between such clearly opposed positions as those of pessimists and optimists about determinism? Well, there might be a formal withdrawal on one side in return for a substantial concession on the other. Thus, suppose the optimist’s position were put like this: (1) the facts as we know them do not show determinism to be false; (2) the facts as we know them supply an adequate basis for the concepts and practices which the pessimist feels to be imperilled by the possibility of determinism’s truth.

Now it might be that the optimist is right in this, but is apt to give an inadequate account of the facts as we know them, and of how they constitute an adequate basis for the problematic concepts and practices; that the reasons he gives for the adequacy of the basis are themselves inadequate and leave out something vital. It might be that the pessimist is rightly anxious to get this vital thing back and, in the grip of his anxiety, feels he has to go beyond the facts as we know them; feels that the vital thing can be secure only if, beyond the facts as we know them, there is the further fact that determinism is false.

Might he not be brought to make a formal withdrawal in return for a vital concession? 2. Let me enlarge very briefly on this, by way of preliminary only. Some optimists about determinism point to the efficacy of the practices of punishment, and of moral condemnation and approval, in regulating behaviour in socially desirable ways. (1) In the fact of their efficacy, they suggest, is an adequate basis for these practices; and this fact certainly does not show determinism to be false.

To this the pessimists reply, all in a rush, that just punishment and moral condemnation imply moral guilt and guilt implies moral responsibility and moral responsibility implies freedom and freedom implies the falsity of determinism. And to this the optimists are wont to reply in turn that it is true that these practices require freedom in a sense, and the existence of freedom in this sense is one of the facts as we know them. But what ‘freedom’ means here is nothing but the absence of certain conditions the presence of which would make moral condemnation or punishment inappropriate.

They have in mind conditions like compulsion by another, or innate incapacity, or insanity, or other less extreme forms of psychological disorder, or the existence of circumstances in which the making of any other choice would be morally inadmissible or would be too much to expect of any man. To this list they are constrained to add other factors which, without exactly being limitations of freedom, may also make moral condemnation or punishment inappropriate or mitigate their force: as some forms of ignorance, mistake, or accident.

And the general reason why moral condemnation or punishment are inappropriate when these factors or conditions are present is held to be that the practices in question will be generally efficacious means of regulating behaviour in desirable ways only in cases where these factors are not present. Now the pessimist admits that the facts as we know them include the existence of freedom, the occurrence of cases of free action, in the negative sense which the optimist concedes; and admits, or rather insists, that the existence of freedom in this sense is compatible with the truth of determinism.

Then what does the pessimist find missing? When he tries to answer this question, his language is apt to alternate between the very familiar and the very unfamiliar. (2) Thus he may say, familiarly enough, that the man who is the subject of justified punishment, blame or moral condemnation must really deserve it; and then add, perhaps, that, in the case at least where he is blamed for a positive act rather than an omission, the condition of his really deserving blame is something that goes beyond the negative freedoms that the optimist concedes. It is, say, a genuinely free identification of the will with the act.

And this is the condition that is incompatible with the truth of determinism. The conventional, but conciliatory, optimist need not give up yet. He may say: Well, people often decide to do things, really intend to do what they do, know just what they’re doing in doing it; the reasons they think they have for doing what they do, often really are their reasons and not their rationalizations. These facts, too, are included in the facts as we know them. If this is what you mean by freedom—by the identification of the will with the act—then freedom may again be conceded.

But again the concession is compatible with the truth of the determinist thesis. For it would not follow from that thesis that nobody decides to do anything; that nobody ever does anything intentionally; that it is false that people sometimes know perfectly well what they are doing. I tried to define freedom negatively. You want to give it a more positive look. But it comes to the same thing. Nobody denies freedom in this sense, or these senses, and nobody claims that the existence of freedom in these senses shows determinism to be false.

But it is here that the lacuna in the optimistic story can be made to show. For the pessimist may be supposed to ask: But why does freedom in this sense justify blame, etc.? You turn towards me first the negative, and then the positive, faces of a freedom which nobody challenges. But the only reason you have given for the practices of moral condemnation and punishment in cases where this freedom is present is the efficacy of these practices in regulating behaviour in socially desirable ways.

But this is not a sufficient basis, it is not even the right sort of basis, for these practices as we understand them. Now my optimist, being the sort of man he is, is not likely to invoke an intuition of fittingness at this point. So he really has no more to say. And my pessimist, being the sort of man he is, has only one more thing to say; and that is that the admissibility of these practices, as we understand them, demands another kind of freedom, the kind that in turn demands the falsity of the thesis of determinism.

But might we not induce the pessimist to give up saying this by giving the optimist something more to say? 3. I have mentioned punishing and moral condemnation and approval; and it is in connection with these practices or attitudes that the issue between optimists and pessimists—or, if one is a pessimist, the issue between determinists and libertarians—is felt to be particularly important. But it is not of these practices and attitudes that I propose, at first, to speak. These practices or attitudes permit, where they do not imply, a certain detachment from the actions or agents which are their objects.

I want to speak, at least at first, of something else: of the non-detached attitudes and reactions of people directly involved in transactions with each other; of the attitudes and reactions of offended parties and beneficiaries; of such things as sratitude, resentment, forgiveness, love, and hurt feelings. Perhaps something like the issue between optimists and pessimists arises in this neighbouring field too; and since this field is less crowded with disputants, the issue might here be easier to settle; and if it is settled here, then it might become easier to settle it in the disputant-crowded field.

What I have to say consists largely of commonplaces. So my language, like that of commonplaces generally, will be quite unscientific and imprecise. The central commonplace that I want to insist on is the very great importance that we attach to the attitudes and intentions towards us of other human beings, and the great extent to which our personal feelings and reactions depend upon, or involve, our beliefs about these attitudes and intentions. I can give no simple description of the field of phenomena at the centre of which stands this commonplace truth; for the field is too complex.

Much imaginative literature is devoted to exploring its complexities; and we have a large vocabulary for the purpose. There are simplifying styles of handling it in a general way. Thus we may, like La Rochefoucauld, put self-love or self-esteem or vanity at the centre of the picture and point out how it may be caressed by the esteem, or wounded by the indifference or contempt, of others. We might speak, in another jargon, of the need for love, and the loss of security which results from its withdrawal; or, in another, of human self-respect and its connection with the recognition of the individual’s dignity.

These simplifications are of use to me only if they help to emphasize how much we actually mind, how much it matters to us, whether the actions of other people—and particularly of some other people—reflect attitudes towards us of goodwill, affection, or esteem on the one hand or contempt, indifference, or malevolence on the other. If someone treads on my hand accidentally, while trying to help me, the pain may be no less acute than if he treads on it in contemptuous disregard of my existence or with a malevolent wish to injure me. But I shall generally feel in the second case a kind and degree of resentment that I shall not feel in the first.

If someone’s actions help me to some benefit I desire, then I am benefited in any case; but if he intended them so to benefit me because of his general goodwill towards me, I shall reasonably feel a gratitude which I should not feel at all if the benefit was an incidental consequence, unintended or even regretted by him, of some plan of action with a different aim. These examples are of actions which confer benefits or inflict injuries over and above any conferred or inflicted by the mere manifestation of attitude and intention themselves.

We should consjder also in how much of our behaviour the benefit or injury resides mainly or entirely in the manifestation of attitude itself. So it is with good manners, and much of what we call kindness, on the one hand; with deliberate rudeness, studied indifference, or insult on the other. Besides resentment and gratitude, I mentioned just now forgiveness. This is a rather unfashionable subject in moral philosophy at present; but to be forgiven is something we sometimes ask, and forgiving is something we sometimes say we do.

To ask to be forgiven is in part to acknowledge that the attitude displayed in our actions was such as might properly be resented and in part to repudiate that attitude for the future (or at least for the immediate future); and to forgive is to accept the repudiation and to forswear the resentment. We should think of the many different kinds of relationship which we can have with other people—as sharers of a common interest; as members of the same family; as colleagues; as friends; as lovers; as chance parties to an enormous range of transactions and encounters.

Then we should think, in each of these connections in turn, and in others, of the kind of importance we attach to the attitudes and intentions towards us of those who stand in these relationships to us, and of the kinds of reactive attitudes and feelings to which we ourselves are prone. In general, we demand some degree of goodwill or regard on the part of those who stand in these relationships to us, though the forms we require it to take vary widely in different connections.

The range and intensity of our reactive attitudes towards goodwill, its absence or its opposite vary no less widely. I have mentioned, specifically, resentment and gratitude; and they are a usefully opposed pair. But, of course, there is a whole continuum of reactive attitude and feeling stretching on both sides of these and—the most comfortable area—in between them. The object of these commonplaces is to try to keep before our minds something it is easy to forget when we are engaged in philosophy, especially in our cool, contemporary style, viz.

what it is actually like to be involved in ordinary interpersonal relationships, ranging from the most intimate to the most casual. 4. It is one thing to ask about the general causes of these reactive attitudes I have alluded to; it is another to ask about the variations to which they are subject, the particular conditions in which they do or do not seem natural or reasonable or appropriate; and it is a third thing to ask what it would be like, what it is like, not to suffer them. I am not much concerned with the first question; but I am with the second; and perhaps even more with the third.

Let us consider, then, occasions for resentment: situations in which one person is offended or injured by the action of another and in which—in the absence of special considerations—the offended person might naturally or normally be expected to feel resentment. Then let us consider what sorts of special considerations might be expected to modify or mollify this feeling or remove it altogether. It needs no saying now how multifarious these considerations are. But, for my purpose, I think they can be roughly divided into two kinds.

To the first group belong all those which might give occasion for the employment of such expressions as ‘He didn’t mean to’, ‘He hadn’t realized’, ‘He didn’t know’; and also all those which might give occasion for the use of the phrase ‘He couldn’t help it’, when this is supported by such phrases as ‘He was pushed’, ‘He had to do it’, ‘It was the only way’, ‘They left him no alternative’, etc. Obviously these various pleas, and the kinds of situations in which they would be appropriate, differ from each other in striking and important ways.

But for my present purpose they have something still more important in common. None of them invites us to suspend towards the agent, either at the time of his action or in general, our ordinary reactive attitudes. They do not invite us to view the agent as one in respect of whom these attitudes are in any way inappropriate. They invite us to view the injury as one in respect of which a particular one of these attitudes is inappropriate. They do not invite us to see the agent as other than a fully responsible agent. They invite us to see the injury as one for which he was not fully, or at all, responsible.

They do not suggest that the agent is in any way an inappropriate object of that kind of demand for goodwill or regard which is reflected in our ordinary reactive attitudes. They suggest instead that the fact of in jury was not in this case incompatible with that demand’s being fulfilled, that the fact of injury was quite consistent with the agent’s attitude and intentions being just what we demand they should be. (3) The agent was just ignorant of the injury he was causing, or had lost his balance through being pushed or had reluctantly to cause the injury for reasons which acceptably override his reluctance.

The offering of such pleas by the agent and their acceptance by the sufferer is something in no way opposed to, or outside the context of, ordinary inter-personal relationships and the manifestation of ordinary reactive attitudes. Since things go wrong and situations are complicated, it is an essential and integral element in the transactions which are the life of these relationships. The second group of considerations is very different. I shall take them in two subgroups of which the first is far less important than the second.

In connection with the first subgroup we may think of such statements as ‘He wasn’t himself’, ‘He has been under very great strain recently’, ‘He was acting under post-hypnotic suggestion’; in connection with the second, we may think of ‘He’s only a child’, ‘He’s a hopeless schizophrenic’, ‘His mind has been systematically perverted’, ‘That’s purely compulsive behaviour on his part’.


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