In our society, free will is something that is ingrained in our set of beliefs that every citizen of the world should possess. We generally believe that we possess free will because of the choices we make on a day-to-day basis that is generally not forced upon by any direct outside force like in a totalitarian society out of a science-fiction story: the decision of whether or not to go to school in the morning, or finishing an essay at the last minute or allowing the grade to drop for an extra day are excellent examples of my view of free will. In Paul Halbach’s “The Illusion of Free Will”, he systematically attempts to debunk the debate between the combating theories of free will and hard determinism.
He conveys his argument by stating that determinism and free will are incompatible with one another: one cannot exist if the other is true. If he can thoroughly prove that determinism is true, then free will would be deemed incapable with the human condition which we must accept. Holbach breaks down his strategy into two parts, the first of which he explains how the thought process and decision making of human beings are complex, yet mechanical, which boils down to the fight of competing desires. Lastly, he attacks different views on actions people would normally view as explanations of free will.
Holbach believes that the human mind makes decisions based on the laws of nature governing the person’s environment; the upbringing, culture, surroundings and countless situations a person has experienced are what determines his or her way of thinking. The causal effects of everything around a man is always what governs every decision he makes, as Holbach states that “he always acts according to necessary laws from which he has no means of emancipating himself” (Holback 439). He uses the example of presenting a parched man being presented with a fountain and wants to drink from it. Upon realizing that the water in it has been poisoned, the man can still choose whether or not to drink from it. Not drinking the water upon realization of its impurity is a voluntary choice to resist the urge to quench his thirst, although it still stems from the same desire of self-preservation. Regardless of if he does or does not is not of importance because of the prevailing motive behind making either decision, proving that every action one takes is predetermined by an impulse involuntarily generated based on the man’s upbringing and experiences which creates his sense of morals, beliefs, and self-worth, none of which he has any power of influencing. If this is the case, then determinism is true, and free will is only an illusion