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What Is Free Will? Essay

Introduction What is free will? Free will is about people can make the choice on their action or decision freely. Choice is between good and evil. For example, you think that you study at HKU SPACE community college is free; it is because you could have studied at City university instead of HKU SPACE community college. Determinism Determinists believe that the level of which human beings has influence over their future is itself dependent on present and past, that mean every event is determined by the previous events. If an event is determined, it is impossible for it not to happen given everything that happened before it.

Moreover, determinism is follows from physicalism, it is because every event is a physical event and every physical event is given the laws of physics. In the meantime, determinism thinks that every event is predestined but not by random, so we could not have luck. Furthermore, people’s choice is depended on their preference and some external factors to make a decision. For example, considering your choice to study at HKU SPACE community college again, you chose SPACE rather than City University because you preferred SPACE to City University, so it means that your choice was caused by your preference.

To summarize the determinists’ argument: firstly, whatever happens is determined by prior events; secondly, we act freely whenever we could have acted otherwise. Finally, if our actions are determined, we could not have acted otherwise. Therefore, we have not free will. Apart from these, determinism thinks that we are unfree is because both luck and free will is our illusions. We think there is luck it is because we fail to predict the outcome of a rolling dice or a flipping coin. Although the outcome of a rolling dice is determined, we cannot get all the variables in order to calculate the result.

Indeterminism Indeterminism states that free actions are uncaused actions so they are indeterminate, those free actions are actions which happen randomly. For example, if my arm’s behavior is uncaused, then it may sometimes move up and sometimes move down, which is totally out of my control. As a result, we have no free will since indeterminism is true, then our action is out of my control. On the other hand, Robert Kane introduces the theory of modified indeterminism which defines free actions are caused by our decisions but they are indeterminate before we make decisions.

For instance, when you have inner conflicts, you are torn between action A and action B, which creates a neutral indeterminacy. As both of the actions have a 0. 5 chance of occurring, the probability of the occurrence of A would change to 1 if you decide to perform A. The action A is caused by your own decision although it is indeterminate before you make the decision. Nevertheless, Taylor rejects the theory of indeterminism due to the cause of your decision.

If there is no cause, we do not have free will because the action is out of our control even though this action resulted from an inner club-wielding desire of yours, you have nothing to do, and that it arose, to be followed by its inevitable effect. This behavior can be concluded as erratic, impulsive and irresponsible. Also, the reason of rejecting modified indeterminism is the decision is not free events because it has a cause. So it has contradiction in this theory. In order to support his argument, he introduces the theory of agency to further explain his point.

In this theory, an action is both free and rational, it must be such that the agent who performed it did so for some reason, but this reason cannot have been the cause of it. Moreover, there is an extraordinary conception of causation, according to such agent, which is a substance and not an event, can nevertheless be the cause of an event. For example, you pick a drink from the fridge, and then you represent the agent that causes the action – pick a drink from the fridge, without any reasons that control your behavior. For this conception, it can be said the agent originate the action. Compatibilism (or Soft determinism).

Walter Stace claims that determinism and free will are compatible. Stace not only argues that determinism and free will can coexist, but also says that free will in fact presupposes determinism. According to Stace, if being undetermined by causes is called as “free will”, there is no free will at all. Free acts according to compatibilism, the common characteristic is that their immediate causes are internal, for example, desires, decisions, or psychological states in the agent. However, the common characteristic of unfree acts is that their immediate causes are external, like physical conditions or forces outside the agent.

Therefore, same act can be free or unfree in different situatution, it depends in whether it has external constraints. For example, fasting can be free because one wanted to be slim; however it can also be unfree because no food in a desert. Since “free actions” are actions whose immediate causes are psychological states, free will is compatible with determinism. Taylor rejects the theory of soft determinism. He asked whether the inner states like our desires, choices and volitions within our control or not; whether we could act or choose otherwise or not.

The one who say that I could have done otherwise, he only means that he would have done otherwise if those inner states that determined his action had been different; that is, he had decided or chosen differently. On one hand, Taylor said that it is unintelligible nonsense that asking whether one could have chosen or decided differently is only asking whether one had decided to decide differently or chosen to chose differently, or willed to will differently, one would have decided or chosen or willed differently.

On the other hand, Taylor asked whether the cause of our actions like our own inner choices, decisions, and desires are caused or determined. Under the theory of determinism, given the causal conditions of those inner states, we could no have decided, willed, chosen, or desired otherwise than we in fact did. The compatiblists of course can still say that, if the causes of those inner states had been different, those inner states would also have been different, and that in this hypothetical sense we could have decided, chosen, willed, or desired differently.

However, Taylor said that only pushes our problem back still another step. The Theory of Agency This theory introduces a new conception of activity and an agent who is the cause of it. An action that is free must be caused by the agent who performs it, and it must be such that no antecedent conditions were sufficient for his performing of just that action. In this case of an action that is both free and rational, it must be such that the agent who performed it did so for some reason, but this reason cannot have been the cause of it. (Contemporary Defense of Free Will, p. 344).

Taylor recognizes that this theory requires two strange metaphysical notions that are never applied elsewhere in nature. First, an agent is a self or person, and not merely a collection of things or events, but a substance and a self-moving being. The second is an extraordinary conception of causation. According to an agent which is a substance and not an event, it can be the cause of event. This mean person is a free agent and he is the cause of his being. For example, if I say that my hand causes my pen to move, it’s because the motion of my hand where under the other conditions.

Then, it’s sufficient for the motion of the pen. But if I then say I cause my hand to move, I’m not saying anything indirect of this, and surely not the motion of me is sufficient for the motion of my arm and hand. Thus, I am only thing cause the pen moving and there are no antecedent causal chains. For instance, I originate me, initiate me, or simply that I perform me. The causation of this theory stops with the agent himself. He starts a new causal chain with his act. He performs the event without being antecedent causal conditions.

This theory avoids the difficulties of determinism by denying that every chain of causes and effects is infinite. In addition, it also avoids the irrational of simple indeterminism by conceding that human behavior is caused. However, it has a few problems of this theory. Our acts are caused by our decisions is plausible enough. Can it true that our decisions are self-originating, not the causal product of what went before? Since Taylor wasn’t offer further explanation of how the event occurs, he admits that it is possible for this theory was developed to explain might be an illusion after all, and his essay ends on an inconclusive note.


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