Free Will or Determinism as Determining Factors in Life

Categories: DeterminismFree Will

Let me start by explaining what is meant by “Free Will” and what is meant by “Determinism”. According to an article published on January 7, 2002, in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, we could define “Free Will” as “the canonical designator for a significant kind of control over one’s actions”. Every one of us has the ability to empower a force over a certain action we decide to manifest or act towards one’s own discretion, you are voluntarily responsible for your actions and there is nothing that is motivating you or stopping you to do otherwise.

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Determinism, on the other hand, is defined by the Merriam-Webster as “a theory or doctrine that acts of the will, occurrences in nature, or social or psychological phenomena are causally determined by preceding events or natural laws”, we could state a clear relation of something being original, and something as it occurs in nature as stated in the definition, a clear relationship between determinism and originality.

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The act of me sleeping is something I do by my own will, but different theories could argue that the act of me sleeping is already determined by another previous factor, such as my routinary daily schedule, If its weekday I generally sleep at 11 pm. This is an example that contains both issues and a more clear example of what my thesis statement is. I think all of us want to have in some way the freedom to choose over a particular action without something or someone telling us otherwise, but this is when things get more complicated, I think in consequence of this, that there is no such thing as Freedom and that everything we do is being in some way adviced or guided by a previous act, or someone is telling us to do otherwise.

In this paper, I will be using mainly the theories of Libertarian Free Will and Hard Determinism to support my thesis. Libertarian Free Will is not only a theory but it is a non-political movement, it is “The belief that some human actions are freely chosen” and they think that “metaphysically we can be free”. This could be explained by two philosophers, Thomas Hobbes, and David Hume. Thomas Hobbes explained that an agent is Free of doing whatever he wants and can do if there aren't any external impediments acting on it. He stated that “A free agent is he that can do as he will, and forbear as he will, and that liberty is the absence of external impediments”.

David Hume referred to a more humanistic way of thinking and he stated that “the power of acting or of not acting, according to the determination of the will: that is, if we choose to remain at rest, we may; if we choose to move, we also may… This hypothetical liberty is universally allowed to belong to everyone who is not a prisoner and in chains”. Both of them would hold that an agent is Free of doing whatever action he wants if there is no external impediment or obstacle acting against it. On the other hand, Hard Determinism states “The belief that all events are caused by past events such that nothing other than what does occur could occur”. Baron D'Holbach stated “He is born without his own consent; his organization does in nowise depend upon himself; his ideas come to him involuntarily… over which he has no control…” he is talking about the fact that all that we do is the inevitable result of what provoked the action. Therefore in some way, this leaves us the thought that we could be a prisoner of ourselves and of what surrounds us, in consequence leaving us without freedom of decision and limiting our knowledge into what we already knew. In the knowledge of your future, up to what point would it be feasible to alter it? this question is highly linked to the case of Oedipus, A boy that was predicted by fate to his parents that he was going to kill his father and marry his mother, so his father sends him away. The prophecy was achieved and he killed his father and marry his mother. This makes us think that there is no escaping the destiny, therefore, there is no Free act and in some way, everything is determined by another action or even everything is not as free as we thought and Free will is just an illusion.

In the knowledge of The Libet Experiment, we can state and realize how in some way this experiment supports the theory of Hard determinism and reaches to the fact that there is no action made by free thought, and in fact, everything is determined by another thought or action. If you establish the idea of doing something in your head, how free is that idea, or is that idea in some way determined by a previous act? this question is linked especially to the Libet experiment and how the results gained from the experiment invalidate our Libertarian Free Will theory.

This experiment consists of a “person making a movement connected to a brain machine and the brain-machine showing brain activity starting milliseconds before the movement is made”. So why does our brain show the record of movement inside our brain projecting seconds before we actually realize the movement? this question can be the fact that Free will doesn't exist, and that everything, as well as the movement we thought had liberty, is, in fact, an illusion and that our brain will always get the knowledge of things or of thoughts from another thing or thought to determine it. Determinism, therefore, in this case, abrogate all Free Will basis and encourage something that is very special and my main point of view, everything we do has, in fact, came from something previous. This theory is a determining factor of science, as therefore everything a scientist sees is all summarized and concluded by the external things acting on the scientists mind, to make it more clear lets focus on Thomas Edison, the creator of the first light bulb, he, therefore, would be supported by a determinist, he couldn't have created the idea of creating a light bulb from thin air, he had to have some kind of influence for the discovery of this extraordinary idea, therefore making him and his idea pulled apart from the idea that he created this idea with the freedom of his mind power and with nothing more than experiments.

Despite the strong argument stated before, everything and every thesis or motion have a gap, this is the gap opposing the theory of “Hard Determinism”. People may say that if therefore all things are determined by something, this something needs to have a start, let me make myself clear with this, if there are certain factors of agents motivating or limiting the creation of new ideas, eventually that motivation or limitation needs to be from free will at first, for example, if a designer, creates a new piece of furniture, that piece of furniture would be determined by another factor or references as they call them in design, my point here is that at first this first reference would necessarily need to be created from scratch, the freedom of a creative mind that impulsed the idea of creating the first chair ever created. This is what a Libertarian would state, the fact that everything came once from scratch.

There are two types of Free Will, Metaphysical free will and Epistemological free will. Metaphysical Libertarianism is defined as “one philosophical viewpoint under that of incompatibilism. Libertarianism holds onto a concept of free will that requires the agent to be able to take more than one possible course of action under a given set of circumstances”. This idea of Free Will engages a more open-minded course of action, where there is no path necessary, there are many possible ways of acting. For example a lawyer that is defending a rapist has various paths that could eventually cover his defense, he, therefore, is a defined metaphysically as the man that can in some way defend the indefensible or can judge his client, but he no matter what he thinks, will need to defend the client in the more fitting way. The other type of free will is the Epistemological Free Will, it is defined as “a form of compatibilism based on the limits of human knowledge (human ignorance).

Determinism implies that there is just one possible future. But physical determinism does not guarantee predictability, and some philosophers have used the unpredictability of the future to argue for a kind of free will called epistemic freedom”. This type of free will is more linked to the general idea of originality and destiny, we can know what our future will be so it is seed that as we don't know what our fate is in the future we have only one path to make decisions, all of these decisions will be the determining factor of our future. Me having the idea of making this essay is determining my future, the grade I get and how this affects my grades.

Here I can only choose one path as I have barely the knowledge to where the writing might take me, I only have the certainty of what my final thesis will be so, therefore, this is essay couldn't be predicted by me of what might happen in the future. So metaphysically I could therefore at the moment of writing my essay lead myself to different paths and eventually I have a variety of topics, ideas, questions, experiments, philosophers on which I could inquire and that would leave me to different essays. Epistemologically the one I choose therefore is the one I am destined to follow and what will physically appear in my essay, so the mixture of and the fusion of both theories make my work become rich in ideals and expressions I properly believe.

I believe is essential to highlight how important these issues are and how may they impact on society. Making the basis of my argument that there is no Free Will, I think this may have a drastic impact on the creation of Human Rights, as there is a trend for the agent or person to be Free or have Freedom. For example, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states in its article 19. “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expressions, this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”. It states that Human Rights “are rights inherent to all human beings…, freedom of opinion and expression”. If true this article has the ability to surpass what people think, ideas and expressions as their own, but leaving the fact that this would carry out a direct impact to the originality of the freedom of opinion or expression relays on, If I told whatever my opinion was I would, therefore, be telling my original experience of acts, this is when we could refute how original would this statement be, so there is going to be always a deterministic force acting upon whatever experience this would be. If I would carry an experiment and find in social media any original opinion, I would find always another opinion so close to the one I thought would be original that this, in fact, is going to be a reason for me to question the originality of the opinion and if thinking furthermore, I could eventually state that any opinion is based on another and that yes it could be true that all opinions are unique because all have something different, but what could ensure you that “originality” is not a copy of something or someone else's work.

Another thing I feel should be essential is to define how is this Free Will and what characteristics may break the concept or creation of Free Will, not being so drastic to you are not Free to move perhaps or you are not free of doing anything, but perhaps realizing that everything is done because of something previous and in some way we should, therefore, think more deeply when doing the laws (in a more political aspect) or even choosing what to believe on, and realizing that there is in general and in all religions some influential mind behind it. Perhaps believe on whatever you think is right without breaking any law and keeping in mind the person you have by your side or even society. For example, “if we truly are predetermined, then we should reconsider the understanding of drugs and their addictions should, we should, therefore, argue that people that are drug addicts are in some way deprived of reality and are an “exception to the rule”, or simply they are powerless, so by being deprived of reality the crimes they commit should, therefore, be punished in a special way, we could establish that their actions weren't reasonable and therefore reconsider their punishment, instead of prison they should be sent to hospital for addicts”.

In Conclusion, and taking everything in consideration, after exploring Free Will and Determinism, I think Determinism overrules Free Will, and it is here where I take the Place of a Determinist, one of the most valuable arguments for me, was the one of the Libet Experiment. I am more attached to the reasoning of science and therefore this is one of the most logical examples to what we could consider Free will to be untrue, this is in fact that there is no Free Will. So therefore if you feel so Free, you are deeply a version of what you want, but not as free as you really are. When people try and find a balance between both ideals or theories is when they get caught on the middle and question whether its freedom they reach for or determinism. I think the line or gap between both is very narrow, despite both having pretty intense arguments, for me and what my beliefs or ideals tell me, determinism is my theory to reach.

Every experience I have had has been characterized and influenced by something previous. My solution to people stuck in between of both ideals is mainly let themselves be guided by only themselves, If you want to post something in the social media, let it be from yourselves despite the fact that determinism overrules free will, let yourself be guided because of your proper ideals and influences. To make myself more clear, I would suggest you to let yourself be guided by the personal type of determinism, the one proved to us by the Libet experiment, this determinism that flows inside you, not what people say, in fact from what you agree or disagree from other people's opinion, let your opinion be your opinion and not some stereotype of ideal. The fusion of ideals and principles plays in favor of our original questions and makes us realize the point up until determinism ends up overcoming Freedom and lets determining factors decide what path lasts and all the process in life you managed to become the objective you were seeking.

Updated: Feb 29, 2024
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Free Will or Determinism as Determining Factors in Life. (2024, Feb 29). Retrieved from

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