The Debate Between Freewill And Determinism

Categories: DeterminismPhilosophy

Discuss the claim that we humans have no real freedom of choice. Throughout history, the problem of freewill vs. determinism has sparked major debates between philosophers. The debate between freewill and determinism stems from the apparent conflict between the universal rule of causality that is deeply rooted in nature, and between the apparent ability of human beings to choose between multiple courses of action in order to lead to the most desirable outcome.

The universal rule of causality simply claims that inorganic matter such as tables, chairs and rocks are acted upon by whatever forces affect it, however, human beings seem to be an exception to this rule by their unique ability to ponder about how to go about making decisions in their life and which principles and morals to live by.

In simple terms, determinism is the thesis that everything is caused whereas on the other hand, the doctrine of freewill maintains that some of our actions are free.

It is for this reason that the problem of freewill and determinism is a paradox because these two equally evident assumptions seem to lead to inconsistent results and leads to the question about whether or not freewill and determinism can co-exist.

It is for this reason also that nowadays one must accept as a fait accompli that the problem of finding out whether free will and determinism are compatible or whether freedom of choice actually does exist is a large part, perhaps the major part of the problem of free will and determinism; Van Inwagen book.

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On the other hand, other such incompatibilists accept freewill and disagree with the determinist position; these incompatibilists are known as “Metaphysical libertarians,” such as Thomas Reid and Peter Van Inwagen. Van Inwagen ( ) in his book claims that many philosophers hold not only that free will is compatible with determinism but that free will entails determinism. Determinism is the thesis that there is at any instant exactly one physically possible future. However, if there is more than one way which the world could go, then indeterminism is true and so human beings do have a freedom of choice.

Another such view is that of hard incompatibilism, which asserts that, free will is incompatible with both determinism and indeterminism; this view is defended by Derk Pereboom. He claims in his book “Living without free will” that the best scientific theories have the consequence that individuals are not morally responsible for their actions. However, Pereboom argues that if this was correct, morality would have no place,and human life would be meaningless and without value.

He then goes onto saying that by adopting a position that morality, meaning and value remain intact even if we are not morally responsible, then this would benefit our lives. Pereboom and morally responsibility: Claiming that freewill and determinism cannot xoexisit. The problem about moral responsibility arises from a conflict between two powerful consdiderations. On the one hand, we human beings feel that we are the source of our actions in a particularly weighty sense. We feel that the way in which we are the source of our actions is very different from the way a machine is the source of what is produces.

We express this sense of difference by attributing moral responsibility to human beings but not to machines. Traditionally, it has been assumed that moral responsibility requires us to have some type of free will in producing our actins. At the same time, there are reasons for regarding human beings as more like machines than we ordinarily suppose. These reasons stem from various sources, most prominently, from scientific views that consider human beings to be parts of nature and therefore governed by natural laws and from theological concerns that require everything that happens to be causally determined by God.

Causal (or Nomological) determinism[1] generally assumes that every event has an antecedent cause in an infinite causal chain going back to Aristotle’s Prime Mover or the beginning of the universe. Determinists believe that there is nothing uncaused or self-caused (causa sui). Arguments for determinism, Science: Free will:Van Invagen- free will: “when man has to choose between two or more mutally incompatible courses of action…has it within his power to carry it out. ” Free will can be defined with reference to the term ‘can. ’

The concept f the power or ability of an agent to act is not the concept of physical possibility nor is it entailed by physical possibility; (van Inwagen). This can be shown by a simple example- John Locker example. Suppose I have been locked in a certain room and suppose that the lock on the door of that room is a device whose behaviour is physically undetermined; itin other words, it may be locked or unlocked. It is physically possible that I shall leave the room but it does not follow that in any relevant sense I CAN leave the room. Argument for incompatibilism:

Consequence argument: If determinism is true, then our acts are the consequences of the laws o nature and events in the remote past. But it is not up to us what went on before we were born and neither is it up to us what the laws of nature are. Therefore the consequcnes of these things are not up to us. Free will compatible with determinism: The mind argument proceeds by identifying indeterminism with chance and by arguing that an act that occurs by chance, cannot be under the control of its alleged agent and hence cannot be performed freely.

Proponents of this argument conclude therefore that free will is not only compatible with determinism but entails. Believing in dtermininisng determinism. One might believe in determinism because one believes that science has shown determinism to be true. One might believe that determinism is a truth of reason, on the ground that it is a logical consequnce of the Principle of Sufficient reason. Support of free will: Van Inwagen- it cannot be seriously maintained that we can know by some sort of introspection that we have or that we do not have free will.

Even when we empirically study human beings we still do not know! However, if we do have free will, then there is no such thing as moral responsibility. However, since there is such a thing as moral responsibility, there is such a thing as free will. Moreover, since free will is incompatible wth determinism, determinism is false. Therefore they simply cannot coexist. However, anyone who accepts fatalism must regard all ascriptions of moral responsibility as false/incorrect and must refrain from deliberating about future courses of action.

(6) But moral responsibility is extremely important and it is hard to imagine what human life would be like without it. Free will: Robert Kane Nothing could be more important than freedom to the modern world; Robert Kane. We want freedom because we are human beings who want to feel that we are in control of our own actions. This gives one the opportunity to satisfy more of our desires. Having free will is about being your own person.

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The Debate Between Freewill And Determinism. (2016, Nov 09). Retrieved from

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