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Free Will Vs. Determinism

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Determinism is a philosophical term for the idea that the future is already decided no matter what you do. This idea rejects the idea of free will and creates lots of problems, one such as, if everything is pre-determined how can one be held responsible for their actions, morally or not. Problems such as these are not enough to just dismiss the idea of determinism. But questions such as these can be used as a reasoning to support the augment between the concept of free will and determinism. Many people that are not philosophers or scientists tend to dismiss determinism outright because of their faith (religion) and without free will there will be little to no value to their life if everything was pre-determined and they are afraid of such life. However some philosophers and scientists what tend to look at reasoning, logic, cause and effects tends to lean toward determinism. For many years there have been debates about this, whether if free will really does exits or is everything pre-determined. However I believe there is a solution to this, where you don’t have to pick either side and these two ideas can co-exits in their less extreme forms. This concept is called soft-determinism or compatibilism.

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Free will is the idea that we are in full control of any actions that we does therefore it is not affected by external or internal factors. There are conditions to free will, first is people have a choice over their own actions, second they have not been pressured in anyway or form, and third is people have full control over and can make choices freely. There are two arguments for free will one of which is based on moral responsibility and ethics, which requires free will. Second is common sense, which states that when a decision is made, the decision is one’s own. Thomas Nagle argument of free will follows: 1) you are given a choice, 2) there is no factors affecting you in making of the decision, 3) you could have done otherwise. (Steven M. Chan, p. 182-184)

Free Will is interpreted by its contrast to Determinism. If Determinism is true then there is no point to our lives. Determinism is physical concept that explains that everything, including behaviors, feelings, and thoughts are under the effects of cause and effects, and that all events are the consequences of past sequences. Most of the arguments for Determinism come from a scientific, materialist and physical point of view and opinion. In the case of Nathan Leopold and Richard Lobe attacking and murdering a teenage boy, the lawyer argues that their action to assault the boy came from the out side materialist and physical of environment influences. (p. 189-190) If all our behaviors are determined by a cause where does free will fit in all of this? Hard determinism dismiss any idea of free will, however soft determinism believe that the two ideas can co-exist and that free will has a specific definition, different from what we actually think it means. According to Thomas Nagle, concepts such as free will and determinism are not defined and neither of them are real. He rejected the idea of free will when he stated, “if the act wasn’t determined in advance… something that just happened… in that case, how was it your doing?” (p. 185). He also stated, “If… everything I did was determined by my circumstances… I would feel trapped… I would feel everybody were like a lot of puppets” with that he rejected the idea of hard determinism.

To decide whether an action was predetermined or chosen solely by the individual, one must study its causes. There are two causes found, one of which is the cause by natural laws, like dropping a book to the ground, and the cause by moral considerations of humans (). The distinction between these two causes is important because it explains that, while man has no control over his environment, not all of his actions are completely out of control. The first type of cause mentioned is the natural law that all objects must follow. It is obviously false to assume that man can defy these laws and choose to walk through walls, or fly, but it is important to understand that these things can influence the causes that ultimately lead to the action (). The second type of cause includes perceptions and past experiences of men, as well as the way men use these things (). This type of cause cannot be measured, understood, or predicted like the other type of cause. A moral decision is complex, and the way it is created in our minds is complex as well; it is way more than just a random or predictable set of electrical impulses (). This type of cause is in fact the “true” cause of an action (). In order for this combination of causes to be true, one must now accept the concept of dualism; the idea that there are two parts, or hemispheres to the world – the physical science side, and the spiritual abstract side. The spiritual side is where actions that cannot be explained by physical causes occur. The moralistic cause may have more of a weight factor in actions, but it cannot deny any natural laws. Due to this, both radical determinism and Free Will are individually impossible. Humans are affected by their physical surroundings, and they use their morals and cognitive system to base their actions upon. For example, when a person sees a picture, they may be stimulated neurologically and use memories to connect this picture to past experiences. In this way they form opinions based on their emotional response to this said picture. Ultimately, this person can act upon their emotions alone, which is not something that can be predicted. This means that humans must have Free Will within the boundaries of natural laws. Soft determinism is used to describe this position; that people do have a choice, but their behavior and actions is still being influenced either by environmental of behavioral pressure.

In the event that determinism is true, then morality is considered as a pointless illusion. Without morality, this means that unforgivable crimes are justifiable. Determinism fails to take into consideration human freedom and choice. The word freedom does not necessarily mean that it is freedom from materialism or causality; it means freedom from restraint. In the case that Free Will exists, it can “exert its influences through causal relations”. Causality is what provides this constraint, not ‘un-freedom’. For example, gravity limits us from flying but it does not prevent it from happening altogether. Reality in the physical world is infinite and connected – it has both limited freedom, as well as limited determinism. In this inevitably connected but non determined universe, there are many possible futures that co-exist. Man cannot learn to choose more wisely, but they can be taught through recognizing when someone makes a particularly good or bad choice. Man reacts in the manner that they do because at their core, they are ultimately learning machines, and that is how this particular kind of learning machine learns – through others by observing and learning from their mistakes. Freedom may be limited and programmed- but Man has the ability to program themselves- and this is where our freedom comes from. Limited freedom exists in harmony with Darwin’s Theory of Evolution; that humans learn and memorize different behaviors based upon their different interactions with environment; this explains the human evolution.

31 October 2020

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