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DETERMINISM VS. FREE WILL. An ancient philosophical conundrum. DETERMINISM =. The theory that every event, including every human action, is governed by natural laws.

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determinism vs free will

DETERMINISM VS. FREE WILL

An ancient philosophical conundrum

determinism
DETERMINISM =

The theory that every event, including every human action, is governed by natural laws.

Technically, determinism is the belief that a determinate set of conditions can only produce one possible outcome given fixed laws of nature.

Many believe this rules out HUMAN FREEDOM.

determinism is different from fatalism
DETERMINISM IS DIFFERENT FROM FATALISM
  • FATALISTS claim that there is nothing that we can do to affect our lives in any significant way. For example, I cannot in any way affect whether I am going to have a fatal accident tomorrow.
  • DETERMINISTS allow that human actions can make a difference.
  • Fatalism often takes the form of RELIGIOUS PREDESTINATION
if determinism is true it would seem that
If determinism is true it would seem that:
  • We are no more free than robots.
  • There is no reason to praise or blame anyone.
  • It is wrong to punish criminals--because they “can’t help it”.
3 different positions on determinism
3 DIFFERENT POSITIONS ON DETERMINISM:
  • Human beings have free will because determinism is FALSE (‘libertarianism’).
  • Human beings do NOT have free will because determinism is TRUE (‘hard determinism’).
  • Even though determinism is TRUE, human beings DO have free will (‘soft determinism’).
libertarianism
Libertarianism
  • Free will requires a gap in universal causality.
  • The self initiates actions but when acting freely is not itself caused to do so.
  • Human decision making thus occupies a special place outside of the natural order.

NOTE: This is not the same as ‘libertarianism’ in political philosophy.

objections to libertarianism
Objections to libertarianism
  • The self would have to be non-physical, yet capable of causing events. Does this make sense?
  • Even if it makes sense, what is the evidence for it?
how to be a soft determinist
How to be a soft determinist
  • A free act is just a VOLUNTARY act. It issues from what the agent WANTS, unconstrained psychologically or physically.
  • Acts can be ‘free’ in this sense but still determined by natural laws. Determinism is not a problem for those who take this view.
if hard determinism is true
If hard determinism is true…
  • MORAL RESPONSIBILITY is undermined. (‘Ought’ implies ‘can’.) Do praise, blame or punishment make sense without moral responsibility?
  • Is RATIONALITY undermined? Can our acts have reasons as well as causes?