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Essays On Free Will Vs Determinism

Free Will Vs. Determinism

The argument of Free Will as opposed to Determinism is essentially conflicting views on causality and the capability of human beings to choose the most desirable outcome from a variety of options. While causality is true for inanimate objects, as well as animals, man has the ability to choose to live in a way which is most appealing to them. Determinists however, argue that man is not an exception to this rule, and that our decisions as human beings are direct results of our exposure to a certain environment. According to Determinists, decisions are nothing more than differing influences of varying experiences battling in our mind. A proper understanding of mans capability of conscious choice and decision and intention can firmly defeat the argument that mans decisions are nothing more than the influence of his environment.

Determinists believe our decisions are controlled by previous exposure to differing situations and environments and that each and every one of our actions is caused by a specific prior action or cause. (a occurs because of b, b occurs because of c..etc) In the opinion of a determinist, man is no exception to this rule and therefore we are not "free" due to our actions being a result of a previous cause. If we are to argue that this in fact is true, than we as human beings can not be held accountable for our actions, as we have no control over them, they are automatic. Similar to how a dogs actions are automatic, a dog is punished for disobeying, yet not held responsible for its actions, because the dogs action (say biting a person) is a direct result of a prior cause (animal abuse). Punishment in this case would be merely to change the beings habit, not to provide justice. However this is not the case, when a human commits an act, they are held responsible for their actions because unlike animals, humans can choose their actions, how to live, where to live, or to live in general.

Indeterminists claim that there is an exception to the rule of causation, that despite there being a cause to an outcome, that outcome is not the sole possibility. (a, b, or c, will occur because of d) Often God plays the role of this exception, He provides a base free from the rules of causation, providing the ability of choice. Although this opinion is a common ground between Determinism and Free Will it is arguing that human choice is completely random, however this theory of randomness does not demonstrate free will, because how does a random act demonstrate our free will? A human being who acts in a random manner is crazy, not free. We therefore cannot argue free will being defined as the ability to act randomly with




not free. Of course, quantum mechanics is only concerned with the smallest scales of reality, and atthe macro scale we are familiar with the orderly progress of causal determinism still makes sense.For example, although atomic decay is inherently unpredictable, given a large enough number of particles the average rate of decay can be calculated  this is what is known as the half-life of anelement. The human body operates on a scale high above quantum mechanical interactions, and soto establish whether humans are exempt from the deterministic laws that govern other large bodiesrequires a different kind of investigation.The psychologist Benjamin Libet conducted experiments on human subjects to test exactly when it isthat we become consciously aware of willing to do an action (Libet, 1999). His aim was to discover if we are consciously in control of the biological processes which lead to our actions, specifically thosewhich lead to muscle movements. He found that readiness potential  the electrical build-up in thebrains motor region which precedes a muscle movement  begins to increase 350-400ms before aperson actually reports being aware of the intention to act. He concluded that human volitions, atleast with regard to movement, are initiated unconsciously. He argues that this does not precludeconscious control over actions as long as we can prevent ourselves from doing things 50ms beforethey occur, so our freedom could be a kind of vetoing power. However, this hardly fits with ournormal view of freedom  we do not see ourselves as unpredictable machines, waiting for volitionsto appear and then deciding in less than a fifth of a second whether or not to go through with it. Wehave a distinct feeling that our own conscious mind and will are the actuators of our movements andthe source of our thoughts.One of the philosophical cases against freedom is raised by Daniel Wegner. He argues that our senseof having a free will is an illusion. He makes a distinction between the experience of consciouslywilling an action and the actual causation of the action. The tendency to confuse them, he says, isthe source of the illusion of conscious will (Wegner,


004). He builds on a Humean thesis whichstates that our experience of willing an action is mistakenly thought to be the cause of our deliberateactions because it always occurs in causal conjunction with them. We have a natural propensity toinfer rational principles from empirical experiences, and the experience of two things alwaysoccurring in conjunction makes us assume there is a causal relation between them. However, this isnot a rationally qualified inference, and Libets experiments suggest that our assumption that ourdeliberate actions are caused by our conscious volitions is a mistake.There are strong reasons to be worried about the determinist thesis, however, since it seems tothreaten the commonplace notions of personal accountability and self-control which are central tomany of our moral practices such as blame and punishment. For this reason there are many thinkerswho have argued against determinism in favour of human liberty of indifference. Jean-Paul Sartre,for example, argued that agents are consciously responsible for the constraints they place onthemselves by failing to render past resolutions effective  for example, a person with a gamblingaddiction is fully responsible for whether or not they will fulfil their past resolutions to stopgambling. It is by our own conscious willing that we allow our circumstances to constrain us.However, one might argue that determinism does not threaten ordinary moral concepts andpractices. In fact, it is even possible to argue that determinism is


to make morality arealistic idea. To elaborate, if we imagine that people were in fact free agents who could actindependently of causes, they would be inherently unpredictable. The ordinary practices of praise