Critically Examine the Claim That Free Will and Determinism Are Incompatible

Topics: Free will, Determinism, Causality Pages: 5 (2062 words) Published: January 6, 2013
Critically examine the claim that free will and determinism are incompatible One of the main questions that we face is whether or not, we as humans have genuine freedom. Are we free to make our own choices? Do we decide what happens in our lives in the future? Or are our lives set pathways in which we have no say at all? Are all our choices already decided? In other words, do we have free will or are our actions pre-determined, or both? Hard determinists, libertarians and soft determinists all set out to provide answers to these questions, holding different views on whether or not free will and determinism are compatible. Both hard determinists and libertarians believe that free will and determinism are incompatible but hard determinists reject the idea of free will whereas libertarians support the idea of free will and reject determinism. On the other hand, soft determinists believe that free will and determinism are in fact compatible. Hard determinists believe in the theory of universal causation-that is for every physical even, there is a prior physical cause. Benedict Spinoza out it as ‘In the mind there is no absolute or free will; but the mind is determined to will this or that by a cause, which has been determined by another cause, and this last by another cause, and so on until infinity.’ They say that as the universe in governed by laws of nature, with enough information, we could necessitate what will happen and therefore accurately predict everything that will happen in the future. This area of determinism is known as scientific determinism who, in the words Pierre-Simon Laplace, believe that ‘If you know the speed and position of a particle, it would be possible to know their position at any other time’, meaning that you can predict the future by the state of the universe now. Humans are part of the universe and like everything else, are made up of particles and so are governed by the laws of nature. All our actions have a prior cause and choices that precede them. This set of complex prior causes determines the decisions that we make. Our lives are run on fixed lines. Moral choice and our feelings of freedom are illusory. Our choices only appear uncaused as we are ignorant of what causes those choices. This was illustrated by John Locke in his locked room analogy which goes as follows: a man wakes up in a room that, unknown to him, is locked from the outside. He chooses to stay in the room, believing he has chosen freely. In reality, he has no option. However, his ignorance of this gives him an illusion of freedom. As a result of all this, there is no free will and so determinism cannot be compatible with it. As we are not free, we cannot be held morally responsible for our actions. Hard determinists hold that genetics may have a powerful influence on how we respond and they say that our socioeconomic backgrounds, religious-cultural backgrounds and our experience of life may affect us in such a way that our behaviour is determined rather that free. While few scientists would argue that genes cause people to do things, the combination of all these elements might. This was argued by Clarence Darrow who was a lawyer and got his clients sentence for murder reduced by saying that their actions were influenced by social and hereditary aspects so they were not fully responsible for their actions. Hard determinism holds that there are no free acts and so no moral responsibility. If this is true them it means that we are mistaken to praise some people for being good and to blame others for being bad. With hard determinism there is no praise and no blame and this is one of the main criticisms of the theory. It is commonly assumed that we should be held responsible for acts which we freely choose to commit but with hard determinism, no act is free so how can we take responsibility? For a judicial system to be just then we need to presuppose blame, but hard determinism does not allow us to do that. In addition,,...
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