Freedom and Determinism
"We may regard the present state of the universe as the effect of its past and the cause of its future. An intellect which at a certain moment would know all forces that set nature in motion, and all positions of all items of which nature is composed, if this intellect were also vast enough to submit these data to analysis, it would embrace in a single formula the movements of the greatest bodies of the universe and those of the tiniest atom; for such an intellect nothing would be uncertain and the future just like the past would be present before its eyes." (Laplace 1814)
Laplace's demon was the first published articulation of scientific determinism. Determinism is the idea that at any one instant there is exactly one physically possible future with no alternatives.
The two philosophical theories that deal with the problem of free will that I find to be the most persuasive are determinism and compatabilism. Compatabilism is the theory that free will and determinism are both logically compatible. Compatabilist free will is defined as the mental deliberation leading up to an action, and is therefore compatible with determinism. The determinist theory is as follows:
Premise 1: No action is free if it must occur.
Premise 2: For any event X there are antecedent causes that ensure the occurrence of X in accordance with mechanical causal laws.
Conclusion: No action is free.
The first premise states what is meant by a “free” action. The second premise is the thesis of determinism, the notion that every event is a result of causal natural laws which account for its occurrence. For the hard determinist, it is obvious that nothing is uncaused, and if causes are present, then the effects must occur. Since everything that happens is the effect of some cause or set of causes, then everything must occur therefore nothing is free. Because you as a person must exist in space and time then your actions are not free, because your existence...
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