On Humanism and Determinism

Topics: Causality, Determinism, Metaphysics Pages: 5 (1822 words) Published: October 7, 2012
Am I Free?
Before my first year in college started, Mama and I went to the mall to buy school-related things, including notebooks, pens, and a bag. When we arrived at the shoes-section, I found myself stuck in deciding which pair I should choose. Well, it's not because I don't like any—actually, I've found what kind of pair I want, but my mother kept on insisting another pair. It ended up that I bought what she liked for me because the pair that I liked didn't have a size appropriate for my feet. From this situation, I wondered if I had any sense of freedom at all. It is inevitably true that the topic about freedom has always shaken the world of human beings since time immemorial. I wonder, too, if I am really a free being. For me to be able to know if I am really free, I would need to answer some questions that might fulfill my inquiry: What is freedom? What does it mean to be free? Are we free beings? To help me with my questions, I read about an argument between determinism and freedom. Also, I read Baruch Spinoza's (a determinist and one of the most important modern philosophers) claim on freedom. Determinism is the thesis of universal causation: in simple terms, it claims that everything in this world is caused. On the other hand, freedom is the state of being free from restraints. As a doctrine, it maintains that some of our actions are free. These are both paradoxical—something inconsistent and contradictory. This is because if everything is caused, then so are the actions that we claim to be free. But they (actions) are the result of some causes which made us perform actions, so we are not free. How is that? Baruch Spinoza, as a determinist, also stated that we are “not free agents but parts of a divine machine which thinks and acts in accordance with the eternal laws of nature”, in short we are not free. Why? I will answer my own questions by defining what freedom is.

Freedom is the exemption or liberty from slavery or imprisonment. It is the liberty of choice or action. It is also the state of the will as the first cause of human actions, or self-determination in human beings [1]. To be free is to enable one to do what s/he wanted to do. To start the argument, let us first take a look at the Holy Bible. Another blessing that God gave us when He made us in His image is the gift of freewill or the freedom to choose. Through this gift we are given the power to act and not to act, and so, to perform deliberate acts of our own. Man is rational and therefore, like God, he is created with free will and is master over his acts. In this statement, it is given that we are given the freedom to do what we wanted to do. But, according to the determinist Baruch Spinoza, it might go the other way: that we are not really as free as we think. Spinoza had an inquiry on the following things: (1) What sort of world do we live in? (2) Who put us here? (3) Why? I would like to focus on question number 3, but first there must be answers on numbers 1 and 2. What sort of world do we live in? Spinoza answers that the world is infinite and eternal—it has no beginning and end in the space and time. It was never created and destroyed, and is just simply, profoundly and eternally is. For the next question on “Who put us here”, Spinoza answered that it's God. God, Spinoza asserts, is the world. Each of us is a definite and an important part of Him—a cell in His body, a segment of him. Every human body, therefore, is a part of God's body. Everything that happens in the world—our faith, destiny and actions—are in accordance with God's plan. In the third question, it was asked, “Why?”. The answer to this question, according to Spinoza, is that we have been born in order to be happy. But, what is “happiness”? [2]It is the presence of pleasure and the absence of pain. To be able to attain this, we must first try to find our limitations—for example, that we are only parts of God's divine machine, and that...
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