What are the implications of determinism for our understanding of free will? Argue your position.
There are several implications of determinism that illustrate our understanding of free will. It is a general understanding that we as humans should be free to make our own choices our lives; yet we also understand that events, including human behaviour, may have a prior cause, perhaps due to natural or some other circumstance. This paper aims to identify and present these implications of determinism on free will.
Naturally, we are raised in a society where ‘agency’ or the ability to act freely is a given birth right (in most countries anyway), subsequently followed by the self being regulated over time to develop socially acceptable and rational conduct, through autonomy. Already we are able to identify how determinism holds an impact on one’s free will. How can we have true ‘freedom’ and free will to behave as we wish, when it is already determined that the society will live in will regulate our ability to make choices and decisions in life? A fear of determinism on free will is that, if it is true, humans are no longer accountable for the consequences of their actions through their freedom. Hence to say that human reasoning has no influence on the final outcome.
This raises further topics to discuss, to investigate what free will/freedom actually is, and whether it truly exists if the decision is pre-determined. The perception of free will is open to interpretation by many philosophers and ordinary people. For the purposes of this discussion, we will maintain that free will is a human’s capacity to make a decision freely and openly for themselves. We must then take in to account the concept of psychological determinism; taking in to account all the elements, which have formed one’s character such as their genetics, childhood, relationships, workplace and social autonomy. When this is in question, it is plausible to say the person may actually not be making a decision from free will, as they are constrained by their biological and social construct in the process. This form of determinism elucidates how one’s understanding of ‘free will’ can be created within the mind (Skinner, 1948) as they would make a choice in a psychological context that they are comfortable with i.e. ‘the right decision’ for them- but that does not necessarily mean that the choice is made freely.
What if however, whether or not we are able to choose freely, that certain events are inevitable in our fate as humans, and there may be no alternative outcome? Fatalism is the term is what underpins this concept. The concepts of fatalist approaches such as theological and logical determinism are to be explored further within this paper in relation to their implications to free will. Both concepts however hold a common ground however, where outcomes are not generated from pre-determined events, but emphasise that the outcome will take place regardless of the prior events and therefore, regardless of what choice the human makes.
Many theological determinist approaches involve an element of divine knowledge or omnipotence. Most commonly the example of God or a supreme being is used, to uphold that he who is believed to be the creator of all, knows all things timely, as to what will happen as per our fate. This inflicts the understanding of free will, as the individual is left to ponder as to whether they actually have a power to control the resulting outcome from a choice that they make. Boethius (524) referred to this in The Consolation of Philosophy where he outlines the natural trait of humans to be able to act on their will with reasoning, which is independent of chance or any scheduled fate. His idea was that any sort of divine pre-emptive knowledge could co-exist with free will, and does not necessarily have to imply a sense of a determined future.
Referring to the above-mentioned concept of logical determinism, we may now factor out...
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Boethius. (524). The consolation of philosophy.
Bohm, D. (1951). Quantum theory. New York: Prentice-Hall.
Laplace, P. S. (1814). Essai philosophique sur les probabilités. Paris: Courcier.
Skinner, B. F. (1948). Walden Two. New York: Macmillan.
Taylor, R. (1963). Metaphysics. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall.
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