Free Will and Determinisim

Topics: Free will, Causality, Determinism Pages: 4 (1135 words) Published: May 3, 2014


Free Will and Determinism

Both Steven Cahn and W.T. Stace have written essays concerning the compatibility of Free Will and/or Determinism. However, they have opposing views on the subject, whereas Cahn believes free will and determinism are incompatible and Stace believes that they are. Free will can be defined as one’s ability or power to freely make choices that are unconstrained by external circumstances or by an agency such as fate. On the other hand, Determinism can be defined as the, “philosophical proposition that every event, including human cognition and action, is causally determined by an unbroken chain of prior occurrences” (Wikipedia). So what are the arguments concerning their compatibility?

In Cahn’s article, determinism is defined as the way things will be is the result of how things are and the work of natural laws. If we are completely aware of how things are at the present time and the laws that govern how the world works, then we can predict how things will be in the future. Cahn argues that free will and determinism are incompatible. This argument can be broken down into two premises: Premise 1:No action is free if it must occur.

Premise 2: In the case of every event that occurs, antecedent conditions, known or unknown, ensure the event’s occurrence. Conclusion: Therefore, no action is free.
Cahn supports this argument by stating that every action/event that occurs must occur due to predetermined conditions but an action cannot be free if it must occur, therefore he concludes that no action is free.

Cahn’s article offers examples of specific types or versions of determinism. One particular view of determinism is known as “hard determinism.” Hard determinism assumes that determinism is true and, therefore, free will does not exist. While human beings actions are not absolutely predictable, hard determinism explains that, “each individual is influenced by a unique combination of hereditary and environmental factors” (Cahn...
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