Freedom-Determinism Debate

Topics: Psychology, Free will, Determinism Pages: 5 (1726 words) Published: April 14, 2005
The controversy between freewill and determinism has been argued about for years. Freewill is defined as the belief that our behaviour is under our own control and do not act in response to any internal or external factors. Freewill has been found to have four different conditions and to have freewill at least two conditions must be obtained, these are; people have a choice on their actions, have not been coerced by anything or anyone, have full voluntary and deliberate control of what they do. One example of freewill in psychology is Humanism. The humanists are in favour of freewill as they believe that humans aren't ever determined to behave in a certain way.

According to Maslow (1950) we all strive for self-actualisation, which is that we move towards freewill. However it's been found that maladaptive behaviour results from lack of acceptance of oneself which prevents Maslow's self-actualisation occurring, therefore not everyone can strive for it, after all there are individual differences.

Freewill has been used as a defence in murder, some say that something which is beyond their control has determined them to kill someone i.e. inherited bad temper genes. But the freewill argument will be supported by diminished responsibility in law, because it shows that most behaviour is free, only those who are mentally ill and children have determined behaviour.

More supporting evidence for the existence of freewill comes from Penfield (1947); he stimulated parts of the brain of patients about to undergo brain surgery, to make them feel as though their limbs were moving. Penfield found that his patients said they felt different when their limbs moved when being coerced and when they moved them by their own freewill. Therefore freewill is a subjective feeling and most people believe they have freewill and this feeling supports this. One criticism to this is behaviourists such as Skinner would say that this subjective feeling of being free is just an illusion. The reason we feel free is that we are often unaware of our past reinforcement history.

There are applications from the Humanistic approach, counselling can make people exercise their freewill to maximise the rewards (reinforcements) in their lives. This has good consequences as it gives us power to change. On the other hand, it's a very optimistic view and doesn't work for all. Evaluating the Humanistic approach by scientific criteria is difficult because of its phenomenological emphasis. The evidence for the theories is almost entirely co- relational because of the methods used i.e. case studies and interviews, which in comparison to experiments do not produce falsifiable predictions. Although the Humanistic approach remains important, it has limited influence in psychological research because of its un-testable ideas and emphasis on the experiences of the individual.

Determinism is the opposite of freewill and is defined as a philosophy that states that our behaviour/experiences are pre-determined by e.g. genes, learned behaviour or early experiences. There are two sides to determinism, hard and soft determinism and there are four types of determinism, biological, genetic, psychic and environmental. Hard determinism is the belief that our behaviour is determined and predictable and controlled by these internal and external factors. Hard determinism is usually associated with social scientists such as Skinner, Freud, and Lorenz and usually rejected by philosophers. The behaviourist approach is in favour of hard determinism arguing that human behaviour is determined by learning from the environment and its causes can be explained in terms of environmental stimuli. Skinner, an environmental deterministic, asserted that in actual fact freewill in human behaviour was merely an illusion because in reality we are all at the mercy of our environment. He also proposed that we repeat behaviour that is rewarded and vice versa hence all our behaviour can actually be...
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