Is Our Freedom Compatible with Determinism? with Fate?

Topics: Free will, Determinism, Libertarianism Pages: 5 (1711 words) Published: October 30, 2008
Is our freedom compatible with determinism? With fate?

The concept of freedom and its compatibility with determinism has long been debated by philosophers. They hold opinions of compatibilism, incompatibilism and hard determinism. I believe that while a deterministic world involves the prevalence of causation, it is still possible for such a world to permit the existence of freedom. Freedom is also capable of existing in conjunction with fate although it is based on particular perspective and depends on the individual’s personal intent.

Freedom has often been interpreted with the notion of free will. Free will is the ability for a rational being to exercise his own volition and intention. It suggests the freedom of choice or the freedom for a being to be able to act otherwise if he had wanted to. The theory of motivation describes an act of free will as consisting of both belief and desire.

To understand determinism we must first observe the notion of causation. Hume suggests that causation is based on a relationship between two events that imply cause and effect. The two events are necessary such that if the first had not occurred then the second would also not have occurred. That is, event B will not have occurred if event A did not. This means that event A is required for the existence of event B and is hence responsible for a causal relationship between the two events.

Determinism is the proposition that every event is regulated by laws of nature such that there is only one possible path of consequence and continuity. This concept involves causation as each event can only have one possible subsequent event that is maintained by the laws of nature.

Many philosophers have demonstrated different views regarding the compatibility of free will and determinism. Baron d’Holbach argues the opinion of a hard determinist and refuses the existence of free will while believing thoroughly in determinism. He presents the argument that all decisions or actions performed by an individual have been dictated by elements beyond his control. These include neural processes, passions or desires and properties of external objects that he finds favourable or advantageous. Hence, the ultimate outcome of his decision has already been predetermined by these elements and offers the individual only one optimal, feasible choice. This suggests that while the world is coherently deterministic it is not compatible with, or even permits the existence of, free will.

I believe this argument is unacceptable as it is not possible for us to assume that we have no free will. While there may be situations where only one choice is obviously ideal to the individual, the individual is still capable of selecting another option if he chooses to discard any personal priorities. Also, the individual must consider all options and apply rational reasoning before arriving at a conclusion. I believe that the process of reasoning and its outcome assist in advancing the formation of an act of free will and do not prohibit it. In the case of judgement based on personal preference, it is exactly the individual’s partiality which defines his intention and act of free will. We can therefore conclude that free will does indeed exist.

While incompatibilists can accept the existence of free will and the possibility of a deterministic world, they argue that it is not possible for free will to exist in conjunction with determinism. Peter van Inwagen presents the argument that according to determinism, when the laws of nature are applied to the past, it determines a unique future. Since all events prior to our existence are beyond our control, as all events are governed by the laws of nature it hence follows that we are unable to act upon free will as our present actions has already been determined by the past.

I believe that this argument is invalid as it does not consider the definition of free will which is that an individual could have acted...
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