The dialogue between philosophers over the existence of free will versus the inevitability of determinism is a debate that will always exist. The discussion centers around the true freedom of humans to think and act according to their own judgment versus the concept that humans are intrinsically bound by the physical laws of the universe. Before I enter this chicken and the egg debate I need to quantify my terms: Free will is defined by the great philosopher, St. Thomas Aquinas as “vis electiva” or free choice. It is the ability of man to contemplate and judge the effects of the actions he is about to take. “…But man acts from judgment, because by his apprehensive power he judges that something should be avoided or sought. But because this judgment, in the case of some particular act, is not from a natural instinct but from some act of comparison in the reason, therefore he acts from free judgment and retains the power of being inclined to various things.” (Aquinas. Suma Theologica)
Determinism is a complex notion but is best described by David Hume as the notion that something cannot come from nothing and that all actions have causes preceding them. “I conceive that nothing taketh beginning from itself, but from the action of some other immediate agent without itself. And that therefore, when first a man hath an appetite or will to something, to which immediately before he had no appetite nor will, the cause of his will, is not the will itself, but something else not in his own disposing. So that whereas it is out of controversy, that of voluntary actions the will is the necessary cause, and by this which is said, the will is also caused by other things whereof it disposeth not, it followeth, that voluntary actions have all of them necessary causes, and therefore are necessitated.” (Hume. Liberty and Nessessity.)
Philosophy and world religion alike were born of the same origins. Each of the two ancient disciplines arose from the quest for the answers to life’s ominous questions. These human questions, archetypical to people of all geographic locations; where did we come from; why are we here; where do we go when we die; unite us as a race. It is no coincidence that each religion and theology from all four corners of the earth tackles these black holes of human logic. Each religion carves their own individual explanations of these unanswerable questions into their core belief systems, each one centrally different than others. However, they all share one common thought; each shares a belief in an afterlife determined by the choices made in life. Free will is the common denominator in all world religions, because all share the essential concept of morality. The widespread acceptance of the concept of morality implies that there is a choice to be had at each and every juncture or life. The choice comes from recognition of good and evil. For good and evil to exist, then there has to be the ability to decipher between the two and also decide to accept one over the other. The existence of morality alone proves that free will exists, because without the freedom to choose right or wrong in any given situation there would be no qualitative measure of the “rightness” or “wrongness” of ones actions. David Hume comments on the origin of morality and its place in our everyday decision making processes, “Only when you turn your reflexion into your own breast, and find a sentiment of disapprobation” (Hume. Treatise of Human Nature). In other words, there are no outside stimuli that can decipher good from evil; the line can only be drawn by internal thought. Hume was a naturalist in that his vision of the world and therefore stance of philosophy was based directly through the experiences of the senses. His stance on many issues directly originated from his ability to experience it with the five senses, and on the subject of morality he takes exception. Even he recognizes the existence of morality in...
Cited: * Aquinas, St. Thomas. Sancti Thomae Aquinatis ...: Suma Theologica ... Parisiis: Apud Sebastianum Et Gabrielem Cramoisy, 1640. Print.
* Hume, David. A Treatise of Human Nature: in Two Volumes. London: Dent, 1934. Print.
* Hume, David. Liberty and Necessity: an Argument against Free-will and in Favor of Moral Causation. London: Progressive Pub. 1890. Print.
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