The Contradictory Nature of Soft Determinism
"There is a continuum between free and unfree, with many or most acts lying somewhere in between." (Abel, 322) This statement is a good summation of how Nancy Holmstrom's view of free will allows for degrees of freedom depending on the agent's control over the situation. Holmstrom's main purpose in her Firming Up Soft Determinism essay was to show that people can have control over the source of their actions, meaning that people can have control over their desires and beliefs, and because of this they have free will. She also tried to show that her view of soft determinism was compatible with free will and moral responsibility. While Holmstrom's theory about the self's being in control, willingness to participate, and awareness of an act causes the act to be free, has some merit, her choice to incorporate soft determinism ultimately proved to invalidate her theory. II. Exposition
In Nancy Holmstrom's Firming Up Soft Determinism essay she set out to prove that people can have control over their desires and beliefs, and therefore are in control of the sources of their actions. She believed it was possible to carry on the view of soft determinism and still hold that we are free to choose and we are at times able to do otherwise. She believed that the standard soft determinist position was inadequate. Her thought was that soft determinists had too limited of a notion of what is required for an agent to be in charge of their actions. The common soft determinist stance was that the
agent do what it pleased; the soft determinists simply ignore the question of whether the agent was in control of the sources that caused the actions. Holmstrom's theory was that "just because some causes of desires and beliefs, such as brainwashing, make actions resulting from them unfree, it does not follow that any cause of desires and beliefs has the same implications for the freedom of actions resulting from them."...
Cited: Holmstrom, Nancy. Firming Up Soft Determinism. In Fifty Readings in Philosophy,
Ed. Donald C. Abel, 2nd ed (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2004), pp. 319-332.
Donald C. Abel. Fifty Reading in Philosophy. 2nd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill,
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