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DETERMINISM VS. FREE WILL

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DETERMINISM VS. FREE WILL
An ancient philosophical
conundrum
DETERMINISM =
The theory that every event, including
every human action, is governed by
natural laws.
Technically, determinism is the belief that a determinate
set of conditions can only produce one possible outcome
given fixed laws of nature.
Many believe this rules out HUMAN
FREEDOM.
DETERMINISM IS DIFFERENT
FROM FATALISM
• FATALISTS claim that
there is nothing that we
can do to affect our lives
in any significant way. For
example, I cannot in any
way affect whether I am
going to have a fatal
accident tomorrow.
• DETERMINISTS allow
that human actions can
make a difference.
• Fatalism often takes the
form of RELIGIOUS
PREDESTINATION
If determinism is true it would seem
that:
• We are no more free than
robots.
• There is no reason to
praise or blame anyone.
• It is wrong to punish
criminals--because they
“can’t help it”.
3 DIFFERENT POSITIONS ON
DETERMINISM:
1. Human beings have free will because
determinism is FALSE (�libertarianism’).
2. Human beings do NOT have free will
because determinism is TRUE (�hard
determinism’).
3. Even though determinism is TRUE,
human beings DO have free will (�soft
determinism’).
Libertarianism
• Free will requires a gap in universal
causality.
• The self initiates actions but when acting
freely is not itself caused to do so.
• Human decision making thus occupies a
special place outside of the natural order.
NOTE: This is not the same as
�libertarianism’ in political philosophy.
Objections to libertarianism
• The self would have to be non-physical,
yet capable of causing events. Does this
make sense?
• Even if it makes sense, what is the
evidence for it?
How to be a soft determinist
• A free act is just a VOLUNTARY act. It
issues from what the agent WANTS,
unconstrained psychologically or
physically.
• Acts can be �free’ in this sense but still
determined by natural laws. Determinism
is not a problem for those who take this
view.
If hard determinism is true…
• MORAL RESPONSIBILITY is undermined.
(�Ought’ implies �can’.) Do praise, blame or
punishment make sense without moral
responsibility?
• Is RATIONALITY undermined? Can our
acts have reasons as well as causes?
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