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Free Will and Determinism
Terms in this set (42)
What is determinism?
Determinism states that all events are DETERMINED by prior causes, including human choices. Our actions are the result of the laws of nature which govern all things.
Determinists would argue that all our behaviour can be best understood when translated into the language of science.
Freedom of choice is an ILLUSION so the concepts of moral responsibility, blame and punishment are meaningless. This makes it difficult to make sense of the idea that people are morally and legally responsible only for the actions they carried out freely and deliberately.
This leads to the discussion of whether genuine free will is compatible with determinism.
Define HARD DETERMINISM, LIBERTARIANISM, and SOFT DETERMINISM
--> Hard determinists accept determinism and reject freedom and moral responsibility.
--> Libertarians reject determinism and accept freedom and moral responsibility.
--> Soft determinists (compatibilists) reject the two previous views that free will and determinism are incompatible and argue that freedom is not only compatible with determinism, but requires it.
What is hard determinism? 1
Hard determinist is the belief that all our actions have prior causes. Hard determinism is incompatible with free will and therefore humans do not have moral responsibility.
Every event is caused by previous events, this is known as 'THE THEORY OF UNIVERSAL CAUSATION'. Hard determinism tends to be associated with the Enlightenment; it is based on a mechanistic view of the laws of nature, rooted in Newtonian science.
According to this view, the mind is not separate from the brain and its electrical impulses, which can be explained in terms of cause and effect. Thus, if we know the preceding causes, we could in theory predict how a person will respond to any situation and this would show that they are not 'free'.
What is hard determinism? 2
Determinists maintain that every human being is influenced by many factors in their past over which they have no control. This includes our GENETIC make up, SOCIOLOGICAL and ENVIRONMENTAL influences.
A person is like a machine, if it is faulty it just needs fixing. They cannot be blamed if they are violent as this is a fault that needs to be corrected. The person may, however, need to be imprisoned to stop them harming others.
Different versions of Hard Determinism 1
-> John Hospers was a modern hard determinist, he says there is always something that compels us both externally and internally to perform an action that we would think was a result of free will. He concludes 'it is all a matter of luck.'
-> In 1924 Clarence Darrow defended two young men on a charge of murdering a boy. He pleaded for their death penalty to be changed to life imprisonment saying they were a product of their upbringing, their ancestry and their wealthy environment. He was successful - the case makes us question whether criminals are morally responsible for what they do.
Different versions of Hard Determinism 2
John B. Watson discussed psychological behaviourism. He suggested behaviour can be predicted and controlled because all human behaviour (inc. ethical decisions) is controlled by prior causes which are, in principle, knowable.
He suggests behaviour is influenced by heredity and environment i.e. nature + nurture. By manipulating the environment, behaviour can be altered. This idea is called 'conditioning'.
We are not always conditioned by our environment but will often use it to get what we want. This sort of behaviour is known as operant conditioning and is most often linked to the work of B. F. Skinner who investigated behaviour modification through reward and punishment.
Moral behaviour is about what people ought to do, but if they could not have acted otherwise then they had no freedom of choice and cannot be held morally responsible for their actions.
Hard Determinism: Steven Pinker
Pinker approached determinism from another angle incorporating Darwinian ideas.
Emotions such as guilt, anger, sympathy and love all have a biological basis. He developed the theory that our moral reasoning is a result of natural selection but claimed this does not remove moral responsibility.
For example, natural selection might predispose a person to violence but this does not excuse such behaviour.
Hard Determinism: Isaac Newton
All theories of determinism are influenced by the NEWTONIAN LAWS of physics.
The world is seen by determinists as mechanism controlled by the laws of cause and effect.
Laplace, a follower of Newton, placed such confidence in causality that he believed the predictions of the minutest details could be made if all the causal factors were known. This included how people act, meaning there is no room for chance or choice.
Hard Determinism: John Locke
Locke believed in the idea that freedom is an illusion — we may appear to have moral choices, but we only think we chose freely because we do not know all the causes that lie behind our choices.
He illustrates this idea with an analogy. A man is sleeping in a locked room; on awakening he decides to stay where he is, not knowing the room is locked. The man thinks he has made a free decision but in reality he has no choice.
The same applies to our moral choices — we think we make free decisions simply because we do not know the causes.
This view was taken by Baron d'Holbach, he said humans and their actions can be understood in terms of cause and effects so freedom is an illusion.
Hard Determinism and Moral Responsibility
Hard determinist believe humans cannot be held morally responsible for their actions. The concept of 'diminished' responsibility is applied to human behaviour as we do not really chose our actions.
Honderich believed that each action is an effect, and therefore moral blame and punishment for the sake or punishment are pointless.
In his view everything is physically determined. Our mind is a by-product of brain activity and actions are caused by 'psycho-neural' events. Therefore free will does not exist.
If determinism is accepted, all moral and ethical thinking could be said to become MEANINGLESS.
Evaluation of Hard Determinism 1
-> Our common sense and experience tells us that we do make choices all the time. It seems extreme to doubt all of our experience of decision making. The determinist would respond that this is an illusion and freedom cannot be proven, but most people trust their experiences that they could have acted differently.
-> J. Eccles takes a dualist position arguing that the mind and brain are separate entities and that the mind is capable of influencing matter, as opposed to the deterministic belief that everything it to be explained materialistically and physically.
-> Hard determinism means we cannot blame or praise people for their actions. It also means that people would not be morally responsible, and so would not deserve blame for even the most evil actions. Therefore Hitler was not culpable for his actions, nor can Mother Teresa be praised for hers. The hard determinist would reply that this is not an argument against her position, it merely points out the unpalatable consequences.
Evaluation of Hard Determinism 2
Hard determinism rejects the idea of punishment as retribution, but it does not reject any other views about the justification punishment. For example, deterrence, self-defence or moral education.
Classical physics is indeed deterministic, but modern quantum physics is not deterministic and so it makes no sense to worry about determinism in the 21st century. Modern physics maintains the most basic laws of nature are not deterministic but probabilistic.
Chaos theory points to randomness beneath apparently firm causal laws and this runs counter to the Newtonian idea of fixed laws. HOWEVER the hard determinist will reply to the challenge by saying that, at the quantum level, there is indeterminism but determinism at the macro level.
Hard determinism is often associated with moral nihilism - the claim that no-one is ever really responsible for anything and the rejection of any moral categories at all since, if humans are determined, morality is an irrelevant idea.
Evaluation of Hard Determinism: Paradigm case argument
It could also be argued that the ideas of 'choice' and 'freedom' are meaningful within the context of the language game they are being used. For example, to argue that a bridegroom does not freely chose his bride is to misuse the word choice, since this is a paradigm case of what we understand by the notion.
However this argument is widely rejected on the grounds that even if a term is taught with reference to commonly understood cases, it may only be because of false beliefs that those cases are used in the first place. That is to say, although our concept of choice is meaningful it does not necessarily describe reality.
Libertarianism holds that we have complete moral responsibility and humans have free will.
For libertarians, the idea of cause and effect cannot be applied to human choices. We are not compelled to act by outside forces, moral actions are the result of the character of the individual.
This position makes a distinction between our personality, which may be determined by things outside of our control like our genetic make-up or our environmental upbringing, and our moral self, which is truly free and which we can influence by the moral choices that we make.
Moral actions are neither completely determined nor completely random. Actions are not uncaused but self-caused.
According to Kant we do not need to be dominated by the cause and effect of our emotions. We can apply reason to our decisions and thus become originating causes of our actions.
Kant argues that the mind exercising reason enables us to make free choices, whereas of we act from feelings or emotions then we become slaves to our passions.
Kant assumed that our will is autonomous and capable of acting from reason so we are morally responsible for our actions. He argued against Hume who said 'reason is the slave of the passions.'
The most common argument for Libertarianism is that it appeals to our intuitions.
Each of us experiences freedom. We have a sense of decision making and freedom over choices in life. To talk of temptation means we know what it is to resist temptation.
We see ourselves as free agents not puppets on a string. We are able to make moral choices and wrestle with the difficulty of these decisions. Unlike puppets we have minds and it is reasonable to say a mind is needed to have free will.
Peter van Inwagen - uses of the analogy of choosing which branch to go down when travelling along a road. Determinism is like travelling along a road with no branches, we cannot choose a different way.
Libertarians believe that we could have chosen to do otherwise. This is clear because, when asked to defend our actions we blame ourselves, or wonder if we did the right thing. We evaluate our actions by asking how we may have acted differently.
We would only blame criticise or regret if we believed we had alternative ways of acting.
We also know that unforeseen can alter the future e.g. a student may achieve A grades in all his practise papers but this does not mean he will do so in the final exam. He may have a bad cold, his dog may die or he may misread the question. From our observation of the world around us, we know that things can always go wrong.
Libertarianism: Uncaused events
Another answer to determinism is that not all events have a cause: some events are uncaused, human choices are an example of such events.
Werner Heisenberg's uncertainty principle says that we cannot know both the location and the momentum of subatomic particles at the same time. He therefore thought it was better to refer to the statistical probabilities rather than formulate general laws. Using this principle as a basis, it seems that determinism is false.
Scientists agree that not every event has a cause - some are in principle, unpredictable.
Honderich says this only applies at the subatomic level; it is certainly not true to say that quantum physics refutes Newtonian Mechanics.
Libertarianism: Free will requires causality
However, the principle of causality is presupposed when considering freedom. The opposite of causality = randomness. This is not free either. A person not be morally responsible for an event that was randomly caused.
Modern physics says that the laws of nature are not deterministic but probabilistic. Einstein said 'God does not play dice' - but apparently he was wrong.
Freedom means we must be able to cause events chosen. If there is no cause, then its not genuine freedom. We are only not free if we are forced to do something.
Libertarianism: Necessary vs Contingent truth
Libertarians argue that determinists have confused the distinction between things that are necessarily true and those which are contingently true.
It is necessarily true that 'a bachelor is an unmarried man'. However it is only contingently true that 'The policeman is a bachelor'. The policeman may decide to get married and this would no longer be the case.
Similarly, a person's genetic make-up or upbringing may predispose them to a life of crime but whether they chose to commit criminal acts is still a contingent possibility, not a necessary outcome. That is to say, we are not wholly determined.
Libertarianism: Jean Paul Sartre - Existentialism
Freedom is also a goal of moral action. We show freedom in our aim to act freely.
Sartre said man makes himself what he choses. Meaning given to life is dependent on the individual.
Avoiding this freedom constitutes 'mauvais foi'; simply following what is decided by others. Life is ultimately absurd so there is no reason to do one thing rather than another.
Robert Kane - Modern Libertarian
We experience deep freedom when we are equally pulled in two directions and have to exercise minds and chose a path of self-determination.
Kane believes in five freedoms; self realisation, rational self-control, self-perfection, self-determination and self-formation. Self-formation allows us to act in a way not determined by existing character.
We are only morally responsible for actions in which we 'made ourselves into the kind of person we are'.
Daniel Dennett criticised this view: If one does not come across these opportunities then they have no freedom.
Libertarianism: Key criticisms
Personal responsibility underpins the entire system of ethics and law.
Hume criticises the idea of causation. It is a concept we impose on our experiences. Cannot prove that A always causes B.
Freedom for libertarians is uncoerced power to chose, but how does a person decide what to do? Past experiences, emotions, beliefs and values impact decisions.
Spinoza argues that freedom is illusory. Just because humans think they are free does not mean that they are: 'Experience.. teaches that men believe themselves to be free... knowing nothing of the causes by which they are determined'.
If freedom exists, then what grounds it?
If we are just advanced animals and are made up simply of matter, then matter behaves according to laws of nature - so how can there be freedom?
This leads some libertarians to argue for dualism and the claim that human beings are made up of body and soul.
Freedom, they claim, is grounded in human beings have an immortal soul which is not determined by physical laws.
Peter Vardy has argued that the debate about freedom is too black and white: either we have freedom or we do not. This is the way the debate is generally set out.
Perhaps, however, freedom is an achievement which results from struggle and effort to understand the forces acting on us.
It means becoming 'self-aware' and understanding why we think and act as we do. In so doing, we may be able to become free... sometimes after a lifetime of hard struggle.
The source of freedom
Materialists tend to reject freedom, one reason for arguing against materialism is that the source of freedom may need to lie in a source other than matter. Some people argue that this source is the soul or a spiritual substance.
At issue is whether our experience of ourselves as free agents can be explained if we think of ourselves as simply material beings.
Hume argues that if humans are merely material beings, they are wholly determined.
Distinction between personality and moral self
Determinists challenge the distinction between personality and moral self and question how it is possible to draw a line between these. At what point does predetermination end and self-causation begin? There is no gap in the causal chain for free will to operate.
J. Eccles argues that this 'gap' may be found at the quantum level of uncertainty where mind is capable of influencing matter.
Soft Determinism 1
Soft determinists believe that our actions are determined but we are morally responsible for them. This maintains we are free AND determined and these are compatible.
Human beings are free to do what they want to do BUT what they want to do is determined by their background, genetics, education, etc.
Genuine free will is incompatible with fatalism, the idea that no one can change the course of events. However it is compatible with determinism, a theory of universal causation, if we include our own values, choices and desires amount the choices that determine our actions.
All human actions are caused not random. We are free to do what we want, not forced.
Soft Determinism 2
Soft determinists define freedom as the liberty of spontaneity, the freedom to act according to ones nature, which is determined by external factors such as heredity, education and background.
If desires are counted as causes of our actions, freedom is compatible with moral responsibility.
If we had no other choice, then we are not morally responsible.
Soft determinism may be seen then, as the view that determinism is compatible with whatever sort of freedom is necessary for moral responsibility - genuine free will.
Linked this to developments in physics, we might live in an indeterministic universe not completely described by physics as there are some events (e.g. human behaviour) that are neither determined nor random.
Soft Determinism: Internal and External Causes
—> Human freedom cannot be understood without determinism because our choice is a causal factor in our actions.
—> Human choice are a combination of external and internal factors.
INTERNAL CAUSES lead to voluntary actions of free will e.g. emotions, desires, upbringing. 'I moved to Spain because I wanted to live somewhere hot.'
EXTERNAL CAUSES lead to involuntary actions contrary to ones wishes. 'I moved to Spin because I was deported by the government.'
Soft Determinism: David Hume
Hume said that every act must be caused or it is chance not freedom, free will and determinism have to go together or everything would just be random.
According to Hume, so as we are not constrained we are free - just as Locke's man in the locked room voluntarily stays there as he does not know the room is locked.
Constraint can be internal, such as addiction, or external, such as being imprisoned. Not constrained means we are morally responsible.
Response to Hume: Kant 1
Kant rejected Hume's reasoning. He argued we have to assume freedom as it is a necessary pre-condition for all morality.
We are determined in so far as we are animals and conditioned by the material world, but our freedom lies in something beyond this - in the noumenal realm - and is based on reason.
Kant believed that determinism applied to all objects of knowledge, not to acts of the will.
Kant said we work from TWO main standpoints:
--> The theoretical or pure reason, concerning knowledge the mind and the way we see the world.
--> The practical or practical reason. Actions, the will, the way we see ourselves.
Response to Hume: Kant 2
Cannot look for genuine causes of our actions beyond genuine acts of will.
According to Kant, we will always think of ourselves as free. Self awareness, without which the world would not make sense to us, forces on us the idea that we are free. Therefore we cannot get rid of the idea that we're free without ceasing to see ourselves as the originator of our actions.
Evaluation soft determinism
Agrees that moral responsibility is important.
Not acceptable to hold someone to account for actions caused by emotions, desires, beliefs if they have no choice in having them.
It is hard to decide what is deterministic as opposed to freely chosen. Made complex through physics, genetics and psychology.
Allows for creativity in our choices, not all of our choices result from existing desires or habits.
Perhaps there is not much practical difference between Hard and Soft determinism.
Both reject origination and if origination is the key to freedom, then both hold that human beings are not free.
Soft determinists say that we are free because our actions are voluntary, but this just means that we are ignorant of the forces acting on us.
Not genuine freedom
Hick compares the freedom described in soft-determinism to a person making apparent 'choices' under hypnosis, when in fact they are not free at all.
For freedom to be real, we must have 'liberty of indifference', not 'liberty of spontaneity'.
For Libertarians and Hard Determinists, this means the ability to do otherwise. For soft determinists however freedom simply means 'I could act otherwise if the circumstances were different'. Many would argue this is not genuine freedom.
Religion and freedom
If religion is introduced into the debate about freedom, then there are two contradictory influences:
Many religious philosophers argue that evil in the world is permitted by God (who is all powerful and wholly good) as God values human freedom and, therefore, must allow human sin if people are to be able to freely choose to love and obey God or not.
Some religious philosophers argue that since God is omniscient this must mean that human beings are not free. Islam, for instance, argues that 'everything happens by the will of Allah' and this makes it difficult to argue for freedom.
Religion and freedom: God is simple
St. Thomas Aquinas and many Christian theologians argue that God is wholly simple.
This means that God is timeless, spaceless, bodiless and absolutely unchangeable.
God has no potential - God cannot be other than God is. - All God's attributes are identical. God's justice, mercy, anger, love, power and knowledge are all identical in God.
These are experienced differently by human beings but, in God, there is no difference between the attributes. None of God's attributes depend on human beings.
Religion and freedom: God's actions must be causal
If God's knowledge does not depend on human beings, then it follows that God's actions must be causal.
Everything happens because God wills it to happen. -This gives rise to the Islamic view that EVERYTHING HAPPENS BY THE WILL OF GOD.
Calvin held a similar position.
The trouble is that this denies human freedom and leads to predestination. Humans, on this view, are NOT free - everything is determined by God.
THE CAUSAL ARROW - Alternative 1(Aquinas)
God's knowledge causes things to happen - hence determinism. Because God knows the Duke of Cambridge will father another baby, he fathers baby.
- Determinism: It may be that, if God is wholly simple, then God's knowledge cannot depend on human beings, so God causes everything in the Universe In Islam, everything is held to happen by the will of Allah - if this is true then this points to determinism.
- The issue is whether God's knowledge causes events to happen, or whether God knows what happens even though God does not control the event.
THE CAUSAL ARROW - Alternative 2 (Dr. Gerard Hughes)
God's knowledge depends on the event happening. Because the Duke of Cambridge fathers a baby, God knows that he fathers a baby.
- Openness Theology: Some Protestant theologians have reacted against theological determinism by arguing for 'Openness Theology'
- They hold this because they regard the claim that human beings are free as essential to religious belief.
- They therefore reject the idea that God knows the future - BUT more traditional theologians will argue that this limits God.
Religion and freedom: An open future
The consequences of theological determinism seem to be grave and raise questions about the sort of God who would choose some rather than others for salvation - nevertheless it is a position found in mainstream Christianity and Islam and it may be a necessary position if God is timeless and wholly simple.
If God is IN TIME, then the future may be OPEN - this leads to OPENNESS THEOLOGY which maintains that even God does not know the future - God develops in knowledge as the Universe develops.
Process theology affirms this position BUT, critics argue, if God does not know the future than God may be too limited to be worthy of worship.
THIS SET IS OFTEN IN FOLDERS WITH...
Introduction to Philosophy Ch 4
Theological determinism - Part 2
John Locke On Identity and Diversity
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