Intro to Philosophy
Free Will versus Determinism
Right now I am writing this paper, for philosophy class, and it is due tomorrow. The question is, from the time I was born, was it pre-determined that I was going to write this paper? Since the beginning of religion, people have argued whether or not everything we do is pre-determined. The belief that every action a person makes has been pre-determined is called determinism. On the other side of this belief is the belief of free will. Free will is the belief that a person chooses what happens to them through their own actions. In the argument of free will versus determinism, there are three positions that can be taken for this argument. The positions that can be taken are hard determinism, libertarianism, and soft determinism. Hard determinism is the belief that everything in the universe is determined by casual laws, or is pre-determined. Libertarianism is the belief that there are some actions in which a person causes the outcome or in other words, the belief that people choose what happens to them. And finally, there is soft determinism. Soft determinism is the belief that there are certain things in life that are pre-determined and there are some things in life that a person chooses to happen through their actions. I believe that soft determinism is true because there really are certain things in life that are pre-determined, but there are also things that people have control over.
Every day, a person makes hundreds if not thousands of choices; choices that will lead to actions, which will lead to an outcome of any given situation. I believe that for certain things in life, people decide what happens to them based on their actions or choices. But just as I believe that people make their own choices, I also believe that there are certain things in life that are pre-determined. I believe that free will and determinism go hand at hand though.
There are certain things in life that a person has no control over. For
example, when a person is born, they cannot choose what family they can be related to. A person cannot choose what their face is going to look like, or the color of their skin, or even something like their name. All of these qualities of a person are all pre-determined before birth. A person does not have free will to choose these qualities while in the mother’s womb. Just as there are these things that cannot be chosen, there are many things that a person can choose to be a part of their life that is not pre-determined. For instance, a person can choose who their friends are, what color they like, what food they like, and even things like hobbies that they enjoy doing. In my opinion, free will and determinism work along with each other. I believe that both determinism and free will are true. In my opinion, they work with each other. I believe that since we can’t choose what environment we grow up in, it effects how we make our choices. In other words, our culture has a strong effect on our own personal decision making. In fact, our free will decision making is formed from our past experiences.
There are some philosophers who don’t agree with soft determinism. A man by the name of Baron d’Holbach is a strong believer of hard determinism. d’Holbach believes that what we call free will is simply just a modification of the physical brain. We necessarily seek to enhance/ensure our own existence. As natural beings, we are wholly subject to laws of nature. In this sense, forces independent of us create desires/drives in us that determine what we do. What he means by this is that is that we only believe that we have free will. And that the choices that we make are already pre-determined based on the environment we live in. Another philosopher by the name of William James believes in libertarianism. According to James, there is always some ‘loose play’ among parts of the universe, multiple possibilities for how things can be. Whatever does actually happen happens because of chance, not out of necessity or natural laws. In other words, he believes that either everything is determined, or everything is up to chance. I disagree with both of these views.
I believe that there is a mixture of both determinism and libertarianism. I disagree with Baron d’Holbach because I believe that free will does in fact exist. For me, it makes sense that free will is true. There are certain
things that need to have free will in order to exist. The best example of this is regret. Regret comes when a person makes a choice. If free will does not exist, than people don’t necessarily make choices, and without choices being made, than regret cannot exist. There needs to be free will for certain things in life to exist. I also disagree with William James. I believe that it is foolish to believe in the “all or none” principle. James believes that either there is all just pure determinism, or all free will, not both. It is impossible for there to be free will for everything. For example, people cannot choose what they are going to look like. People also cannot choose who their family is or what their birth name is. But, I also believe the same to be true with pure determinism. I believe that it is nonsense to believe that a person doesn’t choose their friends, what they take interest in, or what sort of events happen to them throughout the course of their life. I do believe that there are certain things that are pre-determined, but it doesn’t make sense to believe that everything is pre-determined.
Every single day, people make decisions that will affect what will happen to them. There are things in a person’s life that happen by choice, and there are also things that happen that people have no control over. I believe that soft determinism is true because there really are certain things in life that are pre-determined, but there are also things that people have control over. It cannot lean one way or the other because there needs to be both. I believe that these two work hand at hand in order to form out what happens to a person throughout their life.
1. “TheologySummary & History of World Religions. On Morality, Free Will & God.”Philosophy: Free Will vs. Determinism: WSM Explains Limited Freedom / Determinism in Necessarily Connected Universe. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Oct. 2012. .