Free Will James Anderson Imagine if you found yourself in a state of bondage where every action desire and feeling was planned on an inexorable agenda that you could not help but comply with. Although this seems like a dark and fantastical world, if the idea of determinism is fully accepted than it may not be as distant as you might think. The idea of Free Will is one of the most timeless and dubitable philosophical questions and is imposable to disregard. The idea of Free Will has three prevailing schools of thought, consisting of Determinism, (The belief that every action is determined and therefore, not free. ), Liberalism (the belief that our actions are not causally determined and therefore, free.) and lastly, Compatibilism (The belief that Determinism is Compatibilism with Free Will.
). Each outlook has its points as well as dissensions, but of all the angles, the one I must believe in is Compatibilism and this is why. Although Compatibilism is what I choose to believe, the other arguments are based on principals that cannot be ignored. The first view that I am going to deal with is that of the Determinist, namely the "Hard" one. Determinism is the belief that every action is the result of a previous action, and was therefore determined to occur.
If all actions are determined by previous actions than no actions can be made freely. Like the cosmological argument, determinism rests on the logical fact that no uncaused event can occur. What separates a Determinist~ from a is the belief that any action that occurs could not of happened in any other way. If this were the case then it would be theoretically possible to predict the future simply by observing the past and present. Because nobody can successfully and consistently predict the future, some people believe that this is an argument against determinism. The determinist easily dismisses this argument with the response that humans don't have the power to see let alone interpret the myriad of events that lead to an action.
Another common argument is the idea that if you were told what the future had in store for you, you could therefore consciously alter this out come. This argument is smashed with the fact that if you were told the future and you altered it, the future you were told was not the future because what actually occurred was different than what was predicted. Although, the strongest argument against determinism is the inherent moral dilemma. If every action was already predetermined and there was no way of going around it, than how can we hold people responsible for committing crimes, or give praise for noble deeds, if the person had no choice but to do as they did, how could they be held morally responsible for their actions, it would be like punishing your dog for eating. Could you imagine a world with no moral responsibility, albeit the world would be a much more accepting place, the price would be indifference and there would be nothing left to strive for, or to restrain you from treachery. It would be like sitting contently as a passive train, just waiting to see where the train's terminal track takes him.
The deterministic argument that every action is the result of a prior action is imposable to dismiss, but whether or not you have a choice in what action you make is still up for grabs. Although it is very difficult to indisputably prove the case for Determinism, it is equally testing to argue free will. As I mentioned before, free will relies highly on the idea of responsibility. In order to deny free will, you must also deny responsibility, which is a very difficult thing for anyone to do. If we are truly ruled by causal law, than how could any event of occurred other wise, so in order to save moral responsibility, we must either disprove or reinterpret these causal laws. Most people consider free will as being able to make choices and find alternatives that have not already been determined.
The Incompatibilist or liberalist believes that in order to make these choices freely, Determinism must be false. Although it is a hard battle to fight for the liberalist, seeing that the argument for determinism is fairly air tight, they still make some reputable arguments. The Incompatibilist's case for free will is generally broken down into three groups; non-causal accounts, event-causal accounts and agent-causal accounts. Non-causal accounts are actions that have no internal or external causal factors and are therefore free actions.
Some Incompatibilist's believe that this is the only free action while others believe that a free action may be caused as long as it is not determined. It seems to me that in order for an event to be uncaused it would have to be a random event, because it could have no thought, purpose, or any type of grounds to it. Even though true random events occur on a metaphysical level, there is no proof that they can occur on the behavioral level and even if they could would you really consider a random action a free action. Event Causal accounts are actions that are caused by previous events, but unlike the Compatibilist's view, they are Non-Deterministically caused. This conviction entails that the Agent has a control over their actions and even though the agent may have chosen to act as he did for the reasons that he did there was still a chance (if physically permitting) that the agent could have acted otherwise. One common argument against this case is that it is excessive and does not give any greater power or weight to the agents actions than the's account.
The Agent Causal account holds that a free action or decision, while not causally determined, is in stead caused by the agent directly and this causation by the agent is its's elf undetermined. In this view the agent is the source of his / her free actions and is according to Randolph Clark, an "uncaused cause of her behavior" (Randolph Clark, web. edu) Although there are multiple arguments against this principle, such as whether or not causation by an agent is even possible, it is still a very idealistic view that exemplifies the morals and responsibilities that determinism threatens. Although some believe that Free Will is an impossibility if causal law truly regulates our actions, there are some that believe not only that Free Will and Determinism can exist harmoniously, but that Free Will as we know it could not exist with out these causal laws, this is the Compatibilist's view. We are determined because it is very hard, if not imposable to disregard the chain of cause and effect.
Every human is naturally inclined to do what is most advantageous or necessary in any given circumstance. These inclinations maybe moral feelings, or more self-interested desires bur it is a proven fact that humans will inevitably do what is most desirable or accessible at the time. Although this may be the case, according to David Hume we are still free because being free, means being able to do what one feels like doing. IfI feel like riding my bike or hiking a mountain I am free as long as I am Capable of doing these things. Anyone who is not physically or mentally constrained is free in this matter of the sense. Even though some decisions are made under no constraints and can be considered free, there are others that are undeniably causally determined and have no other logical alternatives.
Take the following scenario for example. Imagine that you stop at a gas station, you might think that you were free in making that decision but when you inspect the past you can see that you were causally constrained to act as you did. For example, the reason you stopped at the station is because you ran out of gas, the reason you ran out of gas is because you were driving your car, the reason that you were driving your car was because you had to drive to work, the reason that you had to go to work was because you needed to feed and shelter yourself. As you can see, even the most mundane task of going to the gas station can be linked back to basic human survival. Now imagine that you are at the gas station and you realize that your oil is very low. As a result you go inside and find two brands of oil, neither of which you have seen before.
Both brands cost the same, have the same ingredients, have the same general appearance, (ex. color, shape and texture) and are both equally accessible. Even though it was causally determined that you are in the gas station making this decision, the decision it's self is under no constraint and can go one way as easily as the other and is there fore a free, as well as causally determined decision. Even though the writing of this paper was causally constrained and did not answer a single question, I hope that it helped you as much as it helped myself get a grasp on the most enduring question of all. bibliography: spark notes.