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Conflict between Freedom and Determinism

Freedom, Determinism & Responsibility

Instructions

– Demonstrate an understanding of the underlying conflict between freedom and determinism and the various options for resolving that conflict.

– Demonstrate my own thinking about the problem, must show that I have made a determined effort to grapple with the problem.

– Essay is written for a cold audience; they’re smart, but they have no prior knowledge of what I’m talking about.

– Try to organize your essay so that each part of it builds up a defence of your position.

Introduction

The idea that human beings exercise free will seems commonsensical; that is, we understand that when we act, we were capable of acting otherwise than we did. It may come as a surprise to hear that this is actually a hotly contested claim, and it has been subjected to philosophical scrutiny for thousands of years. The position that I will be defending is called hard determinism, a view that up until several months ago, I was blissfully unaware even existed. Hard determinism is the view that humans exist within the causal loop of the universe, that our actions are inextricably bound to the laws of nature. It proposes that human behaviour is caused by an individual’s personality, desires and values, but that their personality, desires and values are caused by external antecedent factors over which the individual has no control. These factors can range anywhere from genetic predisposition to their upbringing to the cultural norms of the society they happened to be born in. In short, hard determinism rejects the notion of human agency. The objective of my paper is two-fold:

1) To make the argument that the thesis of determinism does not undermine our every day conceptualization of the will, but simply proposes an explanation for the cause of what we call moral behaviour.

2) To make the argument that the thesis of free will and moral responsibility does not cohere with the thesis of determinism; or in other words, to attack the compatibilist/soft-determinist view.

Different interpretations of determinism’s truth exist. So I guess here I would outline specifically what the different views of determinism are, just like that dude’s paper LOL. I would identify mine and elaborate on the arguments. This definition admits a “will” or a desire-that-produces-action, but it admits no “free will” or free desire.

Libertarians subscribe to the notion that human actions are uncaused and undetermined. They operate on the premise that humans are capable of originating acts, initiating a sequence of events, self-governing and thus we are independent of natural causal chains.

Clearly formulate and explain the position you hold. In order to defend your position of hard determinism, I need to undermine their defence of freedom. Libertarians attack determinism by making a case for the exceptions they’re pointing to. Their only point of attack to make a case of their counter example; I need to prove their counter-example is not true. You can point to the sorts of suppositions that libertarians are making about human beings. Question the plausibility of those suppositions; the idea that we’re autonomous, the idea that we exist somehow outside of the causal loop.

I also argue against the claim of human uniqueness held by Libertarian philosophers, so look at Chisholm and look at Lewis, who kind of touches on that. Libertarians argue that humans are capable of originating acts, initiating a sequence of events, self-governing and thus we are independent of natural causal chains. Libertarians maintain that freedom and moral responsibility are logically incompatible with determinism. They believe that for humans to be free, there must be some instances, fundamentally, human action, which are not the effects of causal antecedents. But if this were true, then the human will must be subject to a special kind of explanation. Libertarians seem to support partial determinism, which suggests a break in the ongoing process of cause and effect.

For instance, history is not characterized by a linear progression, whereby one cause produces certain effects and so on ad infinitum. Instead, life can be described as a vast tree with an infinite number of branches, which divide into numerous possible directions. Yet, for human action to transcend causal determinism one of two possibilities must be fulfilled: i) events themselves must be uncaused and therefore random, or ii) particular events must be causi sui (the cause of itself).

Refuting the compatibilist/soft-determinist poses more of a challenge, as they share common ground with a hard determinist. Outline the main points and objectives of my paper and establish which of the 3 classical positions I hold. In this case, it is hard determinism. As such, I seek to prove that the thesis of free will does not and cannot cohere with the thesis of determinism.

I also argue that the thesis of determinism does not undermine our every day conceptualization of the “will,” it simply “proposes the source of what causes us to fall back on moral behaviour.” Then why do we act morally? Because it is evolutionarily useful for us to do so. Ruse says that true morality developed over time evolutionarily. Talk about monkeys nigga lol. We’ll see how that works out. For both of the following paragraphs, draw specific arguments from the readings, explain those arguments in my own words, critically assess the arguments and make clear why you accept or reject those arguments.

It’s harder to defend yourself against soft determinism. Give the main argument or arguments in its defence.

State as clearly and forcefully as you can the main objections which would be raised by those holding the other positions. So here I can explain libertarianism and soft determinism. Rebut those objections. Libertarians argue that humans are capable of originating acts, initiating a sequence of events, self-governing and thus we are independent of natural causal chains.

Libertarians maintain that freedom and moral responsibility are logically incompatible with determinism. They believe that for humans to be free, there must be some instances, fundamentally, human action, which are not the effects of causal antecedents. But if this were true, then the human will must be subject to a special kind of explanation. Libertarians seem to support partial determinism, which suggests a break in the ongoing process of cause and effect.

For instance, history is not characterized by a linear progression, whereby one cause produces certain effects and so on ad infinitum. Instead, life can be described as a vast tree with an infinite number of branches, which divide into numerous possible directions. Yet, for human action to transcend causal determinism one of two possibilities must be fulfilled: i) events themselves must be uncaused and therefore random, or ii) particular events must be causi sui (the cause of itself).

Human independence in the strong sense for our lives to be meaningful and important. How do you hold people morally responsible in a deterministic world? Focus on the deliberative process; there’s no compulsion or constraint, then we’re freely deliberating and thus can be held morally responsible. Libertarians often worry about “objective worth.”

Look at Kane in Fischer. It’s true that all of our behaviour is causally determined. Look at Widerker and how he talks about how you’d act if there was an announcement that the universe is deterministic. Would you feel like your life is meaningless?

A third argument for incompatibilism was formulated by Carl Ginet in the 1960s and has received much attention in the modern literature. The simplified argument runs along these lines: if determinism is true, then we have no control over the events of the past that determined our present state and no control over the laws of nature. Since we can have no control over these matters, we also can have no control over the consequences of them. Since our present choices and acts, under determinism, are the necessary consequences of the past and the laws of nature, then we have no control over them and, hence, no free will.

Opposition to determinism promotes that without belief in uncaused free will, humans will not have reason to behave ethically. Determinism, however, does not negate emotions and reason of a person, but simply proposes the source of what causes us to fall back on moral behavior. Anyone susceptible to immoral actions from the idea of determinism was susceptible before and does not hold strong moral judgment prior to the idea.

Determinism implies the moral differences between two people are caused by hereditary predispositions and environmental effects and events. Simply because the cause of a person’s morality (depending on the branch of determinism) is not entirely themselves, this does not mean determinists are against punishment of people who commit crimes: independent of moral judgement, punishment can still serve to modify a person’s behaviour.

Another point of view is that if determinism is true, and free will is not, then morality and ethics are meaningless concepts. Morality and ethics require that a choice can be made in order for these concepts to have any meaning. But if a person has no choice, in the case of a deterministic world with no free will, then it does not make sense to say whether individuals can make more (or less) ethical or moral choices, because there are no options available to them except the one they must deterministically follow.

I will use the words determinism and causality interchangeably to mean approximately the same thing, with determinism referring to the more general state of the world and causality referring to more specific causal relationships.

On the other hand, Sam has argued that morality can be studied scientifically. This would require operationally defining “morality” (Harris suggests a definition akin to “a behavior’s probability of maximizing human wellbeing” but the definition itself is not the focus of his argument). Harris goes on to suggest that, given that human brains have certain properties, we could go on to identify objectively superior moral frameworks; that is, multiple “optimized” ethical systems may emerge that satisfy our definition of moral.

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