Chapter  7: FREEDOM and DETERMINISM

FREE WILL and DETERMINISM

The topic of this chapter and in the previous chapter share a few things in common.  One of the more interesting things is that most people raised in the last half of the twentieth century are probably carrying two different sets of ideas with regard to both the idea of the human mind and to that of human freedom.  Many people are operating with ideas that are inconsistent and some that are outright contradictions of one another.  The stories or "myths" concerning "mind" and "freedom" cannot all be true at the same time.  In this chapter the inconsistencies and conflicts will be noted and then explored.  For many thinkers these are some of the most perplexing Issues in Philosophy.  Certainly these topics are associated with a core list of issues that are termed "perennial".  These questions arise within each culture.  They have been approached from different perspectives.  Answers have been offered.  No one answer or solution has gained acceptance by an overwhelming majority of thinkers let alone worldwide acceptance.  So prepare yourself to explore important matters.  This material  might cause you to reexamine your beliefs and alter your position. Be prepared to become a little unsettled.  For some readers  you may be more than just a little disturbed.  You may be disturbed that beliefs you have held may need to be reexamined or abandoned.  You may be disturbed that there is no one official correct answer to the questions that you will confront.  So it is with many questions in Philosophy, some of which you have already experienced.   It could just be that despite the fact that a great many people derive great comfort from these commonly held beliefs, that these beliefs may, nonetheless, be untrue!  What is to be put in their place if you find that you can no longer hold to what you once believed?  The questions are basic.  The answers are very difficult to explain and defend.

What is at stake with this issue of Free Will are notions of responsibility and in particular moral responsibility.  The more advances in science present the picture of the universe as being deterministic the more there arises the question of whether or not human actions are in any way exempt from that idea that all physical events are determined by prior events. How are humans to be considered possessed of free will when their actions might be described as being determined by their prior states of being?

VIEW: Freedom: what is it? On this issue of Free will  http://youtu.be/dksjXkF3mGc

Free will is the ability of agents to make choices unconstrained by certain factors. Factors of historical concern have included metaphysical constraints (for example, logical, nomological, or theological determinism), physical constraints (for example, chains or imprisonment), social constraints (for example, threat of punishment or censure, or structural constraints), and mental constraints (for example, compulsions or phobias, neurological disorders, or genetic predispositions). The principle of free will has religious, legal, ethical, and scientific implications.[1] For example, in the religious realm, free will implies that individual will and choices can coexist with an omnipotent divinity. In the law, it affects considerations of punishment and rehabilitation. In ethics, it may hold implications for whether individuals can be held morally accountable for their actions. In science, neuroscientific findings regarding free will may suggest different ways of predicting human behaviorů.

The need to reconcile freedom of will with a deterministic universe is known as the problem of free will or sometimes referred to as the dilemma of determinism.[10] This dilemma leads to a moral dilemma as well: How are we to assign responsibility for our actions if they are caused entirely by past events?[11][12]  ---http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_will

Are you free?  What makes you think so?

Humans are either free or they are not.  They either possess free will and can use it or they do not have it at all.  They either have it and can use it as often as they want to do so or they have only the appearance of free will and really never make decisions or choices devoid of prior influences that determine the outcome of the decision or choice making procedure.

That there may be social or physical constraints is not the issue here.  Humans are not able to fly using only their own bodies to propel them through the air.  You could say that humans are not "free " to do so but that would be to misuse the word "free" and change its meaning from "being able to choose" to "being physically able to do".

There may be repercussions or consequences for our actions so that a person might want to say something like "I am not free to rob a bank and by that mean that if they did they would be pursued and captured and imprisoned.  If persons have free will well then that might mean simply that they can make the choice to rob a bank and flee capture. So "freedom" does not mean the ability to make decisions and to act without undesirable consequences.

Freedom in this context of the freedom versus determinism issue has a meaning that identifies it with possessing free will or being able to make choices for ones self.

Freedom's Not Just Another Word

By DAVID HACKETT FISCHER , February 7, 2005 New York Times

.......There is no one true definition of liberty and freedom in the world, though many people to the left and right believe that they have found it. And, yet, there is one great historical process in which liberty and freedom have developed, often in unexpected ways.

The words themselves have a surprising history. The oldest known word with such a meaning comes to us from ancient Iraq. The Sumerian "ama-ar-gi," found on tablets in the ruins of the city-state of Lagash, which flourished four millenniums ago, derived from the verb "ama-gi," which literally meant "going home to mother." It described the condition of emancipated servants who returned to their own free families - an interesting link to the monument in Baghdad. (In contemporary America, the ancient characters for "ama-ar-gi" have become the logos of some libertarian organizations, as well as tattoos among members of politically conservative motorcycle gangs, who may not know that the inscriptions on their biceps mean heading home to mom.)

Equally surprising are the origins of our English words liberty and, especially, freedom. They have very different roots. The Latin libertas and Greek eleutheria both indicated a condition of independence, unlike a slave. (In science, eleutherodactylic means separate fingers or toes.) Freedom, however, comes from the same root as friend, an Indo-European word that meant "dear" or "beloved." It meant a connection to other free people by bonds of kinship or affection, also unlike a slave. Liberty and freedom both meant "unlike a slave." But liberty meant privileges of independence; freedom referred to rights of belonging. ...

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