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
you free? What makes you think so?
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
Proceed to the next section by clicking here> next section.
|Return to: Table of Contents for the Online Textbook|