Determinisms Relation to Free Will Essay

Published: 2020-04-22 15:25:56
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Category: Causality

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The stereotypical definition of determinism, to the layman, goes something like this: All events are predetermined so we have no free will. Actually, this is more or less the definition of hard determinism. Determinism, however, according to professor of philosophy Sandra LaFave, can co-exist with free will in the form of soft determinism, the philosophical theory that all events indeed have causes but that humans can still act voluntarily. Soft determinism provides a more widely-acceptable definition of determinism that agrees more with common usage of the words free will and cause.

Hard determinism states that all events have causes and that we cannot be free as a result. Soft determinism, however, responds to this pessimistic conclusion by asserting that we can indeed have free will and still exist by the deterministic model in which all events have causes. Hard determinism correlates cause with force or compulsion and free with total control, whereas soft determinism correlates free with voluntary or not forced. Thus soft determinisms definitions of words more strongly agree with average, everyday usage.

If I were forced to open my safe of personal savings at gunpoint, for example, soft determinism would suggest that I am not acting freely in this situation as I am being coerced by an external force to do something I otherwise wouldnt. If I were to open the safe voluntarily (no one is forcing me), then I am exerting my free will. This distinction may seem obvious, but its validity proves why we cant support hard determinism ” hard determinism would suggest that both actions are not done out of free will since both actions have causes. Therefore, our usage of the word free will cannot co-exist with hard determinism, but only soft determinism.

In conclusion, determinism can co-exist with free will in an effective manner. I must admit, however, that soft determinisms validity rests on an agreement with what cause and free will, as defined above, mean. Still, hard determinism also relies on its own definitions of cause and free will, so this linguistic criticism does not undermine soft determinisms validity. Still, many more arguments regarding determinism and free will exist that are beyond the scope of my knowledge.

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