Debates - Determinism

determinism in the free will vs. determinism debate

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  • Created on: 18-06-12 11:45
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Free will vs. determinism
What do we mean by determinism?
Behaviour is the result of forces over which one has no control
Internal causes ­ hunger, thirst, genes
External causes ­ learning experiences, stimuli in the environment
The approach is comparable with the scientific method, assuming that behaviour is predictable and
obeys laws, e.g. Thorndike's Law of Effect
The following principles are central to the idea of determinism:
If behaviour is predictable, it can be controlled
As behaviour is determined by events outside of one's control, the idea of responsibility
largely disappears, e.g. forensics ­ do criminals have a choice?
Hard determinism
All behaviour and thought is caused by forces outside of the person's control.
E.g. behaviourist and psychoanalytic approached
Behaviourism ­ there is an illusion of free will, but behaviour is actually determined by
environmental causes
Psychoanalytic ­ there is an illusion of free will, but behaviour is actually determined by
unconscious causes
A hard determinism approach supports the idea of fatalism
This would suggest that a person does not bother to consider options of influence outcomes,
passively submitting to whatever fate has in store
Furthermore, it would suggest that we have no free will
Soft determinism
Behaviour is determined by forces, but the person can exercise a degree of free will
This does not support a fatalistic approach to behaviour

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E.g. cognitive approach
The use of selective attention (choose what you pay attention to) and language (choose
what you say out loud)
Arguments for determinism
It allows for a scientific approach to the study of behaviour (however, psychodynamic is
deterministic, but not scientific)
The idea seems to make sense and has face validity
Arguments against determinism
It is a false assumption that accurate predictions about human behaviour are possible. Human
behaviour is notoriously unpredictable
Determinism is unfalsifiable.…read more


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