Free Will and Determinism notes

AQA AS Philosophy, unit 2. Revision notes from my teacher. Please do rate!

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Free will & Determinism notes
What is Determinism?
In the syllabus, determinism is defined as- "the belief that a determinate set of
conditions can only produce one possible outcome, given fixed laws of nature"
It holds that:
1) Every event has a cause- universal causation
2) Given the total set of condition under which the cause occurs, only one
outcome is possible- causal necessity
The views reflect our common-sense notion of causality, and are supported by
the way science investigates the world.
Universal Causation
Why do we think every even has a cause? It is not an empirical discovery, as we
don't know the cause of every event. However, science has progressed to
explain more and more events, so we may believe we could always, in
practice, discover the cause of an event. To think an event has no cause, would
be to give up on science. Universal causation is a commitment of science.
Causal Necessity
Our idea of causality includes the idea of regularity- the same cause will
operate in the same way on different occasions. If on one occasion I drop a
glass and it is fine, and on the other it smashes, we assume there is something
different between the two situations. The floor is harder, or I drop it out of ten
storey window. A particular situation determines a unique effect.
These two ideas give us determinism.
Determinism and human action
Determinism is a completely general doctrine, and can be applied just as much
to human beings as it can physical objects.

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Action and causation
All our actions are caused by our motivations. Therefore all our actions have
causes. Given the causes our motivations have, no other action is possible
other than what we do. We are not free to choose anything other than what
we actually choose. This is how determinism threatens free will.
An important contrast
There is however a distinction between our actions and physical causation.
Unlike natural events, our actions don't just happen- we have reasons for doing
them.…read more

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What is free will?
Free will as requiring indeterminism
Hard determinism and libertarianism
The position that regards free will as incompatible with determinism is called
incompatibilism. Hard determinism holds that, because determinism is true,
we do not have free will. Libertarianism holds that, because we have free
will, determinism must be false.
Libertarianism claims that when we choose to act in certain way, nothing
causes us to cause these events.…read more

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Compatibilism is the view that although determinism is true, we can still have
free will.
Hume said that free will is "a power of acting or not acting, according to the
determinations of the will." Free will is simply my choice to cause the action.
This is compatible with determinism. My action is caused by my choice, and
this is what makes me free. It doesn't matter if my choice was in turn caused
by other events.…read more

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One way to defend the distinction is to ask whether threats or argument
would change what a person does. If the action is constrained, they will not.
For example, threatening someone with a gun to their head will change
nothing. But hardened criminals will not respond to threats, does this mean
they are not free?
A second way to defend the distinction is in terms of praise and blame. If we
would blame someone for what they did, they acted freely.…read more

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People enjoy praise and dislike blame. So by praising someone for a
good action, we cause more people to do good actions in future.
Is this idea really moral responsibility anymore? Morality seems like nothing
more than a system for controlling people's behaviour. Is this right?
In development, there is an argument considering determinism and `ought
implies can' as irrelevant to moral responsibility.…read more

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For example, if you could know the exact physics by which a dice was
rolled, you could accurately predict which number it would result in. But can
chance happen at a physical level?
Quantum mechanics
This is the theory that what happens at a sub- atomic level is indeterminate-
what happens next can only be measured with a degree of probability. Some
scientists disagree with this, and argue the apparent indeterminacy is due to
our inability to make measurements.…read more

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And you
cannot choose not to have a bad temper. In this way, aspects of our character
are determined. On the basis of knowing someone's character, we may be
able to predict what they are going to do. However is our character
completely determined by past experience? People can undermine their
character traits. And because someone is acting in character, this doesn't make
them not free?
The experience of free will as an illusion
We feel we are free.…read more

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Frankfurt: Second order desires
Harry Frankfurt argued we should define our will in two orders. `First order'
desires are desires to do things- to listen to music or eat a sandwich. `Second
order' desires are desires about first order desires. For example, I could want a
cigarette, but not want to want a cigarette. Or I could not want to revise, but
want to want to revise. Our first order desires are things that actually motivate
us to do something.…read more

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The implications of determinism
Strawson: `Reactive attitudes'
Strawson argued the practices of praise and blame are a system of `reactive
attitudes'- such as gratitude, resentment, love and hurt. These are responses
to people as moral agents, and they distinguish our reactions to people from
our interactions with animals/ natural events etc. The reason we don't blame
someone for not being able to different than what they did, is quite different
to the reason we don't blame volcanoes and computers.…read more


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