Are we free beings?

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Determinism

Determinism is the concept that all events, including human actions are ultimately determined by external factors againstour will. The world of science is a determined world in that events are caused by past events. Such things as our nature and nurture determine our actions. Therefore by many philosophers determinism suggests that an individual does not have genuine free will, thus cannot be held morally responsible for their actions.

The concept of psychology suggests a determinist world, as to understand a person's behavour we must look at past events- Behaviourism.  

 

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Hard determinism

All actions are completely determined by perivious events. It is based on the theory of Universal Causation.

All human behaviour and actions are completelydetermined by external factors or previous events, holding the view that determinism is incompatible with free will. 

All actions are said to be the result of complex prio events/factors, including sociological, cultural, psychological and physical influences.

Therefore, we cannot be held morally responsible for their actions

Ted Honderich (1933-) - "Everthing is determined, both externally and internally. There is no choice and therefore there cannot be moral responsibility". 

John Locke, gave an example of a man that wakes up in a room, which unknown to him is locked from the outside. He chooses to stay in the room, believing he has chosen freely. In reality, he has no option. However, his ignorence of this gives him an illusion of feewill. 

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Soft determinism

A soft determinist would argue that an act is free unless it has been forced upon by another person. The choice you make will always been determined , but if you have not been forced by a person then it is your freewill. Forced not caused is the oppsoite of free.

There are two types of causes:

Internal - voluntary acts - morally responsible

External - involuntary acts - not morally responsible

It is the distinction between the two, which explains why soft determinism requires freewill.

E.G. when you leave your country because it is your desire to go abroad (internal cause) or when you leave your country because your government forces you out. 

William James (1842-1910) - "whether our actions tomorrow, and a year from now, and on to themoment of death are already in principle decided"

David Hume (1711-76) - "Moral responsibility requires determinism"

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Libertarianism

Libertarianism is the view that we are free agents, we can choose to act despite past events, culture, our environment or biological influences. They reject the idea od determinism as it denies the possibility of moral responsibility.

The Liberty of Spontaneity - the freedom to act acording to one's nature, the ability to do what one whishes to do even though this is determined by their nature, which is then shaped by extenal constraints (e.g. education)

The Liberty of Indifference - a genuine freedom to act according to independent choices that are not whollydeterminied by external constarints such as a person's background.

According to this concept personality is defined as an empirical concept governed by causal laws formed by one's heredity and environment. our personality limits our choices and mas us mor inclined to choose certain kinds of actions.Moral self is an ethial concept, capable of ovriding our personality and making a casually undetermined choice, which satisfies our sense of moral duty despite a person's background or heredity.

Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971) - "God respects and honours the freewill that he has given despite consequences"

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Nature Vs Nurture

Nature = refers to the qualities that we are born with, anything determined by genes. These qualities are ones that stay the same regardless of where a person is born or raised. Often called Nativism.

Nurture = at conceptiion or birth, humans are tabula rasa (blank slate), which is then filled by our environment/ experiences. Often calles empiricism.

Francis Glalton, Hereditary Genius:Its laws and consequences (1869). His findings were that talented people cme fromtalented families. Genius is inherited and is the result of natural superiority. In 1883 he said that "society could be improved by better breeding". He belived o produce a high gifted race of men by judicious marriages during several consecutive generations is quite practical. This is known as eugenics. But abuse of this could lead to ethinic cleansing or compulsory sterilisation. Thus supporting nature.

John Watson (1924), proposd that the process of classical conditioning could be used to explain all aspects of human psychology. Watson denied completely the existence o the ind or conscience, he believed that individual differences in behaviour were due to different experiences, he famously said "give me a dozen healthy infants and my own specific world to bring them up in and i'll garuntee to take any one at random and train him to become any type of specialist"

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Nature Vs Nurture, continued...

John Watson (1924), proposd that the process of classical conditioning could be used to explain all aspects of human psychology. Watson denied completely the existence o the ind or conscience, he believed that individual differences in behaviour were due to different experiences, he famously said "give me a dozen healthy infants and my own specific world to bring them up in and i'll garuntee to take any one at random and train him to become any type of specialist". Thus supporting the nurture debate.

Nazi ideology, the idea that there could be a master race, the Aryan race, they belived that a person's charactersitics and behaviour were determinied by their racial makeup.  Hitler's ideas were embarresed when jesse Owens, a black man, won four gold medals in the Berlin Olympics. Thus supporting nature.

From the 1940s the role of both nature and nurture became the accepted norm. In 1999, Matt Ridley, Genome: The autobiography of species in 23 chapters - "Mother nature has plainly not entrusted the determiniation of our intellectual capacities to the blind fate of a gene or genes". It may well be true to say that for some things nature is solely responsible, the same could be said for nurture. The environment affects the extent to whih a genetic trait will show itself e.g.weight. So gene-environment interaction may give us an altenative to choosing one or the other.

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Nature - The God gene

The God gene is said to make a human inclined towards having a spiritual or mystical experience. This hypothesis was produced by Dean Hamer, The God Gene: How faith is hardwired into our genes. It is suggested that the human capacity to be spiritual is partly genetic. Maggie Mckee said that genes contribute to religious inclination. This was based upon US study of twins who wre raised apart, which concluded genes may help determine how religious a person is, also that the effects of a religious upbringing may disappear over time. The study did not say that religious behaviour is completely the result of our nature. But genes contribute around 40% to person's religious belief.

John Polkingham commented on Hamer's theory. He said that "the idea of a God gene goes against all my personal theological convictions. You can't cut faith down to the lowest common denominator of genetic survival. It shows the poverty of reductionist thinking". the debate surrounding nature and nurture cannot be resolved by explaining it with reference to just genes, there are other factors that have a contribution.  

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