Free Will and Determinism


Free will Knowledge

  • The idea that humans can make their own choices that are not determined by biological or external factors.
  • We are able to reject other forces in favours of our own choice and destiny.
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Free will Strength

P: Free will has face validity.

E: We make choices every day so the notion of free will makes cognitive sense. There is also research to suggest that a belief of free will is healthy as people with a good internal locus of control have better mental health.

E:  Roberts et al demonstrated how adolescents with a strong belief in fatalism were more likely to suffer from depression.

L: This suggests that even if free will is a myth, a belief in it has a positive impact on our health. 

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Free will Limitation

P: There is evidence for a lack of free will.

E: Libet et al showed that the brain activity that determines the outcome of actions, as small as pressing a button and descisions such as which hand to use, occur up to 10 seconds before participants were conciously aware of making this choice.

L: This shows that even small, everyday decisions are possibly predetermined before we are aware of it.

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Determinism Knowledge

An individual's behaviour is shaped or controlled by external or internal forces rather than the individual themself.

Hard determinism: Free will is never possible, our actions are always determined for us.

Soft determinism: Human behaviour can be a choice but only in the absence of coercion.

Biological determinism: Behaviour is caused by biological influences we cannot control. (genetics)

Environmental determinism: Behaviour is caused by environmental features we cannot control. (conditioning)

Psychic determinism: Behaviour is caused by uncocious conflicts we cannot control. (repressed childhood events)

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Determinism Strength

P: Determinism is consistent with the aims of science.

E: The idea that behaviour follows consistent laws and patterns places psychlogy on the same level as other sciences such as biology. These techniques also allow research to be done into human behaviour and development of treatments of mental illnesses.

E: For example, schizophrenia often involves many different symptoms but determinist approaches allowed for drug therapy to be developped to treat the cause of the abnormal behaviour.

L: This shows that determinist approaches and methods have real-life application in the treatment and diagnosis of disorders as well as scientific validity.

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Determinism Limitation

P: Deterministic theories are not consistent with our legal system.

E: A big part of our legal system is the idea of moral accountability but determinism suggests that we are not responsible for our actions (example: The mobley defense). Determinism is also unfalsifiable as it cannot be proven wrong as it explains that behaviour always exsists even if it cannot be found.

L: This suggests that determinism is not as scientific as it first seems only that it is generalisable to any behaviour seen or unseen as it is falsifiable. It is also a socially sensistive approach as it opposes basic principles of our legal justice system.

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