Free will and Determinism

Explores the different theories in free will and determinism

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  • Created by: Amira
  • Created on: 14-05-12 13:01

Hard Determinism

Freewill does not exist.  Instead there are a variety of factors which determine the choices we make.  These could include genes, upbringing, religion, friends, life experience.  Every choice we make is influenced by one or more of these factors and so is not made freely by us.  As evidence you could consider how humans are like machines which and act according to how they have been programmed.  When a human commits an immoral act it is due to faulty programming.  Our programming can be both external, (such as experience, family or friends) and internal (genetics). If we know what influences someone, we should be able to predict the choices they make.  This links to psychological behaviourism (think about salivating students, or students when the lesson bell sounds).  Evolutionary scientists such a Richard Dawkins argue that genes have an influence on our behaviour (the selfish gene) Science in general argues that the universe acts according to unchanging laws.  Everything has a cause and this includes human choices. This makes Determinism incompatible with the existence of freewill, therefore freewill does not exist.

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Argues the opposite.  Freewill exists and the choices we make are made freely without influence.  There may be universals laws, as physics claims but these do not control an individual’s choices.  The fact that we have a mind means that we are not simply programmed machines.  We may not have control over certain factors, such as our genes and so we don’t have a free choice over what we physically are or for example the family that we have.  But we have a choice over who we are and this leaves us free when making moral choices.  We see ourselves with free choice and feel responsible for the choices we make.  Guilt is an example of the responsibility we feel when we do something wrong.  There would be little point in this is we weren’t freely responsible.  Some even argue that there aren’t always these fixed laws and sometimes things happen randomly, without any cause.  There maybe factors which can influence but we are free to decide whether we follow the influence or not.  E.g. someone may be born into a criminal family yet may choose not to follow this life of crime.

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Soft Determinism

Attempt to argue that the two previous views are compatible.  It argues that some aspects of our life are determined but that within this we have freewill.  Choices may have predetermined causes, but we are not always subject to them and can sometimes change the predetermined course of events.  It argues that we ourselves are one of the causes of the choices we make.  This means that we can still have moral responsibility at times as choices are not always completely determined and can be as a result of our own desires.

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Belief that everything has been planned by God.  For Christians that hold this view, God has made people bad and decided that they will go to hell, whereas others he has made to do good and they will go to heaven.  This removes all freewill from humans.  This can be seen to be part of determinism though the emphasis here is religious.  For determinism events have a cause but there is not overall plan destiny.  For predestination there is and God is in control of it.

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This is great help! Thanks

Gabby Tracey


to make it better under the hard determinism topic you oculd write about the 4 parts within it which are: scientific, philosophical, theological and psychological :)

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