Free Will and Determinism

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  • Created by: LeFay
  • Created on: 08-01-14 11:20
  • Hard determinists accept determinism and reject freedom and moral responsibility.
  • Libertarians reject determinism and accept freedom and moral responsibility.
  • Soft determinists or compatibilists reject the two previous views that free will and determinism are incompatible and argue that freedom is not only compatible with determinism, but actually requires it.


  • States that everything in the universe has a prior cause, including all human actions and choices.
  • All our decisions, viewpoints and opinions can be best understood when translated into the neutral language of natural science.
  • Predestination:
    • God has already decided whether we are saved or not saved, meaning our actions in this life are totally irrelevant.
    • Based on the idea that God determines whatever happens in history and that man has only a very limited understanding of God's purposes and plans.
    • According to Augustine, people need the help of God's grace to do good, and this is a free gift from God, regardless of individual merit.
    • God alone determines who will receive the gace that assures salvation.
    • Determinism was formulated more precisely by John Calvin.
    • As man is a complete sinner who is incapable of coming to God, and has a sinful free will that is only capable of rejecting God, then predestination must occur or nobody could be saved.
    • "Eternal life is fore-dained for some, and eternal damnation for others. Every man, therefore, being created for one or the other of these ends, we say, he is predestined to life or death."
    • People have no free will as far as ethical decisions are concerned.
    • God does not look into a person and recognise something good; nore does he look into the future to see who would choose him, but simply decides who will be saved because he can, and all the rest are left to go their natural way: to hell.

Hard Determinism

  • "In the mind there is no absolute or free will; but the mind is determined to wish this or that by a cause, which has also been determined by another cause, and this last by another cause, and so on to infinity." (Baruch Spinoza)
  • This position is very strict.
  • According to Hard Determinism all our actions had prior causes - we are neither free nor responsible.
  • Incompatible with free will and moral responsibility, and as all our actions are caused by prior causes we are not free to act in any other way.
  • Clarence Darrow defended two young men on a charge of murdering a young boy. The perfect crime the two men planned went wrong and in the court case, their defence lawyer pleaded for the death penalty to be commuted to life imprisonment as the two young murderers were products of their upbringing, their ancestry and their wealthy environment.
  • "What has this boy to do with it? He was not his own father; he was not his own mother; he was not his own grandparents. All of this was handed to him. He did not surround himself


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