free will is an illusion- assess this view

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  • Created on: 10-04-15 17:22

Free will is an illusion. Assess this view. [20]

Free will is a controversial topic for many philosophers.

Physical determinism is the view that all events in the universe are caused by the immediately preceding events. Scientists are able to predict movements of planets, objects with great accuracy; many areas that were once mysterious can now be explained and predicted by various laws and theories in physics, chemistry and biology. There is something known as the general principle of prediction where you need knowledge of the starting condition and knowledge of relevant laws to get the successful prediction of outcome. This general principle of prediction is an epistemic principle as it concerns human knowledge; this supports the ontological theory- ‘every state of affairs in the universe has been casually determined by the previous state of affairs’. Physical determinism shows that the present is determined by the past, it explains how we can predict the future and how we are able to predict how events will turn out because events are determined by the past in the ways sets in laws of nature. For example, if you know the initial position, speed and direction of billiard ball A, you can predict where billiard ball B will go and the speed it will move when A hits B. This shows that physical determinism doesn’t really have room for chances, randomness and importantly free will.

There are many criticisms of physical determinism. Critics have stated that not everything is determined such as the human mind and it is impossible to observe every event in the universe so we will never know whether all events are determined. Another criticism is that the premise of theory of determinism is broad on relatively small number of events that scientist can correctly predict; this correctness of prediction leads people to assume that there is an underlying mechanism where one event causes another, from this the assumption is made that the underlying mechanisms apply to every aspect of the universe. To some extent, the theory of physical determinism is an inductive argument from a restricted set of cases to the assumption that the theory applies in all cases. The physical determinism infers “we can predict anything. This suggests there is an underlying mechanism ‘necessary cause’ which makes these events occur. Therefore all events are caused by the preceding events.” ‘Therefore’ is not deductive, the truth of conclusion is not guaranteed by premises 1 and 2 as this is an inductive argument not a deductive argument. The argument also doesn’t act as conclusive proof of theory; many inductive arguments are very persuasive and seem reasonable to believe. Physical causation doesn’t provide full explanation of free will either, it is just an example of a broader principle known as the principle of sufficient reason related to Leibniz.

Libertarianism holds a possibility of free will. The most common form of libertarianism is that which is contained in a broader theory of the mind called dualism. Dualism is the belief that the


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