Freedom The Free Will Debate
Free Will “Free-will” is central to our conception of what it is to be a responsible human being.
Baruch Spinoza (1632-77) Just because you feel free doesn’t mean that you are free - for feeling free could simply be an illusion. Humans think themselves free because they are conscious of their action, but ignorant of their causes. If falling stones were conscious, they would probably believe that they were falling of their own free-will.
Determinism • The Universe operates in accordance with the causal principle that every event has a cause. This applies to human actions as well as to the natural world. All actions can be traced back to factors beyond our control. • What “factors” could be causing our actions or choices?
The Case for Determinism • All events have causes. • Our actions are events. • All caused actions are determined by the past - therefore • Our actions are determined by the past. • If our actions are determined by the past, then we have no power to act other than we do indeed act. • If we have no power to act other than we in fact do act, then we have no free will - therefore • We have no free will.
The Case Against Determinism • If determinism is true, then we have no free will. • If we have no free will, then we are not responsible for our actions. • We are responsible for our actions. Therefore • Determinism is false.
Three Possible Solutions • Reject the claim that every event has a cause and argue that this leaves room for free will. • Accept determinism, but insist that free-will and determinism are compatible with each other. • Accept determinism and conclude that free will is an illusion.
Questions to Consider • To what extent do you think you can change your character, and to what extent do you think you just have to live with it? • In what ways are you free? In what ways are you not free?