The Battle Between Free Will & Determinism
The Battle Between Free Will & Determinism
The Battle Between Free Will & Determinism
The study of Philosophy is known best for its differing views and deep intellectual thinking by some of the most accredited by used to refer to the belief that human behavior is not absolutely determined by external causes, but is the result of choices made by an act of will by the agent. Such choices are themselves not determined by external causes, but are determined by the motives and intentions of the agent, which themselves are not absolutely determined by external causes.

Traditionally, those who deny the existence of free will look to fate, supernatural powers, or material causes as the determinants of human behavior. Free will advocates, or libertarians, as they are sometimes called, believe that while everything else in the universe may be the inevitable consequence of external forces, human behavior is unique and is determined by the agent, not by God or the stars or the laws of nature.

The traditional concept of free will enters the mainstream of Western Philosophy in metaphysical questions about human responsibility for moral behavior. Many modern debates about free will are often couched in terms of responsibility for moral and criminal behavior. In the Christian tradition, which has framed the issues surrounding free will, the belief hinges on a metaphysical belief in non-physical reality. The will is seen as a faculty of the soul or mind, which is understood as standing outside of the physical world and its governing laws. Hence, for many, a belief in materialism is taken to imply a denial of free will.

The modern view of determinism and free will does not see the two concepts as mutually exclusive. This view began to take shape with arguments such as those offered by Thomas Hobbes (Leviathan, XXI). God is the ultimate cause of every action, argued Hobbes, but as long as a person is not physically forced to do an act, the act is free. Hobbes couched the argument in terms of liberty vs. necessity, rather than free vs. externally determined will. The sequence of causes leading to a person being blown off a cliff by the wind would be said to have led to an event which was the necessary effect of a series of causes. A person jumping off the cliff would also have a series of causes which led up to it, but if the person was not chased off the cliff and jumped without any immediate material cause necessitating the jump, then the act is one of liberty.

Hobbes view shows progress for reconciling materialism, determinism and free will, but it is unsatisfactory. While it makes the case that materialism and determinism do not imply that humans have no metaphysical liberty, it does not address the issue of internal determining causes. It is unlikely a modern materialist would make the argument that regardless of a persons neurochemical state, if the person is not pushed or chased off the cliff, but jumps, say, while under the delusion that she can fly, the act is one of liberty.

A modern view, which sees no contradiction between believing in free will and materialism, would be couched in neurological terms. The key issue stemming from the free will/determinism debate is the issue of responsibility for ones actions. Responsibility, however, has at least two essential components: control and understanding. Even early Christian philosophers, such as St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, considered infants, young children and imbeciles, as lacking in control or understanding, not lacking in some metaphysical entity needed for free acts. It is an obvious absurdity

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Free Will And Differing Views. (April 3, 2021). Retrieved from