Free will and determinism (Soft determinism/compatibilism (Hume (Criticism…
Free will and determinism
Denies determinism due to the freedom of human choice
e.g. Van Inwagen
Free will is when someone has to choose between two or more mutually incompatible courses of action
Are they compatible?
Do we have free will or is determinism true?
Claimed quantum mechanics disprove determinism - free will is like taking a walk and coming to forks in the path - natural capabilities and laws restrict what paths exist, but we can still choose
Laws of nature are immune to disconfirmation - something is only a law of nature if no one could ever go against it
Thus the laws of nature limit what we are able to do - and perhaps the idea of free will might be incoherent in itself
Hobart: libertarians distinguish between a character and the moral self - a false distinction
Causing self seems to be distinct from character, distinct from temperature, habits, impulses - these are synonymous with the character - 'you cannot call a self good because of its courageous free action, and then deny that its action was determined by its character'
We wouldn't experience emotions like guilt, regret etc. if we didn't have free will - but psychologist Erich Fromm explains these emotions in terms of authoritarian conscience from societal and parental influences
Because we are humans, we are causes in ourselves - even if our personalities are made up of determined characteristics, we can still be the cause of our actions - but this is circular reasoning
Example: thief stealing to survive - lib would say they are free, Hume would say they are operating according to desires, so free, but perhaps Ayer would say they are constrained by their circumstances, so not free or responsible
The truth of determinism and free will are only in apparent conflict
e.g. Hume, Strawson
Free will and determinism are compatible - most are soft determinists - compatibilists believe that the co-existence of free will and determinism are intellectually and logically possible, soft determinists believe it is actually true
Hard and soft imply there is a difference in 'harshness' of determinism, but the difference lies in the way one views freedom
For compatibilists: freedom is the power to act, in relation to moral responsibility
For the incompatibilists:
Compatibilist: claimed that liberty and necessity (free will and determinism) are compatible
The laws of nature are assumed to be closed because of our observation of the constancy of the link between causes and effects - we infer the presence of a necessary connection - but do not observe it directly
When people act contrary to our expectations they are not acting randomly, but responding to a hidden cause - people, like physical objects, can behave in accordance with strict laws
But liberty is defined differently - does not depend on actions being genuine choices, but depends on whether they cohere with the determination of the will
Freedom is 'the ability to act, or not act, in accordance with the determination of the will' - even if we couldn't have done otherwise than we did, if we are acting in accordance with the will, we are acting freely
Criticism: surely our wills are determined? would someone freely be choosing to do something they didn't want to do e.g. study for exams - what is meant by the will?
Ultimately, he is a compatibilist because of his weaker definition of free will
Reductio ad absurdum for libertarianism: if libertarianism is correct, our actions would not be determined by laws of nature
no necessary connection between causes and effects - I do not know that determinism is true, and am not justified in believing it - but everyone does, and the definition of freedom comes from the assumption that determinism is true, so both can co-exist
Defends determinism at the level of human behaviour - very predictable, even more so than the natural world
You're free if your behaviour is caused by your desires (even if desires themselves are conditioned)
A person acts freely even if they had no choice - we have multiple desires and the one we act on is our 'effective' desire - this is how we identify the will
First and second order desires: first order desires are about anything other than desires, and second order are the desires we desire to have
A person has free will due to having second order volitions, as first order desires can be brought in line with them - animals, children and drug addicts have no second order volitions
So someone is free is their second-order desires are able to overcome their first-order desires
kleptomaniac doesn't have second order desires
Aren't second order desires conditioned too?
Adapted Locke's man in a room example: Person A can choose to shoot Person B, but if she doesn't, scientists will manipulate her brain to make her shoot anyway - hence she did not have the possibility of doing otherwise, but is still not morally responsible
Objections to compatibilism:
Hume's concept of free will does not match up to the normal definition
Kleptomaniac might desire to not desire to steal, but not really be able to manifest these desires
If determinism is true, then freedom seems ruled out, so we cannot praise and blame people, but if determinism is false then events might be random, and no grounds for moral responsibility there either
When an action occurs, there are two types of reaction
e.g. when someone steps on your toe and you feel pain etc.
When you step back from involvement in the situation and view things objectively e.g. if you knew that it was an accident you shouldn't feel anger etc.
Strawson asks why people believe that determinism's truth means we must give up on reactive stance - reactive attitudes are actually deeply ingrained
Without the reactive attitudes of humanity, our interactions would be much less rich
Basically moral responsibility has nothing to do with determinism - more humanistic and less mechanistic approach
Freedom could be compromised: 'conditions like compulsion by another, or innate incapacity, or insanity, or other less extreme forms of psychological disorder, or the existence of circumstances in which the making of any other choice would be morally inadmissible or would be too much to expect of any man'
If someone chooses to steal in order to survive, their actions may not be morally blameworthy, but they are still making the free choice to do so - Ayer: 'if the circumstances are such that no reasonable person would be expected to choose the other alternative, then the action the I am made to do is not one for which I am held to be morally responsible'
Ayer: 'men are capable of acting freely, in the sense that is required to make them morally responsible, and that human behaviour is entirely governed by causal laws'
Ayer: 'When I am said to have done something of my own free will it is implied that I could have acted otherwise; that I am held to be morally responsible for what I have done'
Criticism of this definition: if we are able to act otherwise by being forced to act otherwise, we cannot possibly still be free
Rejecting determinism does not necessarily require that all human actions are a result of free will, merely to deny that all actions are determined - some may be free, some may be influenced and some may be totally constrained
If we define determinism not by the mechanistic principle of universal causation which applies to all objects, but by the various factors influencing our actions, the causal relation becomes loose, and allows us to make a choice independently of these factors
Compatibilists would reject free will on grounds other than determinism
Ayer: freedom is not in opposition to determinism, but constraint - determinism fixes desires, but constraints mean you can't do what you want
Denies free will due to the fact that our actions are determined
Van Inwagen defines hard determinism as the idea that there is at any instant exactly one physically possible future
e.g. of hard determinists: Spinoza, Skinner (behaviourism)
PUC (principle of universal causation) - every action, event and state is caused by a previous action, event or state - in a long chain stretching back through time
Immediate issue of infinite regress or what started the chain
God is a free agent, and he has caused everything and determined everything
Men believe themselves to be free because they are unaware of the causes of their actions
Criticism: depends on the acceptance of an omnipotent God figure
Difficulty: if God determines our actions, why would he not determine everyone to believe in him
Non-Religious approach - from birth we are conditioned to act in a certain way and we are determined by the environment
B. F. Skinner: theory of operant conditioning - rats whose physiological and psychological conditions reinforced patterns of behaviour and responses to stimuli - implies we do not have moral responsibility
Implications are that Mother Theresa was no more morally responsible for her actions than Hitler was for his
Analysis: this seems difficult to accept, but nothing to say the argument doesn't stand - we cannot invalidate an argument based on undesirable consequences
As the psychological and sociological fields advance, the external influences which affect our actions might become easier to recognise and potentially predict
Not valid to reject something based on problematic implications
Criticism from quantum physics: at a quantum level, particles are non-deterministic and unpredictable, so maybe the universe and laws of nature are not as closed a system as we think
However, quantum theory points towards randomness, not necessarily free will
Also this kind of evidence has only been proven at a quantum level, so we do not know if it affects bigger objects or could even react with human behaviour
Defended two teenage murderers using determinism to claim that they were not morally responsible for their actions
It seems that the idea of free will has been clung to to attach special significance to human action and existence
Objection from Ayer: 'If indeed, it is necessary that every event should have a cause, then the rule must apply to human behaviour as much as anything else. But why should it be supposed that every even must have a cause?'
Jean Calvin: predestination - we are all predetermined by God to act in a certain way and consequently be condemned or saved - very pessimistic worldview
Free will important for autonomy and accountability
Determinist consequence argument:
If determinism is true, then everything is causally necessitated by the laws of nature
If human actions are causally necessitated by the past and laws of nature, then the only way to do other than we do is to falsify the laws of nature
We cannot falsify the laws of nature
If we cannot act other than we do, we lack free will
If determinism is true then we lack free will
Some philosophers claims that we do not need to have had other possibilities available to us to have moral responsibility
'An agent is free when her behaviour depends on her unimpaired capacity for rational choice'
All definitions of determinism are highly conceptual and cannot be defined in terms of science or evidence - they focus on the will and undefinable rationality
Tension between mechanical view of human beings as causally determined and the appealing ethical view that we are morally responsible for our actions
Strawson: there is moral responsibility and alternative possibilities aren't relevant - at a practical level, judges can call people guilty to act as a deterrent, but this doesn't mean they're actually always morally responsible